By Rev. April Arnold, Pastor
There are some sights and sounds that trigger familiar longings. With autumn comes the changing of colors and leaves falling to the ground. The air is filled with the sights and sounds of harvest. The word “harvest” itself seems to suggest “plenty” or “abundance.” We at Mason’s Chapel United Methodist Church (UMC) are growing into a new appreciation for the concepts of “fullness” and “lack.”
Fifteen (15) members from Mason’s Chapel UMC took a break from our everyday “norms” to submerge ourselves in a Society of St. Andrews “Harvest of Hope” Mission Retreat in Dahlonega, GA Friday-Sunday, November 4-6, 2016. This idea first began with Advent Devotional books ordered for members of the Hazel-Mason’s Chapel Charge in 2015. From this came donations given to the Society of St. Andrew and more information about their programs; including an eye opening DVD concerning waste in America and the various, and sometimes surprising, causes.
The weekend was centered on Matthew 25:31-46: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Highlights of the weekend were Worship together, fellowship with two other United Methodist congregations from Alabama and Georgia, a 2-night stay at Camp Glisson which is the North Georgia Conference’s version of our Lakeshore UMA in the Memphis Conference, gleaning, tour of a Food Bank (did you know there is a difference between a food pantry and a food bank?), and a hunger awareness meal. It’s impossible to summarize how meaningful these activities and this time together have been for our congregation. Not only are we experiencing a new unity, we have come back changed and more aware of the realities of hunger not only in America, but in our community.
We have also come back with a new resolve and sensitivity to those around us. Not only can we make a difference, but our Shepherd’s voice is calling us to follow Him and to feed His sheep. The good news is: we are finding that we don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Rather, we can take steps beyond things we are already doing and plug into programs already in place.
During the season of Advent Hazel and Mason’s Chapel UMC’s took the Advent challenge. We often have Advent Calendars to count down the days until Christmas in which we might receive a candy cane or piece of chocolate. This year we collected a non-perishable food item for each day that we count down to Christmas. So what about you? The season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on March 1, this year. What if as a part of our “giving something up” or “giving ourselves to”, we collect non-perishable food items for the 40 days of Lent? Maybe this effort could be joined with or might spark a renewed commitment to our Lenten World Hunger Offering?
What if; we take those items to our local food pantry to be donated to those who are food insecure? What if; we take these items to a family, someone elderly, or someone alone in our community as a bridge to loving them and welcoming them into our lives and our churches? What if? What if we “on purpose” did the things that God is calling us to do? I pray you will join with us as we strive to be disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
For more information about our trip simply contact Rev. April Arnold firstname.lastname@example.org. Our mission team would be happy to come share this trip you’re your congregation or small group. Check out Mason’s Chapel UMC’s Facebook page for pictures of our trip. Check out the Society of St. Andrews website for more information about their gleaning programs, retreats, Christmas Cards, and free Advent or Lenten Devotionals at www.endhunger.org.