For Easter morning we’re playing with the image of the Jesus movement with it’s head cut off. The Romans deal with rebellions by killing the leaders – and the movement dies. But with the Jesus movement – the body lives on without the head.
“Like a chicken with it’s head cut off?” someone quips.
We laugh. Yes that could be a good description of the church at times.
In our congregation we have thinkers and we have do-ers. The do-ers are eager to get busy meeting the needs of a downtown low-income neighbourhood. The Thinkers have lots of reservations. I’m torn. It seems the Spirit is telling us thinkers to “just do it”.
The Theological Study group is reading “take this bread” by Sara Miles. The back cover reads “Early one morning, for no earthly reason, Sara Miles, a lesbian left-wing journalist, raised an atheist, wandered into a church, received communion, and found herself transformed – embracing a faith she’d once scorned.”
Sarah Miles’ story is an embodied theology. She comes first into the church with a deep hunger – unnamable – not understood – but felt. When she eats the bread and drinks the blood something physical happens to her. She cant’ put it into words but the taste of it stays with her. And she finds herself craving whatever it is she’s experienced.
For a professional journalist to not be able to put an experience into words is a LARGE statement. She’s made her living - put food on her table - you could say, by being able to describe experiences. What comes out in her story is a very different kind of theology. It’s not about what we think about god. It’s about what we feel about the god experience – and what we do about it.
Food is her connection to this unnamable life force. Drawing from her experiences among the poorest peoples of the world. People caught in the midst of wars that make for good press – and living strung out to its bleakest realities – she is touched by the human instinct to share food. Instead of the North American hoarding instinct that comes with the fear of disaster, she finds that where people have so very little – the generosity is so very great.
She reminds us that Elijah is fed by the ravens – the little bits they bring are enough to keep him alive. Elijah is fed by the starving widow – and while it seems a miracle to us in the developed world – it is a recognizable story in the lives of people who keep hunger at bay on a day by day basis.
“Give us this day our daily bread” I pray - without having any idea what it is to not know where that bread will come from tomorrow.
In Peterborough there are 7,900 people living without enough funds to get themselves the nutrition needed to live and work and learn. About a third of those people are children. What does it mean to these neighbours of ours when they hear me quote Jesus “I have come to bring you life in its fullest”.
Maybe I should quote Mike Cote instead? “To offer people the fullness of the spirit without the fullness of a belly is to be full of shit.”
Sara Miles transforms her church’s new six thousand dollar communion altar into a grocery store. She buys up the food cast off from the mega-farming industry’s waste for pennies a pound. Her church re-distributes the wealth not because it is the “just” thing to do but because it is the human thing to do. It is for them the Jesus thing to do.
Social Justice would not look like people depending on a volunteer good will economy. Social Justice would look like people earning their living with fair wages. It would look like good work that fits them instead of them fitting -or not- into the economies of scale that make the profit-driven corporate wheels spin. In a just society there’d be a home for every soul. The selfhood that comes from participating in the work of wealth redistribution would be the primary purpose of our elected leaders. They’d ensure our communities hum and run with money circulating like the bloodstream of a body.
Sharing food is what human beings do. Animals and greedy bastards fight for food. Politicians burn fields to make war. Corporations make food scarce, like gold, to be traded and speculated with to maximize profit. (think of the Midas touch that turns his food to gold) It is against the laws of human nature. It is against the laws of the Source of life. It is not the way of the Prince of Peace.
“This is my body.” the act of taking into our digestive tracts that Source, that Life, that Sacred remembrance of what it is to be human – shared - is what transforms us into the Divine body of Christ.
What then will this body do?
I hate food banks. I hate that churches have become a cog in the wheels of the wasteful corporate food system. Instead of governments ensuring that people have enough money to live. Instead of access to food becoming an essential priority of government. Churches and good people become part of the corporate food distribution system that creates waste to maximize profit.
Instead of creating change, we pacify ourselves - and the people we feed - by helping an un-just distribution system keep on wheeling. We are part of the problem when we buy food at grocery stores to give to food banks. This drives me crazy.
Instead of being part of the movement for change, we volunteer to keep this crazy de-humanizing system on track. The environmental costs of mega-farming, the ever-centralizing of control and profit, the loss of the family farm and farmland, all speed merrily along while we keep busy being Jesus feeding the five thousand.
What would Jesus do? How would he feed the Occupy-ers. Two thousand years ago the head was cut off the body of the movement he started. He died but his body lives on. Without the head to tell us what to do – how do we decide?
So often the church is like a chicken with it’s head cut off. Running around in circles performing our annual rituals and celebrations, doing our good deeds and repeating the same mistakes over and over and over.
To discern what Jesus would do takes courage. What Jesus said about the religious institutions of his day – was simply the voice of the people at the edges. To hear what Jesus is saying about the church today – who do we listen to? Professors, Priests, and church growth Pundits? All have good things to say. But to discern the voice of Jesus today mustn’t we break bread with the hungry among us?
Perhaps we might learn from the hungriest how to be truly generous?
Perhaps we might come in touch with our own hunger to be fed the fullness of life?
“Take up your cross and follow me” is not about getting what we want. It’s about losing the fear that makes us hoard, hold, and hide.
It’s a one person at a time decision to act. But it’s only together that we can turn acts of personal charity into the ways of justice that will bring peace and prosperity to all. And I mean all.
May you find food along the way – enough to share. These scraps are all I’ve found. May they be the Raven’s gift to feed that Elijah crazy-courage in you/us.