This Lent my congregation is reading and praying on a collection of meditations called “With faith the size of a mustard seed.” We got the collection from a place in Virginia, the Society of St. Andrew, which is an ecumenical nonprofit charitable organization that gleans America’s fields in order to feed people in need. “People from all denominations and organizations participate actively in our ministry by making financial contributions, by gleaning with us, and through their prayers. Persons of many faiths and perspectives partner with us in the desire to give of themselves to feed the hungry.”
When I heard about the Society of St. Andrew and read a bit of this Lenten devotional it seemed to me that this reading would be a good all-church focus for our village congregation. Our weekly community meal and our community clothes closet (gleaning used clothes!) are two places that Trinity Church lives into God’s calling on us to share our abundance. What better spiritual reading could there be as we consider what we have been given, sometimes as small as a mustard seed, and how do we nurture those seeds in our community?
So it was with delight that with this little devotional running about in my head I attended this past Friday West County Community meal at the church. The meal was full to overflowing because the menu was an annual favorite of many – corned beef and cabbage, made from scratch by one of the Community Meal partners. Raised in an Irish family myself I had way too much corned beef and cabbage and to this day pass up on that food offering. But I wanted to attend the meal to greet the guests and offer thanksgiving. Talk about “the mustard seeds!” We are a community that loves to feed each other.
Someone from our church called me over for a chat. She told me that someone else had told her that they had received an unexpected gift of a little bounty of cash. The beneficiary of this gift had prayed about what to use the money for. She frequently participates in the Community Meal preparation and she noticed that our table clothes, so lovingly made years ago by volunteers, were showing signs of wear and tear. If she used the gift money to buy material would anyone be able to sew the new cloth into tablecloths? We thought about people we know who sew and decided rather than call in some local seamstresses, how about asking the diners? Maybe one or two or three would step forward.
We gave thanks for the meal and all our blessings and I announced that the Community Meal had received a gift of cloth to make new table coverings. Would anyone like to join in on the giving and volunteer to sew them up? In less than a minute a hand raised and we got a volunteer. A few days later I heard of another friend in the community who had come forth to join in the sewing. Should we call it the sowing?
It is a small thing. A little bit of money. A little bit of cloth. A couple of people needed to put cloth to sewing machine. The well-worn and well-loved table clothes put to rest and new ones soon to grace the tables. A good word like this one. “Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.” (1 Peter 4: 9-10) A seamstress and a seed is sometimes all that is needed to turn a corned beef and cabbage dinner into an even greater celebration.
What are we gleaning in our communities if not the small impulses to care?