Monday, August 6, 2012

August 5 Sermon

A mother in a Sudanese village has no food left for her children. The pots in her hut are empty - but only she knows this. Her children trust their mother. They have no idea that they are poor. While her children play outside, she fills a cooking pot with stones and water and places it on the fire. Then she calls the children and asks them to keep the fire going. Dried meat takes a long time to cook, she tells them. Thinking they are cooking meat, the children forget they are hungry.

While her children tend the fire, the mother then goes into the woods in one last desperate attempt to find food for her family. Suddenly, she hears a lion roar. She is deathly afraid of lions, but creeps closer. From behind a tree, she watches a lion devouring a buffalo. She is terrified but she knows that the meat will feed her children. She takes the circlet of grass, with which she balances her basket, and flings it near the lion to divert it. It works. When the lion pounces on the grass ring, the mother quickly throws sand on the buffalo meat, knowing that the lion will not eat soiled meat. When the lion returns, it recoils from the meat and stalks away. The mother fills her basket with buffalo meat, goes to the river to wash it and runs home.

The children have been tending the fire as instructed. She sends them outside so she can "finish" and quickly cooks the meat. Her children have something to eat that day. Only the mother knows how close they had come to starvation. [A true story told by Bishop Paride Taban, in The Long Road to Peace: Encounters with the People of Southern Sudan by Matthew Haumann.]
A mother's love is greater than her own fears; her resourcefulness is unmatched when her children's welfare is at stake; her courage is formidable in the face of any threat to her family. I told this true story because it is in many ways, unfamiliar to us living in the US. We don’t fight in the same way for the survival of our families, esp. when it comes to food…

Last Wednesday, we held a simulation at Camp Washington with the 60 or so teen campers. The global simulation was called "Cornish Countries" and we broke the campers and staff up to 3 countries representing the 1st, 2nd & 3rd world. The simulation examined the distribution of wealth throughout our world, as well as how people face hunger on a regular basis. It was an amazing experience. I played my part, as a member of UNICEF looking out for those in need.

The simulation really hit the campers at lunch, when we continued the simulation and the campers in the poorest country were relegated to the back dining room with no chairs just plastic silverware and plates and not enough food for everyone in their group. The kids from the two richer countries donated some of their food, but it was interesting to see how many Lay’s Chips were donated when the back dining room wanted meat!

It reminds me of the parable that Nathan tells King David…

There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children…

Now we might think we are not King David, what we have is very little but compared to most people on this planet, we are rich indeed. My income puts me in the richest 9% of the world’s population. My income is more than 12 times that of the typical person on the planet. (Developed, Developing & Underdeveloped parts included) -

Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man's lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him.

The campers came to understand that they weren’t giving from their abundance but the scraps they didn’t want. Soon they began to send what was needed, meat and bread and ice! I believe they came away with (we all did!) a better appreciation of what abundance we truly live with in our country and that we need to give back, not just the scraps, but the abundance we have.

We may not commit such an egregious act as King David, destroying a man to have his beautiful wife, but that parable is also for our ears, that we may too learn the way of compassion and kindness. We like David collect too much stuff and sometimes forget the needs of the poorest among us. For as Jesus put it, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.”

In a world, wear a mother has to figure out a way to get food from a lion, and people who live nearby us also wonder where their next meal comes from, I think about their parable and the poor little ewe lambs nearby and far way, What am I going to give for the life of the world? (or will I take the lamb away by doing nothing to help…)

Let me end with a prayer from the UK that reminds us of our role to play…
O God, whose Spirit moved upon the waters, we remember those who live in lands of drought or flood, whose harvest is not-enough or not-at-all. Today, they sow in tears: Soon, may they reap with shouts of joy.

We remember those whose water supply is polluted, by negligence or need, those to whom water brings disease, poisoning or radiation, whose gift of life is cursed by death. Today, they sow in tears: Soon, may they reap with shouts of joy.

We remember ourselves: We waste our water and devastate the fruits of the earth, & neglect to share our abundance. We are unwilling to form one circle with our brothers and sisters around the world. Merciful Creator, help us to share their tears that soon we may all reap with shouts of joy.

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