Thoughts on the Gospel of St. John, Chap. 13
He washed the feet of His disciples – those very same feet that he had fashioned from eternity. He had knit those feet together, given them life. He watched them crawl and kick, cautiously stand and courageously learn to walk. He who created those feet then also created good and steady paths for feet to walk on, and He gently led them back to those paths when these feet had gone astray. And now he stooped before these feet and washed them. He removed the dust that He had created from the feet that He had created with water that He had created. This is our faith.
I don’t often post entries in this blog regarding my work. In fact, I don’t often write much of anything about my work, private or public. This might seem strange: I am a one-year volunteer in a volunteer corps doing volunteer work. I chose this job, this “service”. My entire life revolves around doing this work, living with other volunteers, and generally living within the tenets of the Lutheran Volunteer Corps.
So what do I do every day? I meet with hungry families and take them into the Neighborhood House food shelf. I write out vouchers for clothing and for household items. I distribute bus tokens and I write down information that may assist a person in finding a job, hopefully making it unnecessary for them seek food assistance in the future. Occasionally I help with obtaining financial assistance.
This should be important, should it not? This is “the work”. The good work that all humans, especially Christians should immerse themselves in, correct? Well, not really. My work here costs me absolutely nothing. I am not giving up my food, my clothing, my money, my time and expertise. I am merely distributing what others have given. This is not love, it is duty. Christ has called us to sacrifice, not to routine. Sacrifice is found in the hearts of those who’ve actually donated the food, who’ve actually given up money and comfort for this organization.
The only time that something miraculous, something “spiritual” happens within my job, is when I am led to try to be kind to a participant who is very unkind to me; or when I really don’t have time for another appointment, but I take one anyways, because someone looks desperate. But these are exceptions to my daily routine, not the rule.
Love must be sacrifice. Yes, I do put time into this work, and yes I do receive much less money than I normally would. But these two truths lose their meaning, as my time and income become “normal” and I adjust to these new constraints, somehow making myself comfortable in the midst of them. Sacrifice is relative. A very poor man can be a very selfish man.
That being said, I do think that this work I do is important. People go hungry, people need help. I am blessed to be able to experience these needs face-to-face; not because I feel that giving out food is saving my soul, but because I know that somewhere in each day here there is an opportunity to break free from my own auto-pilot mode of distribution. Each day does provide a challenge to love someone, but I must fight for it. And before I fight for it, I must look for it.
It is surprising how being surrounded by need can make me so insensitive to the needs of this world. In the midst of a hurting neighborhood I must struggle to actually feel compassion – to sacrifice. Most times I fail. Sometimes I do not. Lord, have mercy!