In the Bible, in John chapter 21, there is a wonderful story in which Jesus cooks breakfast for the disciples. After a fruitless night’s fishing. Jesus comes to the rescue and they bring in a huge catch of fish. Then they sit on the beach and have an al fresco meal of bread and fish.
When they finish eating, Jesus asks Peter if he loves him “more than these” – more than food, more than work, more than anything in the world. Peter says he does and is hurt when Jesus asks him the same question three times. “You know I do, Lord,” he says. Jesus tells him to feed the lambs and take care of the sheep.
In this story the disciples are living in bewildering times. Jesus had died and is now with them again. He seems to appear and then to disappear again. What is going on? What is going to happen next?
In the midst of all this uncertainty Jesus takes care of them – the Great Shepherd looks after His sheep. He looks after their physical needs. Having worked all night they need food, so He cooks a meal for them. But He doesn’t stop there – He also keeps them together, nurturing their fragile community. As they sit and eat together they share life and all its puzzles; supporting one another. And He cares for their spiritual needs – drawing them to himself, reassuring them and inviting them to participate in His work.
Nowadays we call this holistic care. Jesus is caring for their physical, psycho-social and spiritual needs. At Glasgow City Mission that is exactly what we try to do for our guests. Every day, we make sure that vulnerable people are able to get the food that they need. But we are much more than a kitchen – the Mission is a community. For many of our guests, the Mission is their home and the people there are the only family that they have. So during lockdown the project team are not just ensuring that people get food parcels, they are also, as Jesus did that morning on the beach, nurturing the community.
Strength of connection
Day after day, they are spending many hours on the phone keeping in touch with guests. The team is listening to their worries and frustrations, helping with everyday tasks like bills and benefits and encouraging those who are finding isolation difficult. They are also organising online activities including English classes for international guests, a weekly quiz and cooking sessions.
They are looking after spiritual needs as they pray with people over the phone, send out devotional resources, hold online Bible studies and make sure the Gathering is livestreamed every Friday. We are so grateful to volunteers who keep contact with guests at weekends, giving the team a well-earned break.
Jesus said feed my lambs, look after my sheep. During these bewildering times the team, while under lockdown themselves, are obeying this command, quietly, faithfully, patiently behind the scenes. As chaplain it is my privilege to support them as they do this. They are providing a life line for many and I am proud to be a part of it.