Monday, April 2, 2012

Occupy Food Justice!

Below are comments I made at the Occupy Palm Sunday! event in Logan Square on Sunday, April 1, 2012.
* * * * *
If you look around today, you'll see signs with the words, "I was hungry and you gave me food." (Tuve hambre y me disteis de comer.) -- part of that simple description in Matthew 25 of what is asked of us.

Pastor Erik Christensen, from St. Luke's Logan Square, is the person who shook my conscience with this simple statement: "We believe that the thing about food is: it's just this thing that we GIVE to people." (Creemos que lo que pasa con los alimentos es la siguiente: es algo, una comida compartio entre la comunidad, que compartimos con el pueblo.)

The Gospel witness is full of feeding and eating.(El testigo del Evangelio esta lleno de testimonios de alimentar y comer.)

"People! You don't have a PRODUCTION problem ... 
you have a DISTRIBUTION problem!"
"Mi Gente! Usted no tiene una problema de la PRODUCCION.... 
tiene una problema de DISTRIBUCION!"
Joe Scarry speaking at the first "Occupy Palm Sunday" in Logan Square
(Photo courtesy FJJ)

Probably the story most familiar to all of us is the story of the loaves and fishes (la historia de los panes y los peces). What happened in that situation? The disciples came to Jesus and said: "LOOK AT ALL THESE PEOPLE! How are they going to get enough to eat???" (Mira cuantas personas! Habra suficiente comida?)

Jesus said, "It's cool ... what have you got? ... okay, so go pass it out ...." (Esta bien! Que te pasa? pues, comienzan a distribuirio ...)

And when it was all said and done, the disciples said, "Huh! What d'ya know? There was more than enough!" (Eh! Podria imaginar? Habia mas que suficiente!)

Jesus came along at a time when society in his part of the world was going through a transition, and people were struggling to figure it all out. Part of what they were struggling with was a set of old ideas about the control of resources, especially the fruit of the land. They had gotten to a point where there WAS enough to go around ... if only they could figure out how to live together in community.

I believe that the heart of Jesus' message was: "People! You don't have a PRODUCTION problem ... you have a DISTRIBUTION problem!" (Yo creo que el corazon del mensaje de Jesus fue: "Mi Gente! Usted no tiene una problema de la PRODUCCION.... tiene una problema de DISTRIBUCION!")

God's old covenant with his people -- the Old Testament -- looked like this: "Here's the deal: You be loyal to me, and I'll make sure the earth produces enough food for you." Jesus came along to say: "Here's the new deal: God loves you enough that there's enough for everybody, AND he's given you what you need to figure out how to share it." (Dios nos ama suficiente y hay suficiente para todos, y el nos hay dado lo que necesitamos pero nuestros tenemos que encontratr la manera de compartirio.) That is the new covenant -- the New Testament.

I was hungry and you fed me
Hambre y me disteis de comer

And so, when we worship, the heart of our service is the part where we first take an offering -- "what have you got?" -- and then we have a shared communion meal.

As Pat Kuhlman, one of the people who has been volunteering for decades at the "Elijah's Pantry" food pantry at St. Luke's told me, "Elijah's Pantry is an extension of our communion table -- a meal shared among the community. (El Pantry de Elijah es una extension de nuestra mesa de comunion -- una comida compartio entre la comunidad.) "At the end of our worship every Sunday," she continued, "the congregation turns to follow the cross as it is carried down the aisle and out the front door. That symbolizes for us that the faith we profess does not stop at the front door, but governs our actions outside."

At St. Luke's, we couldn't follow the cross out the door without The Greater Chicago Food Depository. GCFD is a nonprofit food distribution and training center providing food for hungry people while striving to end hunger in our community. The Food Depository distributes donated and purchased food through a network of 650 pantries, soup kitchens and shelters to 678,000 adults and children in Cook County every year.

Doug Schenkelberg, Vice President of Advocacy and Outreach at GCFD, has suggested that one way we can help achieve food justice is by calling our state legislators to sign on in support of two resolutions that call for a strong federal Farm Bill. As explained on the Illinois Stewardship Alliance website,
Illinois Senate Resolution 530 urges Congress to adopt a farm bill the supports and promotes local and regional food systems and is sponsored by local food champion Senator Dave Koehler. SR 530’s counterpart House Resolution 734 has the exact same language as the Senate version and is being sponsored by Representative Kelly Burke.

Local food systems are good for farmers, good for customers, good for the economy, and good for the environment. When people buy locally-grown food, their money goes right back into the regional economy--not to some other state, and not overseas,” Koehler said. “They get to develop relationships with local farmers and learn where their food is really coming from. They also help out the environment by reducing shipping costs and making it easier for farmers to grow a variety of different crops.
Doug from the Greater Chicago Food Depository and the people at Illinois Stewardship Alliance encourage us to take action: Call your Illinois State Representative Now and ask them to co-sponsor HR 734!

Spanish translation courtesy Laura Leon.

Read about Community Dinners at St. Luke's

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