Thursday, January 20, 2011

Food for Thought

Every year on my birthday, in October, my wife prepares "The Coffee Cake."  This was the breakfast my mother was preparing when I interrupted her with the announcement that I was ready to be born.  As a child, every year my mother would make "The Coffee Cake" on my birthday. Even after I left home, she continued the tradition. She also made sure my wife had the recipe (it's on the Bisquick box) and Fay has  continued the tradition.  So  for 61 of my 64 birthdays I have enjoyed this special meal.

Did you ever notice how many of our family and public celebrations center around food?  Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years (at our house it's take out Chinese on New Year's Eve), Super Bowl Sunday, St Patrick's Day, Shrove Tuesday, the 4th of July and on and on.  Food is central to our celebrations.  When I was in Africa and spoke at a small country church it was expected that I would stay and break bread with the elders of the congregation. 

Yes, food is central to our shared celebrations.  Unfortunately, what also seems central, and totally unnecessary, is gluttony.  It is not necessary to eat half a 20 pound turkey by yourself to prove you are thankful.  8 bratwursts will not help your team win the Super Bowl.  Two pounds of strawberry shortcake don't make you any more patriotic than the person who only ate 1 six ounce serving.  The only thing gluttony makes you is bigger.

For the Israelites food was also central--hence, when God visited Abraham, (Gen 18:6) Abraham hurried into the tent and said to Sarah, "Quick, take a sack of your best flour, and bake some bread."(Gen 18:7) Then he ran to the herd and picked out a calf that was tender and fat, and gave it to a servant, who hurried to get it ready.(Gen 18:8)
the Passover, and Holy Communion are built around a meal.  When the prodigal father welcomed home his wayward son, they killed the fatted calf. 

In a nation that has the capacity to feed the world, gluttony and the waste of food are shameful. When I was about 8 years old, my mother would tell me to eat everything on my plate because children in China were starving.  I have no idea how my eating everything on my plate would help hungry kids across the Pacific, but it is what I was told.  One night my mother put something in front of me that I found particularly odious.  When I didn't eat it she again reminded me of the starving children in China.  "Well, as far as I'm concerned they can have this garbage" I retorted.

My father started to come out of his chair, but my mother stopped him.  "OK," she said, "That's just what we'll do."  When she serve dessert, there was none for Danny.  the next morning I came into the kitchen for breakfast.  There were hot cakes, bacon, syrup, eggs, and milk for everyone except Danny.  As I left the house for school there were only four lunches on the counter: none for Danny.  But I wasn't worried, all I had to do was tell the teacher I forgot my lunch and they'd let me charge a school lunch--of course my mother knew that and was a step ahead of me.  She called the school and told them what she was doing. (Today she would be arrested for child neglect, but back then it was called"experiential education.")  I didn't get a lunch that day.  For Dinner that night Mother cooked my favorite meal--roast beef with Yorkshire Pudding.  I got a scoop of rice.  No soy sauce, no veggies, no meat, just plain rice.
After dinner my mother wrote a check to the church's fund for international hunger in the amount it would have cost to feed me for a day.  I was given the check and told to put it in the offering plate.

Not only did I never complain about my mother's cooking again, I learned a whole new appreciation for food.  Food, like everything else we have, is a gift from God to be used wisely and shared generously.

Eat well, share generously, and be blessed.
He took some cream, some milk, and the meat, and set the food before the men. There under the tree he served them himself, and they ate.

Monday, January 17, 2011

How Long?

Who woulda thought that this blogging would turn out to be almost as hard as writing a sermon?--first a subject must be selected, thoughts organized, and the post written.  I'm now sure this will not be an everyday event, but I will try to come up with some words of wisdom--or at least some words--several times a week.

Today is Martin Luther King Day.  It's also, I believer, the anniversary of JFK's innaugural "Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country" speech.  How appropraite that both fall on the same day this year.  Two great leaders, both assasinatated for what they believed; both of who changed the world for the better.  The Tuscon shooting was not a new event, nor is the vitriotic speech that surrounds it.  How sad  that 150 years after Lincoln, 50 years after Kennedy, 40 some years after King, and 2000 years after Jesus, we still haven't learned to disagree peacefully.  That there will always be disagreements is a given: that we must resort to violence to solve them is only a sign of our weakness.  One of my favorite quotations is from "The Foundation Trilogy" by Assimov: "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent."  I wonder when the human race will develop competence?  Even the protests in Tunisia that ousted a dictator have turned to riots and looting.

Yesterday in worship we sang "Lead On O King Eternal."  I especially appreciate the line:
"For not with swords loud clashing, nor roll of stirring drums;
with deeds of love and mercy, the heavenly kingdom comes."

