“One Great Hour of Sharing” – a very timely Sunday for many people, beginning with most of us, who have enough to eat, and can be very picky about what we choose to eat.
A walk through Wegman’s is a daily feast for the eyes and a world of choices and delicacies for anyone with cash or credit card. And there are specialty cuisines at nearby restaurants that can transport our taste buds in almost any direction: India, China, Japan, Thailand, Greece, Italy, Germany, Mexico, to name a few, plus ethnic dishes from across our nation; with some right down the street.
The more we pamper the palate, the greater chance of grumbling at the dinner table, carried over from the complaints Moses had to listen to in the wilderness journey. (Numbers 21:5)
In our time choices make for choosy eaters who can become not only finicky eaters, but insensitive consumers who ignore the majority of the world, beginning right beyond our tables and restaurants, where what we scrape into the garbage would be a banquet for them; the have not’s, the poor, who become the example those who have may hold up as proof of the people they work hard not to be, and teach their children to label “the have not’s” and shun because they are poor.
A father from a very wealthy family wanted to impress his son with both the privilege and responsibility of being rich, so that he would learn to maintain and appreciate the wealth that would be passed on to him.
To make that impression the father took his son for a ride in the country beyond their estate so he could see how the poor people live, and, to gain a first-hand experience, they spent two days and nights on a farm, living with people considered to be the have not’s.
On the trip home, the father asked the son, “What did you think of the trip?”
The son said, “It was great!”
“Did you see how poor people live?”
“So what did you think?”
“I saw we have one dog and they have four.”
“We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our yard, and they have a creek that has no end.”
“We decorate our yard with battery-operated imported lanterns, and theirs is illuminated by the stars in the
“Our patio reaches around to the front yard, and their yard spreads to the horizon.”
“We live on a small piece of land, and they have fields that go beyond our sight.”
“We have servants who serve us, and they serve one another.”
“We buy food and they grow theirs.”
“We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them.”
The boy’s father was speechless.
Then the son added, “Thanks, Dad, for showing me how poor we are.”
The son had to leave his family estate and all that money can buy to make two discoveries:
First discovery: he found he was missing living a life that would keep him in touch with God’s creation and the blessings of God’s gifts freely given to all; the sun, the moon, the stars, the sky, brooks and fields, animals and birds, and one another.
Second discovery: he found the simple pleasure of turning the soil, planting seeds, tending the growth, reaping the harvest, and sharing the bounty; the work that brings us closer to our Creator, who formed us from earth’s dust and breathed into us God’s breath of life.
No wonder we feel close to God when working the soil.
Two discoveries that come together in another story about Gail Taylor an African-American living in the Brooklawn section of Washington, DC. where she is working to have a farm in the nation’s Capitol. The last one ended in 1939.
Her dream began when her social justice job ended in 2005 and, for one year she volunteered on a farm in Maryland, then joined the staff for five years to learn how to farm organically. With that experience she made a personal pledge to live in the city and commit herself to urban farming.
The Roman Catholic Oblate order, a missionary community that leads their church in caring for God’s creation, had a two-acre plot next to the provincial house, It had been vacant for several years, but if used they would be taxed $50,000. a year.
Gail didn’t give up. She got a city council member to pass a bill to identify vacant lots suitable for urban agriculture, with the stipulation the harvest be donated to food pantries.
This year Gail will say to her inner-city neighbors, “Part of being a black farmer is doing the things our ancestors
did every day.” (Quoted from “Sojourners,” March 2015, P. 21-23) and learn:
To be in touch with the soil is to discover (1) God’s gifts in creation, and (2) be in touch with our Creator, and make a third discovery: announced in today’s Gospel word: the bounty of God’s grace that shines through those who receive it and share through deeds that become a blessing to others. (John 3:21)
Years ago Rev. Howard A. Kosman, for 41 years pastor of Pottstown’s historic “Old Brick” Zion’s UCC Church said that’s why God blesses the “haves” of the world with more than they need, so that they may make it their ministry to the poor and save them from being the “have not’s.”
Grace Noll Crowell began to write poetry when she was 8, but when her family read it, they laughed, and called it a childish effort. She never wrote again, until she married and had a home. The love she found awakened her to return to writing.
One of her poems is made for all who know God has blessed them to be able to make all three discoveries;
discoveries that silence grumbling at the dinner table as those who are the “haves” turn one of Grace’s poems into a hymn,
Because I have been given much, I too must give.
Because of thy great bounty, Lord, each day I live
I shall divide my gifts from thee With every brother that I see
Who has the need of help from me.
Because love has been lavished so upon me Lord –
A wealth I know that was not meant for me to hoard –
I shall give love to those in need,
Shall show that love by word and deed.
Thus shall my thanks be thanks indeed.
The hymn, that in singing, we commit to living. Amen.