Livin’ On A Prayer

22 10 2011

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…” (Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew 25:35, NIV)

I’m not sure I have heard more powerful words. And while these words were spoken as part of a broader apocalyptic sermon often called The Sheep and the Goats, even when you strip away the artifacts of the theological system in which they are embedded, they are a message for all humankind. Read the rest of the passage. See for yourself.

And it is a message that all of us probably should try to wrap our minds around a little more. The Occupy Wall Street movement is garnering lots of mediaplay (right or wrong). Unemployment still hovers at 9% nationally. There is a growing disenfranchisement with the status quo (say hello to the 1960s again). And even though these words of Jesus may go against our grain of giving a fish when we think it might be better to teach the person to fish for themselves, we (and I am pointing at myself in the mirror) need to remember that some needs are here. Today. Now. This minute.

Which is why I am pleased to read about Soul Kitchen, the new donation-based restaurant launched by rocker Jon Bon Jovi in Red Bank NJ. If you can afford it, the suggested donation is $10. If not, give what you can (or nothing), and then be prepared to volunteer a little to work it off.

Hallelujah, and pass the fish and bread. This is an idea whose time has come.

Deli chain Panera has done similarly with a non-profit cafe in St. Louis. While it may be far more profitable to be giving fishing lessons, sometimes a fish is needed right this moment. Because hunger is a short-term problem with long-term implications.

Bon Jovi and his wife, Dorothea, are to be commended for launching Soul Kitchen. But my fear is that the place will be crowded with pop culture tourists intent on putting another notch on their belt buckle. “Yeah, we went to Soul Kitchen, and then went up to the City to sightsee. How was your vacation?” The over-priced $29 shirt would be pretty cool to own and show off. What about the hungry, though? Might they not even be able to get a table at the kitchen of charity?

So here’s an idea. Since the theme of the restaurant is about serving rather than being served, why don’t those who can afford to dine there pick up the tab for someone less fortunate? You know. Take someone less advantaged than you, and treat them to dinner. Or, in lieu of that, not only pay for your own meal, but pay double. In other words, pay it forward for someone you don’t even know. A stranger.

Because when the righteous to whom Jesus was speaking asked, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

But…but…but…you mean that in taking care of those around us, we took care of you?

Yeah, kinda.

This is an idea that rocks far more than any JBJ concert. And the message is a far harder pill to swallow than even people of the Christian faith are willing to confess (myself included). Because sometimes (there’s that mirror again) we find ourselves not only espousing the teach-them-to-fish line, but sometimes saying, “Teach yourself to fish.”

Something to think about as we approach Thanksgiving. Because giving thanks is a year-round thing, not just one day. And people are hungry several times a day. For those of us who can’t get away to New Jersey, there are plenty of other opportunities right where we live. Right where we are planted. Regardless of our belief systems. It’s the soul of the matter.

Dr “Take My Hand And We’ll Make It” Gerlich



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