Feast and Famines
Feasting and Thanksgiving
L. Shannon Jung
What a stimulating opportunity @This Point gives Christians to talk to each other. I am deeply grateful to Professors Brueggemann, Long, and Raynal for their responses. They understood what I was saying, and extended my reflections. Let this brief response first note my areas of particular appreciation for their insights, and then offer you some questions that remain in play for me. Please post your own questions and insights! It is fascinating to be writing this after the presidential election, and to note the difference that makes in my level of hopefulness for actually remediating the hunger of the world – and our hunger.
Professor Brueggemann adds to what I see were my references almost exclusively to the New Testament by adding the wisdom of the Hebrew Scriptures. Particularly helpful were his discussions of the connection of desire to covetousness; Israel’s ability to sort out true from false desires (also, our present task); and the manner in which the manna gave way to monarchy, empire, and capitalism. Spot on. The great banquet in Isaiah 25 provides an eschatological vision of what eating “on earth as it is in heaven” would be.
Professor Long concentrates on the connection of desire with Eucharist and the way we train ourselves to learn what Communion is. Her discussion of greed and limitlessness and how they are interrelated at The Table points in several helpful directions: perhaps it would be good to celebrate with the poor and hungry at the Table. When I am fasting, that bit of bread and wine received at the Lord’s Table is quite material and connects me to my body and other’s hungry bodies in very different ways. There is a trust issue here: What is the fear behind our overeating? Behind our careful bank accounts? Behind our distress? I live in a house that could easily house another family. What do I have to fear, materially? Where is the Christian community? I (and perhaps others) need to get in touch with the poor, the hungry. That is why Patti and I volunteer every Monday night to help serve meals to the hungry and shop for clothes in the clothes closet there. We do it for ourselves, to remind ourselves of our gratitude, of our connection.
I also appreciate Professor Long’s mention of preparing the Lord’s Supper. Cooking the bread and celebrating the meal are communal, bodily activities. The bread that we share is real bread, and really shared.
Professor Raynal concentrates on the practice of fasting. Charlie and I are both classmates (Union, 1968) and members of Bread for the World, both associations I deeply appreciate. Fasting is a surprising Christian practice because it produces joy in a counter-intuitive way. Stated bluntly, not consuming brings joy. It connects us to those who are poor and in ways in which we are dependent. Perhaps fasting before Eucharist and celebrating with a diversity of people afterward at a banquet would increase our gratitude and our communion with God and with each other. Clearly there should be some celebration (with food!) afterward. Yes, we can do that even in our (your?) local congregation.
My deep gratitude to all three and my hope that you the reader will log on and respond. As a matter of fact, I have questions:
1. During the 2008 elections, both Barack Obama and John McCain spoke of hope, change, and reaching out to those in need. What role do you think the government should have in addressing issues of hunger and malnutrition, both here and abroad? What role do you think you, individually, might play in addressing those issues? And what–if anything–gives you hope that we might end world hunger in our time?
2. The piece mentions weak complicity and suggests that we face this (even if we can’t directly or immediately change it). Do you feel that complicity? How could your congregation or you deal with that?
3. Do you ever get a feeling that there are empty places in your life? I do. Ever sense that there is never quite enough? What is it that there is not enough of? What do you do then? I wonder whether whatever it is that we do – eat more, work harder, earn more, buy more – is equivalent to scratching the wrong itch.
Do you think, as I do, that this emptiness has to do with a need for satisfying intimate relationships with God, other people, and the whole earth community?
4. Do you think that our fate is interconnected with other people and other creatures? The current information about climate change and the earth would seem to suggest that. What are the implications of that close a connection?
5. Are we finally coming up against our limits? Our greed may be having its consequences – witness the subprime mortgages and bank crises that have produced a global recession. Or the world hunger crisis. We have come to the place where competition, and grabbing too much of the world’s food has damaged not only others but ourselves. What have been learned? What should we have learned? What’s the lesson?
Your insights and comments would be very much appreciated. Please post here or email me firstname.lastname@example.org.