I make no mistake in thinking that I am blessed. I am reminded daily that I am living better than many people in the world. Now, I say this not to sound haughty like “look at me! Aren’t I awesome?!” but to say that I am not blind to the fact that I have every day resources available at my fingertips. I turn on the faucet and not only do I get clean water, it’s whatever temperature I want. If I’m hot, I can turn up the ac. If I’m cold, I can turn it off or I have my pick of several blankets with which to cuddle up. My biggest problem really is which one of my 100 plus channels will I watch tonight? I have food in my refrigerator, food in my freezer, and food in my pantry. If none of that satisfies me, I could easily go out and grab something. In so many aspects, I am blessed. I am able to afford the medication I need. I am working a job I love with people I love in a place I love. I live in a beautiful home that I don’t even pay for. This is not exactly Robin Leech type stuff, but I really do feel like I live a life that some might classify as “rich and famous.”
Don’t get me wrong, we have our troubles. We have car repairs, doctor bills, and don’t even get me started on student loans. But really, we are blessed. And it’s easy to read the newspaper and watch the news and see stories of hunger and think “oh those poor people” and keep cutting into my steak. But the fact is that “those poor people” are not just overseas in countries affected by war and drought. They are here. Right in the United States, right in Clinton County, right in Elvira, Goose Lake, Commanche, Charlotte, and Andover. You only need to be here on the second Tuesday of the month to know that the idea of working poor and food insecurity is a real thing. We currently feed around 30 families or so through our food pantry. 30 families–not 30 people. 30 families. Here are some more sobering statistics:
* in 2012, 14% of people in Clinton County were classified as “food insecure.” That means that “consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.” Acceptable shorthand terms for food insecurity are “hungry, or faced with the threat of hunger.” Food insecurity can also accurately be described as ‘a financial juggling act, where sometimes the food ball gets dropped.’”
* Among low income families, sometimes the basic necessities get put off or delayed. For example, 64% of low income families reported skipping or delaying paying utility bills. 74% reported skipping washing dishes or doing laundry. Among these same low income families, 4 out of 5 families who could not afford these basic necessities were also found to be food insecure.
* The Clinton school district is 9th in the state for free and reduced lunch. And according to research, Clinton county is in the top 10 counties of people who are food insecure.
* The statistics are even more sobering if you are Hispanic (⅓ of Hispanic households with children has experienced a food insecurity) or if you live in a rural area (20% of rural households with children is food insecure).
* In 2011, the average SNAP (formerly known as the food stamp program) benefit was $133.85 per person per month, or less than $1.46 a meal. That means the average family of 4 would need to budget to feed themselves dinner for $5.84.
I don’t tell you these things to make you depressed, although maybe that is how you’re feeling now. I think it is important to talk about hunger when we have this scripture in front of us of Jesus feeding 5000. Now, let’s look at that again. Yes, it is Jesus that multiplies the fishes and loaves so that all may eat, but this wasn’t a miracle, friends. This is what Jesus did and who Jesus was. It is almost as if we should EXPECT Jesus to do this. But, read the text again. Let’s start at verse 15 “When it was evening, the disciples came to him [Jesus] and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’” Now, I want to pause right here and say that the disciples were really trying to be logical, most likely. “Look Jesus, it’s late, there’s nothing here, these people are probably hungry so let’s send everyone home.” And “Jesus said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’” YOU give them something to eat. It’s as if Jesus responded, “this is a problem for all of us!”
Let me put this into a context that we might hear in a conversation surrounding hunger in our current day. The disciples (that might be us, by the way) might say “well, those people need to just pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” And then Jesus would respond “how can they do that when they can’t even afford boots?! Those people, who by the way, are my people too, aren’t even wearing shoes.” The miracle here, friends, wasn’t that Jesus fed hungry people. As I said before, this is just what Jesus does. What the miracle was here is the way he chose to go about feeding these hungry people. Jesus responded simply “you give them something to eat.” God’s work, our hands.
Let’s be honest here, brothers and sisters. I know that it just is easier sometimes to turn a blind eye. I have been guilty of it myself. I think (perhaps even a little too often) “oh, someone else will take care of that problem.” But here is the harsh reality. We were all created in God’s image. All of us, with no exceptions. When we turn a blind eye, refuse to help be part of the solution, or just think that someone else will take care of it, we are denying God. Ouch. That stings a bit, doesn’t it?
At the same time, I know that the problem of hunger is very large. There is no way that we can conquer it all. I understand that. And I don’t think that God asks us to conquer these problems on our own. Being aware of the issues is the first step. If you can’t afford to donate towards the cause, donate your time. Call our representatives and let them know how important the issues of hunger are to you as a Christian. If you have the time, see if Rich and Nancy will let you tag along next time they go down to the food bank.
When we are fed at this table, it’s not enough to be fed and walk away thinking “gee that was nice.” We are fed by God, with the body and blood of Christ so that we can go and be Christ to other people. Communion isn’t a snack time. Communion is grace. We need to, no, we are expected to show this grace towards other people; “other people” who belong to Christ just as much as we do. In the kingdom of heaven, no one will go hungry. There will be no such thing as people dying because of hunger or lack of water. There will be no such thing as food stamps or WIC. But we’re living in an already but not yet world. God makes Christ known to us already in the breaking of the bread. But the kingdom has not yet come.
This table is set. Come hungry. Come anxious. Come willing. Then leave so full and stuffed that the only logical response is to share this grace with others. This meal is waiting–you feed people.