Since the Maundy Thursday services at church during Easter Week, my mind has been preoccupied by a profound realization I had upon arriving early for our pre-service meeting.
My day at work had been long and hectic and as often happens, I did not have a chance to eat lunch. After work I had commitments to a friend in the time between work and church which did not allow the opportunity to even grab a snack. As one could easily imagine, I was hungry when I arrived at church. Fortunately, my station working the sound board in the balcony assured my stomach grumbling would be isolated from fellow worshipers.
Thursday evening each week, my church serves God’s Family Dinner in conjunction with a food pantry being open in on of our buildings. The aroma from the dinner overwhelmed me when I opened the door to enter the church building. The hunger I felt going in, magnified with each breath. I visualized the homeless-shelter-buffet-line options that were likely the fare for the evening and still my hunger grew. I wondered what people would think of me if I went downstairs and grabbed a meal.
Then I realized I only had to make it through the one and one-half hours until the service was over. I had a selection of leftovers from two meals waiting in the refrigerator. All it would take is dishing all I could eat onto a plate and after a minute or two in the microwave, I could eat until I was satiated through the night. I knew where and when my next meal would be: the people dining downstairs and waiting in line for their turn in the food pantry were not guaranteed where or when their next meal would be. Some of them were taking their week’s ration of groceries from the pantry to their homes just down the street hidden in some alley in West Campus.
The neighborhood is also home to some nice and some very fragrant restaurants. I spent two hours being miserable because I was hungry and could smell the bulk grub prepared for this special dinner. I realized I didn’t know anything about hunger.
And so with some degree of shame a the idea of eating food for the poor, I made my way up to the meeting and through the worship service in which we celebrated the new mandate from our Lord – to be servants – which he gave during his Last Supper. My guilt grew as we celebrated Christ’s example of servitude through the taking of communion and a foot-washing service: I did not want to suffer for two hours while being in the midst of people who suffer daily; I did not want to be without while surrounded by those who had no more than they could carry around in a plastic bag, a knapsack, or a grocery cart. I take clothes to the dry-cleaner in shifts because I don’t have room for them all in my car.
How much of a servant am I really? I try. I make attempts to do good for others. I help others find opportunities to do good – but how much do I suffer for others? Two hours of hunger pangs have really made me wonder about suffering and servanthood. I have quite a bit more thinking to do.