September 24, 2017
Sam Kinison & Hunger
The late Pentecostal Preacher turned stand-up comedian Sam Kinison’s star began to rise when he appeared on Rodney Dangerfield’s 9th Annual Young Comedians special. That comedy special initially aired in the summer of 1984 and my Dad and I loved spending time together watching the whole thing. At that particular time, one significant global issue was the brutal starvation of human beings in other parts of world. In fact, commercials began to air on US TV showing, rather vividly, these young emaciated people sitting in what can only be described as barren desert grabbing small morsels of something and eating them. I found these images difficult to watch, and I believe Kinison did too, yet one of his signature comedic story-lines centered on this very problem. He said, “I’m like anyone else on this planet – I’m very moved by world hunger. I see the same commercials, with those little kids, starving, and very depressed. I watch those kids and I go, “… I know the FILM crew could give this kid a sandwich!”
I will always have wonderful memories of time spent with my Dad watching this comedy special. Whenever I hear those famous lines from Kinison’s routine I am immediately taken back to those times. The older I get the more special it is for me to mentally go back in time like that. It wasn’t until just recently that I began looking past the humor of Kinison’s words so that I could more clearly see some of the truthful elements of a problematic and painful reality of our world… some people get to eat daily while some do not. Some people HAVE and some HAVE NOT!
Did you all know that today in the United States we waste about 50% more food than we did in the 1970’s? Did you know most studies consistently reveal that 30% – 40% of the food we produce in the United States is ultimately thrown away? In terms of actual weight, the EPA estimates this food waste weighs approximately 38 million tons, and for those of you who like to think about things in terms of dollars and cents, food waste is incredibly expensive as it is estimated this percentage is equal to $165 Billion being dumped in trash cans or dumpsters across the United States. If you are like me, these percentages, these numbers and this amount of money, which is literally thrown away annually, is both shocking and upsetting.
Now I want us to turn our attention to a concept called Food Insecurity. Maybe everyone here today understands this concept, but just in case someone doesn’t, Food Insecurity means someone whose “consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.” For those liking a less technical definition we could just say people who are food insecure are “struggling to avoid being hungry.
A couple of months ago I was asked to come speak to the good people of Emerywood Baptist Church over in High Point and this past Wednesday I did just that. I was asked to talk about Food & Faith, so I put together a small presentation that touched the surface of what we discussed here at our place earlier this year. At one point in my talk, I surveyed the crowd, and recalled that the church was actually located on Country Club Drive, and that led me to conclude that food insecurity was not something experienced by many, or any of the people there that night. And, who knows, we that make up FBCJ are probably similar in that way. Here’s the thing, we don’t all have to experience something to know it is real, and even though there can be no substitute for personal experience, we need only open our eyes and take a look around the Triad to know that Food Insecurity is a real and present thing. I must tell you, I got the sense that many at Emerywood know this is real.
Now, my hope is that you all are a lot better at understanding things that don’t initially make sense than I am because I have a hard time understanding how the citizens of this country literally thrown away $165 Billion dollars of edible food each year while 1 in every 6 people in this country, or close to 50 million people are food insecure. My struggle to understand such things makes me want to know more, and hopefully some of you do to. Maybe I want to know more because I’m a fixer, a helper by nature, and when I see or learn about injustice my instinct is to jump in and offer whatever help I can. No matter what, we should all be able to agree that throwing away that amount of edible food when we have neighbors consumed with fear and anxiety because they are hungry on a daily basis is worth our time. In fact, if claiming to be followers of Christ and children of God, we should all step in and offer whatever help we can.
So, what might we say are some of the reasons this might be happening, and how might we choose to become part of the answer to this epidemic? Without knowing all the answers, it seems part of today’s passage gives us a clue.
Gather Enough for the Day
That clue, I believe, is found in v. 4 where earlier Jewel Miller read that God assured Moses that the needs of God’s people would be provided for, and in response God’s people shall gather enough for that day, but on the sixth day, God’s people were to gather double so that one day of each week they could rest. Gather enough for the day. No more, no less. Kingdom Economics.
Who better than the Israelites to understand the importance of only gathering enough to satisfy their daily needs? This is the same group of people who spent years as slaves to Pharaoh partly tasked with constructing enormous storehouses where God’s gifts of food could be stored and controlled by the few, instead of enjoyed by the masses. Such a system has always and will always result in scarcity for some, an overabundance for few, and loads and loads of trash.
