Have you anything here to eat?
Based on Luke 24:36- 48 Focus: Earth Day
The Sundays after Easter try to express the unexplainable – how the disciples of Jesus moved into ministry beyond the crucifixion of the great teacher they followed. What gave them the strength? What did they experience or sense of the Spirit of Jesus in their midst? He seems to just `show up’ for a while, and interestingly there is often some sort of meal involved. In today’s gospel reading, he seems teleported from Emmaus back to Jerusalem – suddenly appearing in the room with them, and, among other things, says `Have you anything here to eat?’
Nourishment is essential to the survival of every species. But Jesus always used the opportunity of a meal to teach deep truths about life. A quick look through the gospel of Luke shows this well.
In Luke 5:27-32, Levi, a former tax collector throws a party for Jesus and there are all sorts of disreputable people there. The Pharisees complain about the bad company Jesus is keeping; he’s not setting a good example of holiness. Jesus replies, ‘It’s the sick who need a doctor, not the healthy.’
In Luke 7:36- 50, he has dinner at Simon’s house – now he was dining with a Pharisee, but the town prostitute comes in and weeping, anoints his feet with tears and perfume. It’s scandalous! And Jesus honours her gift with acceptance, forgiveness, commends her faith and offers a blessing of peace.
In Luke 9:10-17, the feeding the 5,000, we are shown the sufficiency that exists when we trust God with what we have to offer.
10:38-42, at Mary and Martha’s house we see the struggle to balance the ministry of hospitality and the ministry of discipleship.
There is of course the Passover meal which Jesus adds new meaning to, and which we still commemorate as the Last Supper, the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, or Communion.
The story just prior to this one in the gospel is of Jesus breaking bread with two disciples at Emmaus.
How do food stories nourish bodies, spirits, and relationships between people? How can they increase faith? If Jesus showed up today asking “Have you anything here to eat?’ what could we say? How does food speak (for good or ill) to the health of the human body, the planet, and our relationships?
In our world today where farm land is facing drought or flood, where bees, our precious pollinators are dying at alarming rates, the question “Have you anything here to eat?” takes on a more urgent tone.
It is question for both spirit and body. Imagine who is asking and who is answering – if the question is asked of:
The server at Tim Hortons, Have you anything here to eat?”
A starving mother whose body cannot produce milk to feed her baby. Have you anything….
The restaurant cook in the doorway of the back alley. Have you…
The UN Palestinian refugees huddled in a camp, from which our federal government has just cut $30 million in support.
The small staff at our local resource centre/food bank.
As Earth Day approaches, and the precious land we presently have that is still producing, and the oceans that are not yet too acidic, or too polluted, offer their gifts, what is our response and our responsibility as stewards of creation? What will we answer the risen Christ, the refugee, the starving mother, when they ask us, “Have you anything here to eat?”
This month’s UC Observer has an excellent section on Climate issues, including a brief essay by Rev. Harold Wells, professor emeritus in theology at Emmanuel College in Toronto. I found it so clear and grounded, and well rooted in our own United Church creed, that I share it with you now. He writes:
Will God rescue us from climate disaster? The short answer is no.
No one seriously expects that God will suddenly refreeze the Arctic or blow away the carbon dioxide that we’ve been dumping into the atmosphere. True, the governor of Texas, in the midst of the worst drought and forest fires in Texas history, publicly prayed for rain, while claiming that climate change is a hoax. But the Creator, “who has created and is creating,” to quote the United Church creed, does not set aside the rational order of the universe to accommodate human folly. The laws that enable the evolution of life were wondrously fine-tuned into that big bang 14 billion years ago. Coal, oil and natural gas emit carbon dioxide when burned; carbon dioxide in the atmosphere traps heat and will not naturally dissipate for centuries. If the polar regions continue to melt, the planet will warm disastrously. Mass extinction is a real possibility.
It’s too late to hide behind “opinions” about this. It’s not mere opinion but peer-reviewed science that tells us how greenhouse gases are disrupting the normal patterns of planetary weather. Hundreds of climate scientists of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tell us that the great frequency of weather disturbances — floods, snowstorms, droughts, hurricanes, forest fires, excessive heat (and sometimes excessive cold) — is mainly the result of carbon emissions from human activity in resource extraction, industry, transportation, agriculture, heating and cooling. If we do not act decisively, the crisis will be out of our hands.
We know what to do about it. We must mobilize resources into renewable energy, and power our world in a way that harmonizes with the delicate, interdependent eco-systems of the planet. Making the transition is affordable, practical and immensely beneficial. But will we do it? It’s a colossal task and will take a tipping point of public awareness, public demand and political courage. Naomi Klein tells us in her recent book This Changes Everything that it will require a transformation of the capitalist system and a dramatic shift toward co-operation — both within and among nations. This is not a scientific matter; it’s a moral choice and a profound spiritual challenge. We have begun, but we have a very long way to go.
Is it “sinful” to burn fossil fuels (as we all do)? It’s surely not a sin that we clever humans discovered the power of these fuels to deliver levels of prosperity, comfort and health previously unimaginable. However, wilful blindness, deliberate lies and denial of facts — to protect profits — are sins indeed.
Fossil fuel dependence cannot be turned around on a dime. The great obstacles to the necessary transition to renewables, are some of the most powerful people in the world, who profit from fossil fuel industries. Faithfulness to the Creator now means pushing governments for the tax laws, regulations and massive investment that will move us to alternative sources of energy.
(Note – We have an election coming very soon – and I urge you to vote for the party/candidate with a commitment to the stewardship of creation in mind. It’s simply too important NOT to.)
God did not quench the forest fires of Texas or dry up the flooding rivers of Alberta. Nor should we expect some supernatural rescue from further climate disasters. Yet we continue to confess: “We believe in God. . . . We trust in God.”
For Christians, the eternal Source and Ground of all life and power is the Spirit of Gentleness, the self-limiting One whom we have encountered in Jesus Christ. While not overwhelming the autonomy of humanity or the laws of nature, the Creator loves the world and is not absent or indifferent to its struggles. Wonders can be achieved when God “works in us and others by the Spirit.” The Spirit acts through prophetic leaders, through movements of committed people, and is marvellously present in the natural processes of healing and restoration. Praying for rain (or for the rain to stop) will not be enough. We will continue to pray and to hope in God as we “live with respect in Creation.” Let us also act — personally and politically.
From the United Church Observer – April 2015 p.36
The congregation was then invited to prayerfully consider what they each would do personally and politically, on the edge of Earth Day, during the `anthem’ – What a Wonderful World.