Today, thousands of Christians will commemorate the Last Supper, the final Passover meal Jesus ate with his disciples. Over the next few days, the ministries we serve will physically serve thousands of Easter meals in places as diverse as mission kitchens in Orlando and tents in Haiti. We know that donors love to support meals. Because we know it can be successful, we often appeal for meals much more than we appeal for the other important programs ministries provide. However, as many enter the Triduum on this Maundy Thursday and follow Jesus from table to courtroom, to cross, to empty tomb, I feel that it is important to offer another perspective on meals as sacrifice. This isn’t my idea. I came across it in Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology, a book by Eugene Peterson. In one discussion, Peterson is talking about sacrifice and writes:
“Hospitality is the daily practice in keeping sacrifice local and immediate: a meal prepared and served to family and guests is giving up of ourselves for another. (p. 219)”
Peterson challenges the reader to consider this humble sacrifice a worthy one, and to stop thinking that their sacrifice needs to be grandiose to count. He is reminding Christians of something I believe we often need to be reminded of: salvation is God’s work and it has been accomplished; we are blessed that God chooses to let us be part of it. Peterson continues:
“An enormously complex web of engagement is behind underneath, and around even the simplest meal we serve or that is served to us. The preparation, serving and eating of meals is perhaps the most complex cultural process that we human beings find ourselves in. It is a microcosm of the intricate realities that are combined to form the culture that gives meaning to the daily lives of us all….(p. 210)”
One could say Peterson is reaching here, but I don’t think so. When I think about the important relationships in my life, they all were formed or strengthened preparing, serving and eating meals, and I would venture to say that is shared experience. Can you name one great friend who you haven’t cooked with? So what does all of this have to do with fundraising? That is what we do here at Masterworks, isn’t it? Most days yes, but tomorrow our entire staff will be serving others. It is a tradition that we started last year in partnership with Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission. A tradition that has inspired our team and deepened our care for all the ministries we serve. Fundraising is a lot of what we do at Masterworks, but it isn’t who we are. I read books on theology and find inspiration for a meals offer. Others volunteer their time to work with youth. And still others pray for people they have never met. This commitment to ministry matters. It shapes what we do and keeps the focus right where it needs to be for success that goes beyond pro-formas and ROI. Success that we can all celebrate, perhaps over a meal, perhaps at a great high feast.