It was the theologian, Karl Barth, who said we should read holding the Bible in one hand and the daily newspaper in the other (“newspaper” now being read electronically as well as a printed copy.) That’s what we do today with the Bible opened to the Old Testament lesson and the “newspaper” opened to this Sunday’s CROP Walk section.
On the one hand there is the old story read in the Bible’s book of Exodus: The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt! “The golden calf!” that Aaron Howard, a PhD candidate at Vanderbilt University and ordained elder in the Church of God in Christ asks us to see in the Bible and: “Notice in the text that it is not Aaron who first announces that the calf is the god that delivered Israel from Egypt. It is the people themselves who identify this false connection, just as we ourselves are complicit in this…party (that) lionizes the rich while denigrating the poor.” http://www.politicaltheology.com/blog/the-politics-of-exodus-322-6/ In ancient Egypt, gold represented power and vigor, symbolized in the strength of the ox, pulling the plow cultivating the fields, yielding crops that produced revenue to the owners (the rich), at the expense of those who did the work (the poor). “The golden calf,” an illusion for the poor and a reality for the rich. In the other hand we see the poor living with the fantasy which a Micronesian islander, existing in substandard conditions, expressed to the missionary, Rev. Anna Dederer, “I want to go to America and drive a big car and eat sandwiches.” When we look at our food carts, our credit card billings, our clothes, our houses, our freezers and refrigerators, might they be the “golden calf” others see us bowing down to and worshiping, and make their longing to be able to do the same? It’s a look at the CROP Walk section in today’s news that turns us to see what fills a shopping cart for a family of four in America becomes a bag of rice for more than one-half of the population of the world, and the amount of that American family’s food bill averages out to about $233. a week. Source: United States Department of Agriculture, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion For the other half of the world’s population, $200. can provide seeds, tools and gardening supplies for a community to grow their own food – sustainably! The 2017 CROP Walk material includes a sample letter meant to be addressed to people pushing a shopping cart filled with food, reads: “This month, save one of your receipts when you go grocery shopping, and (see it as a) challenge…to write a check or make an online donation to the CROP Hunger Walk in an amount equal to that receipt. Match what you spend on food with a gift that will feed the world.” The Old Testament story culminating in Moses’ begging God not to strike down those who worshiped the golden calf, reports: And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people. Might it be that God is still giving us time to take up the appeal we read on this CROP Walk Sunday…and on into every day to do whatever we can to reverse “lionizing the rich while denigrating the poor?” Then there is the Gospel reading that waits to be matched with the CROP Walk appeal that expands our response to all who we find to feed as though each is God’s guest, and we are His humble servant-servers, reminiscent of first-century Jerusalem’s poverty-stricken, war refugee-like Jews and Gentiles, “both the good and the bad,” receiving a radical invitation…except for one: who was not wearing a wedding robe, and the King) said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless.” One without the “wedding robe,” the prized garment worn at one’s wedding and then preserved to be used for one’s burial, the garment dedicated to life’s biggest celebrations. If a person did not have that garment, a robe was provided by the host, which means the guest must have refused to put it on. In a gathering of Christians, that meant he was refusing to be a part of Christ’s joy filled, grateful, benevolent community, helping the poorest of the poor who had no special garment, be clothed and welcomed and fed. Knowing that, when hearing today’s Gospel story, do we find ourselves asking, “Am I dressed in the garment of gratitude that clothes me in compassion which moves me to help the hungry and the homeless who inspire me by being in their company?” The CROP Walk news, held in the other hand, introduces us to Lesly Miguel in Honduras with its limited crops of rice and beans and some coffee. Through CROP Walk funds distributed by Church World Service, Lesly is creating her “dream farm” vision – beginning with three small parcels of land which her family to uses for vegetables, fruit trees, grains, chickens and rabbits and a small tilapia pond. The vision has now expanded to seven more parcels, adding corn, squash, bananas, onions, cabbage, tomatoes and more livestock, with enough food to sell at the local market and have Lesly be the first in their family to go to college. She is studying to be a social worker so that she can help other families as she had been helped. Look around and see the company of Christ’s people; see Lesly and her family. Might you, might I, be able to help others like her sit at the Gospel table where they inspire us to look to that Day when all will be God’s guests, in God’s company? And so, we are “Putting Feet to Our Faith, ” we are turning from worshiping our “golden calf” to living the Gospel story on this CROP Walk Sunday. AMEN.
Rev. Dr. Martha B. Kriebel is the pastor of Trinity Reformed United Church of Christ in Collegeville, PA