ONE SUNDAY SERMON STARTER
What could be better than a sermon on faith and food.
There’s no denying it. We love God, most of us I believe would agree with that, and we love food, especially the eating of it. No matter how much fun we might have cooking this cool new recipe that we caught on The Food Network or read about in Martha Steward Living or that some celebrity chef wow’d Oprah with, truth be told, we much prefer eating it to cooking it. Mostly. Cooking is fun, but eating, to many, is life itself. I’ve seen a lot more t-shirts that proclaim “I live to Eat” then “I live to cook.”
Faith and food.
OK, so here’s the faith part. Or maybe it’s the food part. You’ll have to decide for yourselves which hunger is being addressed at what point during this sermon.
Look, we do a lot of things for the sake of our spirituality.
A lot of things to draw nearer to God.
Deeper into God’s presence.
Prayer and fasting are perhaps two of the most ancient practices.
Prayer, of course, we know prayer.
Intercessory prayer and centering prayer and embodied prayer and lectio divina…even simple table grace. Prayer comes in more flavors than Baskins and Robbins Ice Cream. There’s listening prayer and praying in the Name of Jesus and the Jesus prayer and the Lord’s Prayer. Healing prayer and confessional prayer. We’re just barely scratching the surface here.
Now fasting, that’s something different.
Some people confuse fasting with “holy dieting” – denying one’s self food for the supposed health benefits. They talk about purging the body of toxins and so forth. I’m not here to comment on the merits of those claims one way or the other. As a faith practice, fasting is meant as a spiritual practice that draws us nearer to God. By having less food, we have more, so says Franciscan sister and author Jose Hobday: “…if we take less food, we have more capacity for spiritual hungering.”
In our readings from Isaiah this morning, we learn that God looks at fasting in several different, but complementary ways. Traditional fasting, the giving up of food, is one: we deny ourselves the comfort and luxury of food. Acts of mercy and justice are another: in these we deny ourselves the comfort of denial. Denial that the systems in which must of the world’s power has accumulated leaves far too many millions on the margins lacking the basic necessities of life. By robbing ourselves of the comfort of denial, we must act. Facing the reality of suffering in the world, we cannot help but to act.
We read in Isaiah:
Is not this the fast that I choose:to loose the bonds of injustice,to undo the thongs of the yoke,to let the oppressed go free,and to break every yoke?7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,and bring the homeless poor into your house;when you see the naked, to cover them,and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
God, speaking through Isaiah touches upon acts of mercy and acts of justice.
By and large, acts of mercy are easy to spot.
Consider last Wednesday night at First Lutheran Church in Fort Lauderdale.
If you walked into the kitchen around 5:30PM you would see a dozen or more people from Trinity around a large island in the middle of the kitchen - some slopping jelly and others carefully layering peanut butter on a slice of bread. Others placed the completed sandwiches in baggies and the “baggied” sandwiches in boxes. In the hall there, more people were setting tables or filling a large salad bowl or placing warmed lasagnas and baked zitis out on the table. Large plates were being filled with cookies. As six o’clock arrived the doors were opened and fifty or some people from the margins, from the streets, the homeless and hungry, filled sears around the tables with Trinity folks scattered at this table or that table to engage in conversation and fellowship. A couple of kids walked from table to table with scarves knit by our prayer shawl group to ward off the night’s chill until their arms were empty and it seemed like everyone had a scarf wrapped around their necks. A hasty collection of donated jackets and sweatshirts found their way to the most in need. It is such a small thing, one supposes, to clear out a closet of old jackets and sweatshirts and the like, such a small thing until you see dozens of people coming in from the cold with nothing. I saw an old sweatshirt of mine keeping a older woman warm, a sweatshirt that I hadn’t worn in years beyond counting, and it seemed almost embarrassing to call that gift an act of mercy, but that is what it was. Acts of mercy are those things that we do in the name of God for the comfort or aid of those in need. For relief of their immediate suffering.
Acts of Justice go to the root of what generates the need for acts of mercy.
We’re talking about systemic change.
What does the Lord declare through Isaiah?
6Is not this the fast that I choose:to loose the bonds of injustice,to undo the thongs of the yoke,to let the oppressed go free,and to break every yoke?
Feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked - these acts of mercy and more have their place and their importance to alleviate immediate suffering. But the Lord declares to us that this is only half the battle. That we must be warriors not only of mercy, but also of justice.
Trinity’s work with other congregations, Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish, here in Broward County, are a prime example of our justice work – and work in which you can become involved.
As well, two years ago we became one of the first congregations in the Florida Bahamas Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to become a ONE Lutheran Congregation.
What is the ONE Lutheran Campaign?The ONE Lutheran Campaign is the unique effort of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to engage Lutherans in the ONE Campaign. ONE: The Campaign to Make Poverty History is an effort by Americans to rally Americans – ONE by ONE – to fight global AIDS and extreme poverty. Founded in 2003, ONE is the U.S. expression of international anti-poverty movements inspired by the Global Call to Action Against Poverty. Today, ONE has more than 100 faith-based and humanitarian partners that work together as ONE – to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and make poverty history.
What are the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)? The MDGs are eight inter-related targets toward the elimination of extreme poverty by 2015. The goals flow from the Millennium Declaration that was signed by more than 189 countries in 2000. It is understood that developing countries are primarily responsible for achieving the first seven MDGs. Industrialized countries are primarily responsible for goal number eight – to create a global partnership with targets for aid, debt and trade. The goals include:
Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger
Achieve Universal Primary Education
Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women
Reduce Child Mortality
Improve Maternal Health
Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases
Ensure Environmental Sustainability
Create a Global Partnership for Development with targets on aid, debt and trade.
Trinity’s Justice Ministries work hand in hand with our Ministries of Mercy – forming a key portion of our corporate spirituality - together drawing us as a congregation higher up and deeper into the love of God. It is who we are as God’s faith community here and now. Through them we are blessed to be a blessing. This is who we are – may we ever be more so.
Let us pray…Amen.