Anne Williams, Ankeny, IA

Warm-up Question

What do you think it would take to turn a life around? To recover from addiction or homelessness?

Homeless to Feeding the Homeless

If you have the ability, watch the video interview on Now This: You can also find it on Facebook by searching, “Now This Mark Brand.”

Mark Brand, of Vancouver, Canada works in what is called the poorest postal code (like a ZIP code) in all of Canada, where drugs are sold openly on the streets. Mark used to live there, use there, and was then homeless there. He shares a story of the one restaurant he felt comfortable going to and how a $3.50 burger plate would actually fill him up. Mark reflects on that time in his life: “When you live like that, even if it’s briefly, it affects you forever… cause when you are in that, it’s the loneliest place on the world.” 

After recovering from addiction and homelessness, Mark became a successful chef and business man, opening restaurants. Even as his businesses thrived, he realized he wanted to do more.  So he began exploring how to feed those in need. He did something ingenious.

He tackled the question of why people don’t give money to hungry street-entrenched people. The answer he got (which might be an answer we could give) is that folks are afraid their money will go to drugs or alcohol. So, working with the restaurant, he used to eat at when he was homeless, he created a token system. People can buy the tokens and give them to the hungry, who can redeem them for a sandwich. Mark’s comments about these tokens are really very interesting. He says, “What I was most excited about is that you would hand it to somebody. So yes, I’m excited that you’re gonna get a sandwich. Great. You’re hungry, you have a place of inclusion you can go to, that’s really cool… I’m way more excited that you’re going to talk to somebody who’s feeling super isolated and street entrenched.”

Mark seems much more interested in relationships, even quick ones like saying “Hi, here’s a token, go get a sandwich,” than just sandwiches. What homeless people need is food yes, but also someone to look at them and see them.

Discussion Questions

  • What do you think Mark knows about pain in life?
  • What do you think Mark knows about blessings?
  • What would you do if a token program like Mark’s came to your town? Would you buy them? Would you give them out?
  • What do you think about Mark’s statement: “I’m way more excited that you’re going to talk to somebody who’s feeling super isolated and street entrenched?” 
  • Which is more important: feeding people or connecting with people?

All Saints Sunday

Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18

Ephesians 1:11-23

Luke 6:20-31

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

The blessings and the woes that Jesus describes in this passage (specifically verses 20 to 26), often called the Sermon on the Plain, speaks of reversal. Those who suffer now will be blessed in the coming Kingdom. And those who are currently feeling blessed will have to experience some suffering. 

I think there are (at least) two reasons why we find this passage uncomfortable.

First, we really don’t want anyone to suffer. We think it’s a punishment for something. Here’s the deal:  Suffering, whether because we are sick, or lonely, or grieving, or just plain different from others around us is part of life. It is not a punishment. Most of us never do anything to earn our suffering (kind of like we don’t earn our salvation)! God did not promise no suffering. God promised to be with us in the suffering.

Second, I think we think these reversals are somehow permanent. That in the kingdom, those who have been oppressed will have all the power and those who were gluttons will now starve… does that sound like the kingdom of God? Not to me! If the Kingdom of God is going to be what we think it will be, then everyone will have enough food, and no one will hoard it or be without it. 

I think that one of the ways we can read this passage is that Jesus is trying to get at the idea that there will be times when our lives will be good, and full of blessing, and times when our lives will be harder, where we will feel empty, and broken, and will cry out to God. Suffering and blessing can co-exist in one lifetime, sometimes one after the other, sometimes both at the same time. I think it is Jesus’ way of hinting that the Kingdom we experience now, the in-between, now-but-not-yet Kingdom that we only catch a glimpse of, is full of broken people who experience suffering and woe and who know fullness and richness and blessing too, at the same time. It’s a foretaste of the feast to come – the real Kingdom, where God will be all in all and all people will be whole and full.

Discussion Questions

  • Can you relate to the idea that blessing and wore can co-exist in one lifetime?  How do you think Mark Brand would answer this question?
  • If we’re going to experience both suffering and blessing, how do we make sense of them in our own lives?
  • Where are there examples of the now-but-not-yet Kingdom in your town? i.e. places and groups that bring hope and healing?

Activity Suggestions

  • Contact your local Ronald McDonald House and see if you can bring them a meal, or snacks or treats. Make the food during class. Gather a small number of them to transport and deliver it.
  • Call your local shelter and see what kind of meal you can bring them – casseroles are easy to make and freeze for easy transport.
  • If you’re being really bold, visit a homeless shelter.
  • Ask someone who is living sober with addiction to speak to the class, or even someone who’s cancer is in remission or been cured.
  • Make cards for the homebound and hospitalized. Give to your pastor to distribute.

Closing Prayer

Giver of all good gifts, grant that this day we may offer both our material goods and ourselves to those who need, that all may have a foretaste of the feast to come, when your will is perfectly done and all know the abundance of your love.