Church Really Is All About Food: E-pistle 10.07.11

Church Really Is All About Food: E-pistle 10.07.11

Last Sunday in our Time with the Children, I shared portraits from a book entitled Hungry Planet: family units — varying from abridged nuclear to extended complex (depending mostly from which society they sprang) — in countries around the world posed with their typical week’s food supply. Each family was named and located; also listed was their average weekly food expenditures. And their favorite foods.

The costs of a week’s worth of food ranged from $1.32. for a family of six in a refugee camp in Chad… $5.03 for a family of 12 in Bhutan… $31.55 for a family of 9 in Ecuador… $159.04 or  $341.98 respectively for 2 U.S. families of four… to $504.07 for a family of four in Germany.

Interestingly, despite the book’s title, all the images were of families whose basic food needs were met. It’s no expose of hunger and its many forms. Rather, a snapshot of overflowing tables and full stomachs.

I had considered doing one of those “object lesson” exercises in which passing out food stuffs unevenly illustrates uneven food distribution in our world and how many people go without their basic nutritional needs met. But just the Sunday before, I had in our Time with the Children passed out “wages” to our kids unevenly– illustrating the Parable of the Laborers and the Hours. I needed to try another tack.

Visualizing families’ needs for daily bread or weekly groceries seems like an adequate  opening for our children to begin thinking about issues of food justice. But I’m not sure it’s sufficient for adults. Or for the church…

Aren’t hunger and the poverty that produces it confessional issues for people of faith? Whether the church acknowledges and responds to the life-taking realities of condemning poverty in a world of plenty is surely one of the measures of whether or not the church is being faithful to the teachings of Jesus.

In a world with enough food to nourish every man, woman and child on the planet — enough is produced for every human to have 2700 calories daily, more than our basic needs) — why then…

~ does someone die every 3.6 seconds of hunger-related causes, 75% of whom are children?

~ were more than 925 million people around the globe undernourished in 2010?

~ will one in 7 people go to bed hungry tonight?

~ do 65% of the world’s hungry live in only 7 countries (India, China, the Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia)?

~ could the cost of just two days of the world’s military expenditures save the 100 million who starve to death each decade?

~ are 1.4 billion people in our world living on less than $1.25 a day? (while, for comparison”s sake, the world’s 358 billionaires have assets exceeding the combined annual incomes of countries comprising 45% of the world’s population).

Beloved, as long as hunger is so rampant in God’s world… with the bellies so many of God’s children’s empty and aching, does the church have any choice but to respond?

At Old First, we have already begun preparing for our participation in Mission 1, the UCC’s 11-day… 11/1/11 to 11/11/11… church-wide mission blitz!

On September 11, our children created artwork, illustrations we’re using for our upcoming advocacy efforts. Along with the rest of the UCC, we plan to deliver more than 11,111 messages to Congress advocating that U.S. foreign assistance becoming more effective in reducing poverty, particularly for the most vulnerable. (These messages will be a part of Bread for the World’s “Offering of Letters.”)

This Sunday, we are kickng our Mission:1 preparations up a notch. We need to do our part as the UCC gathers more than 1 million healthy food items for food banks and shelters. Old First’s target is 1,111 donations for our own Food and Clothing Cupboard.

Can you take a box and a sign (I believe the boxes will form my pulpit for the outdoor “Blessing of the Animals” worship this Sunday!) and find a collection spot so that “the people in your life” might have a chance to contribute food towards the needs of the hungry?  At work? At school? In your apartment building lobby? Somewhere in your neighborhood? At a local grocery store?

In worship on Sunday, Nov. 6, we will gather — with thanksgiving! — and bless all that our members and friends have collected and donated.

On our own and in face of poverty around the world, Old First’s goals may seem like a drop in the bucket:

~ cumulative gifts of $11,111. towards the work of our 2011-12 shelter.
~ 11 people’s personal stories of hunger highlighted for our prayers and service.
~ 111 backpacks filled with items our cupboard guests needs.
~ 1,111 items of food for our cupboard.
~ 1,111 messages of challenge to Congress (this is going to involve our asking help again from friends, family, neighbors, co-workers…)

But working with the whole church and working with God… great, grand, monumental things begin to happen…

We say our God is a God of history, constantly working on towards positive transformation– mending broken lives, saving a world that otherwise would be lost. 

When we tune in — even more when we participate with God — we recognize God is at work as well as the dramatic change our own efforts can make. Both can be surprising– our doubts and fears and powerless aren’t our only reality anymore!

Scripture promises a God who hears people’s cries and delivers them. Moses appealed to the Egyptian government to release enslaved people. David and the prophets offer for a vision of care for people, near and far, particularly the most needy. Nehemiah rebuilds a community, giving life and restoring dignity with the support of King Cyrus of Persia!

Isn’t this same God at work in our time, still responding to the cries of needy people, still calling us to serve the most vulnerable? Isn’t God up to something… can’t we — through the church — share in making this new creation?

See you in church,


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