Column: ‘Feed my sheep’

BY DAN PETERSON
GUEST COLUMNIST

Scoop, scoop, pour, pour, weigh, add, seal the bag. Scoop, scoop, pour, pour, weigh, add, seal the bag. The routine went for a solid hour or more. Our youth group, along with many other groups (consisting of both youth and adults), were zealously and enjoyably filling small plastic bags with dried food that would eventually feed the many mouths and stomachs that were starving around the world.

Most of you have probably heard of the Feed My Starving Children organization. Youth and adults alike are invited to volunteer their time and services to help feed hungry and malnourished children in many countries. After listening to an introduction about the organization and watching a video, each volunteer is then ready to hand pack a small plastic bag of soy, rice, dried vegetables and a nutritionally complete blend of vitamins.

On our chosen night to serve, with everyone included, we filled 60 boxes, which amounted to the equivalent of feeding 42 children for an entire year. At the conclusion of the night’s activity, our group and most of the others who participated, gathered around the boxes to pray for a blessing upon the food and the children who would receive it in the near future.

The four gospels record many accounts where Jesus tended to the physical needs of others. For instance, the feeding of the 5,000 and the good Samaritan. However, there were other feeding and thirst-quenching moments. Jesus told the woman at the well: “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.” (John 4:13-14, ESV) Jesus claimed to be “the bread of life” and said whoever comes to him will not hunger. (John 6:35)

I am intrigued by Jesus’ post-resurrection conversation with Peter, when Jesus tells Peter not once, but three times, “feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep” (John 20:15).” Does Jesus imply feeding by means of food? Does Jesus mean spiritually feed God’s people with the Scriptures? Or is it both? The terms lambs and sheep correspond to “my church,” which means to me that God wants us to be compassionately and actively involved in meeting both the physical and spiritual needs of the church. When Peter writes to his fellow elders, he urges them to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you.” (1 Peter 5:1)

As a pastor, it is my privilege to “feed” others on a weekly basis. However, God’s kingdom work was never meant to be a “pastor does it all” vocation. I believe God wants both shepherd and sheep alike to be involved in the feeding of others, both physically and spiritually, which can also include reaching out to those outside the church (Matthew 25:31-46). Therefore, I think God’s Spirit would have us all take to heart that we have the responsibility of feeding others. May we ask the Lord’s blessing of grace to fulfill his command, “Feed my sheep.”

Dan Peterson is pastor of St. Lucas Community Church in Lake Elmo.