Food shortages are never a God thing, because our God is a God of abundance. A selfless giver of gifts who always hears when anyone cries out in need. Food shortages are a man-made creation, whereby one with power over others wields it in such a way that others are left overwhelmed and under nourished. Food shortages are really man’s way of saying I’m concerned only about my own well-being and I will do everything in my power to accumulate all I can even if half of it is later thrown in the trash.
In such a system, needs are so easily forgotten.
In such a system, wants begin to masquerade as needs.
My friends, this is not how we live out our universal calling to love one another. This is not what God intended. This does not embody the words of my childhood dinner blessing where each night we sat together as a family and either my sister or I said:
“God is Great.
God is Good.
Let us thank him for our food.
By his hands we all are fed.
Give us Lord our Daily Bread.”
Those last words have never felt more powerful than they do when prayed alongside this story from Exodus. Give us Lord our DAILY BREAD! Not weekly! Not Monthly! Not Yearly! Anything more than that might actually deprive others, no matter if that was our intention or not. Gathering anything more that our daily needs might result in things spoiling before we actually need them. Gathering more than our daily needs require may in fact crush the thing we claim to be: people living together in community seeking to follow Christ. A people who claim to be the Church.
This Exodus story is describing a whole different kind of economics. It is describing Kingdom Economics.
It seems the concept of gathering only enough for the day is becoming harder and harder to understand. This wasn’t the case for my grandparents generation. Those WWII survivors who, after the war was over, never seemed to lose sight of what it looked like to live in fear of not having enough food. Even for those in that generation who later found some level of financial security, they never seemed to forget that part of their life’s experience. My Nanny Knight used to watch us grandkids spoon food onto our plates and when we were done make sure we knew whatever we spooned out we needed to consume. There would be no food waste in her house. There would be no food waste on that day because we were to spoon out only what we needed.
Maybe this was Nanny’s way of helping us grandkids understand what “Give us Lord our Daily Bread” is all about.
These ideas, these concepts should have never become a reality for anyone, much less rise to the level of an epidemic. God said as much. Gather your daily needs so that you become delivered from your selfish wants. Two weeks ago God delivered the Israelites from physical bondage. Last week God lovingly sought their deliverance from mental enslavement and this week we find God seeking to deliver God’s people from selfish desire of the kind of accumulation that deprives and enslaves others.
For most of us, I have to believe this type of deliverance is hard. Not because we are bad people, and not because we don’t want to “do the right thing.” It’s a little more complicated than that. You see, our cultural identity is one of individualism, capitalism and consumerism. This is why many scholars say “It’s almost impossible for an American to see colonization, capitalism, or consumerism as problematic. Our culture is built upon the idea that there’s not enough, that we must always seek more—at others’ expense. Lynne Twist calls this unconscious, unexamined assumption the “lie of scarcity.” ”
No one ever said listening and following God’s direction was going to be easy. Especially when things like food appear to be so plentiful in our self-created bubble worlds. Those same self-created bubble worlds that shape and form our understanding of how the whole world lives, even though reality does its best to paint a different picture. Maybe this helps explain why we tend to act like this type of deliverance, deliverance from our self-centered wants, is so hard when the truth of the matter is it’s the only way to be the Church.
Being the Church
There is another part to the Church story which needs to be shared even, and especially more than how difficult it all is… and that is how often and how much people do exemplify what it means to be the Church. When disasters strike, like Irma and Harvey, faith groups, Church groups, are always at the center of assisting the recovery of those in need. It is a beautiful thing to witness, and I suspect even more beautiful to receive. Then there are other, less headline generating ways, we live out what it means to be the Church. In fact, at 2:30 PM this afternoon a group of us will gather back at the Church and make the small journey over the FBC High Point to take part in a CROP Hunger Walk. The impact, both near and far, of the CROP Hunger walk ministry is legendary, even though it may not be widely known. CROP Hunger Walks are interfaith events that build community while raising funds to end hunger in our own community AND also
around the world.
We walk today as the FBCJ Team, but we also walk to be in solidarity with those who are hungry and those who can provide.
We walk to bring awareness to these issues and raise the funds for permanent change.
We walk because we love our neighbor.
We walk because we put UB4I!
We walk because maybe we are the film crew and Yes, Sam Kinison, we can give a sandwich to someone who is hungry.
 Rohr, Richard – Daily Meditation – Tuesday, September 19, 2017