Rain or shine, February or July, on any lazy Saturday morning, you could usually find my brother and I casting a line at the bottom of the spillway. There was a dam just down the road from where we lived. The spillway created a pool of water with a high concentration of fish. After their plummet down the spillway, the fish collected and began to pile up in the water on top of one another. Of course, this made for easy catch and release fishing, but at the time, my brother and I thought we were professional fishermen.
Oddly enough, the memories of the hours spent fishing at the spillway continued to go through my mind as I participated in a week-long intensive course at the Seminary called Theology in the City. We spent the majority of our time together visiting ministries that serve the most vulnerable of God’s children. We visited many homeless shelters, food pantries, and prisons, all of which were overcrowded and understaffed. One of the overarching themes that began to surface for me was how much I have taken my privacy for granted over the years. For the fish in the spillway, and for hard-living folks in our neighborhoods, privacy is an unfelt luxury.
The image of fish swimming on top of one another at the spillway was on replay as I observed the various ministries of the city. We visited places like J. Jireh Ministries, Van Buren Homeless Shelter, Columbus Dream Center, and the Mid-Ohio Foodbank. Suddenly, a lightbulb went off for me about the church’s role of serving those in need. Most often, the church spends its efforts on meeting immediate needs, and providing short-term solutions. Of course, we are called to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, but what might it look like if we spent some time deconstructing the spillway that created the overwhelming need to begin with? If not the church, then who? Who will fix broken systems in place that work to perpetuate economic oppression?
God is certainly at work when we provide a meal, a home, or even a cup of water. But God is also present when we standup for equality and demand a change to the status quo. God is at work when we engage our local government and voice our cry for compassionate action. When we take a holistic approach to our call to serve, God is revealed in new and transformative ways. God has provided a lake large enough for all of us to swim comfortably. The issues that we face do not stem from a shortage problem, but a distribution problem. We live and serve knowing that God will provide all that we need.
I invite you to lean into the liberation that the gospel offers. Free yourself to give holistically to the precious concerns that we hold dear to our hearts. Through this freedom, others will experience the fullness of God’s love. Soon, and very soon, “creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). I will meet you at the spillway, and together, we will free the fish.
With a casted line,
There are many opportunities this Lent to wrestle with questions of faith and justice. Consider being part of one of the book studies (listed in on our Events page) or attending one of the seminars (listed in the current Lifeline on page 7).