How long will it be before the kingdom comes?  How long before schools have plenty of money and the Air Force holds a bake sale to buy a bomber?  How long before our tanks are forged into tractors?  How long before we finally learn (in the words of POGO) "We have met the enemy, and it is us."

Peace and blessings

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pain and Rejoicing

It's Saturday, and this aftermoon I am leading a memorial service for a lady who was near and dear to my heart.  It is times like these that make pastoring weigh heavy on my  heart--but no, I wouldn't change what I do for anything.  I think that people don't realize the honor they pay their pastor when they allow us into their families at the most sacred moments: births, weddings, hospitalizations, anniversaries, and even deaths.  These are the times that are most sacred and most intimate in a family's life, and to allow an outsider in is a sign of honor, of love, of trust, and respect.  I can only pray that I live up to it all.

A seminary professor once said we shouldn't get too close to our flock--for in doing so we open oursleves not only to their hurts, but to the pain of eventually leaving.  My response was, and is, that if I don't hurt when they hurt, cry when they cry, laugh when they laugh, experience their joys as well as their pains, then I havn't really been much of a pastor.  Yes, I have both experienced and shared a  lot of pain; but I have also experienced and shared a lot of joy.  I have wept.  I have rejoiced.  And through it all, I have experienced, and hopefully shared, the love of God in Christ.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Just Some Early Morning Thoughts

Epiphany, the coming of the light into a darkened world.  What better symbol of the darkness than a blank screen demanding to be filled with words of wisdom? Or at least words that someone might find worth reading.  I never really thought much about being a "blogger" until just the other day when I wrote my first post.  Something about the meanness of our socio-political dialogue left me so disappointed that I had to do something.  So I wrote.

But I'm not really what you'd call a political junkie.  I don't spend hours listening to the pundits pontificate whatever it is they spout forth.  I'm a pastor--by calling and by nature.  My compelling need is to help; to comfort the afflicted and, when necessary, afflict the comfortable.  Which got me to thinking that perhaps that's the root of the problem with our national dialogue.  The comfortable are too comfortable, and the afflicted are too afflicted.  With the demise of the middle class, the divide between those who have more than the need and those who are somehow surviving, has become so vast that they don't even speak the same language.  Both sides are talking--make that shouting--but neither side is hearing.  And the result is a world that is becoming more and more out of whack.

What can we say to a world where, in Oregon, apples grown in Chili and New Zealand cost less than apples grown in Hood River?  What can we say to a world where many of us literally loose more money in our couches than the poorest folks in the world earn?  What can we say to a world where schools cancel art, music, drama, and speech while building multi-million dollar sports arenas?  What can we say to a world where we pay entertainers many times over what we pay teachers?  What can we say to a world where insuring obscene bonusses to CEO's is more important than providing health care to babies and the elderly.

I'm not sure we can say anything.  In a world that no longer hears, all we can do is do.  We can buy the more expensive local apples.  We can gather up that loose donate it to groups who are making a difference in the lives of the poor, the oppressed, and the powereless.  We can demand our schools put education ahead of athletics--and not support the athletics until they do.  We can stop supporting firms that pay their CEO's unrealisitic bonusus.  We can turn off the tv, read a book, attend local, live theatre.  We can learn to entertain ourselves--to play and instrument, or sing, or draw, or whatever it is we always wanted to do.  We may not be able to change the world, but we can, at least, improve our part of it.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

In the wake of events in Arizona, as non-political as I claim to be, I find myself increasingly disgusted with the nature of political dialogue in this nation.  Now I have no problem with people disagreeing with me, but there is no need to be disagreeable.  And there is certainly no need to incite violence.  The pundits claim that their use of what they call metaphorical language is not responsible for for what happened, only the shooter is.
This is nothing more than a blatant attempt to avoid responsibility for their words.

We have long known that if you tell a child he or she is "worthless" long enough and loudly enough, they will believe it.  Words have power.  It is the power of words that keeps the O'Reillys, Palins, Becks, and Olbermans of the world in business.  They may not have been directly responsible, but gasoline on a fire only increases its ferocity.  To deny that they have any responsibility is to deny words have power.  And to deny that words have power is to deny reality.

And now to the other side of the coin.  How do we forgive the young  shooter?  How do we forgive those who incited him?  Forgive we must, the Lord we worship requires it.  I have said many times that forgiveness is the hardest thing we do as Christians--and the most important.  I'm not sure how I will forgive all those who broought us to this place, but with God's help, I will find a way.  I pray you may too.