Posted by: Melissa Bane Sevier | August 26, 2019

Because they cannot repay you

In my community, a new restaurant has opened. Spark Community Café calls itself a “farm-to-table, pay-what-you-can eatery.” While accepting donations to their 501c3 organization, what Spark really loves doing is feeding people. All people.

We’re a rural community, so Spark reaches out to local farmers for the best and freshest ingredients they can find. That’s the farm-to-table part. The pay-what-you-can part is more interesting and unusual. Spark is part of the One World Everybody Eats network of 60+ cafes in the U.S., a group that strives to “profoundly enhance food security, interpersonal connection, diversity, compassion, respect, and inclusion.”

This particular local café was the end result, at least partly, of a high school class on community activism. The students felt strongly about giving back, and settled on the idea of tackling food insecurity. Spark’s menu has suggested prices, but customers are invited to donate additional funds, or simply to pay what they can, or to pay nothing. The café depends on volunteers to serve as waitstaff and in some other positions. The food is great!

So much is written in the Bible about food. People gathered around food, and still do. The Bible was written in a society that was largely agrarian, or at least where city dwellers understood their dependence on the farms just outside their gates. And food insecurity was often a problem—either for everyone during a famine, or for some people much more of the time.

Jesus said also to the one who had invited him, ‘When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’

[from Luke 14]

Feeding people has a spiritual component to it. Jesus says we are to look around for those experiencing food insecurity and to make sure they have food. Not just PB&J, but excellent food—a banquet! A gathering around a meal means social interaction, relaxation, meaningful conversation, laughter, renewal of body and soul. A meal is an opportunity to learn from and about and with each other, to share and make memory, to be a source of kindness to each other.

In spiritual language, to bless and to be blessed.

Here’s my favorite part: when we feed the hungry, we are blessed because they can’t pay us back.

Because they can’t pay us. Not in spite of that fact.

We care for children, the elderly, the sick because they can’t do anything for us.

We provide clothing, healthcare, and shelter because people are sometimes vulnerable and at those times they can’t repay us.

We feed children, individuals, and families because they’re hungry and can’t afford a meal or groceries.

Most of us are lucky enough to have a banquet of resources—in our own families, our congregations, our communities, our governments.

Whom will we invite to that banquet?

© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2019

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