As the father of five, I have heard these words hundreds of times from my children. Usually that just means somebody hasn't eaten within the last 15 minutes. While I don't doubt their occasional discomfort at dinner time, I also know my children have never truly experienced what it means to be hungry -- with no food in the house to eat. Maybe they don't like what's available or offered, like broccoli or last night's leftovers, but they've never gone hungry.
For that, I am truly thankful and praise God for his immense blessings.
In other places, even in our own neighborhoods, children are not so fortunate. A recent demographic survey of the Embreeville community between Jonesborough and Erwin showed that almost 18 percent of the residents live below the national poverty level. An unthinkable 23 percent of children under age 18 in this region don’t have enough food to keep them adequately nourished.
One night at my dinner table I looked at the four children who still live under my roof, and suddenly, 23 percent was no longer a statistic. It was real to me that almost one in four children in my own community was going hungry that night. What if it was my child?
The last chapter of the Gospel of John records a conversation with Jesus and Peter. Three times, Jesus reminds Peter that if he loves him then he must feed his sheep. While the theology surely illustrates the shepherd's care for his sheep, Peter’s upcoming leadership role in the church, and our continued role as members of Christ’s church and the flocks to which we are entrusted, I also like to go back to the beginning of the story to reflect on this:
“When they got there they found breakfast waiting for them: fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread …Then Jesus served them the bread and the fish.” (John 21:9,13)
Before Jesus began a discussion with his disciples, before he gave any directions or instructions, he fed them. Why? Maybe it was because they were just hungry.
Embreeville United Methodist Church has a new food pantry at 4026 Highway 81 South in Jonesborough, Tenn. The food pantry is open the last Wednesday of each month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Food is provided through congregational donations and the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee, of which Embreeville is a partner food distribution agency.
For more information on our food pantry or partnering with Second Harvest, contact Pastor Michael Vaughn at (423) 753-8034 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why did we choose to begin a food pantry at Embreeville? Because Jesus told us to feed his sheep ... and maybe because they are just hungry.
Vaughn is pastor of Embreeville UMC in the Johnson City District.