This past Sunday, I gave the sermon at my church. Here it is. (Also, the audio version for those of you who miss my voice so much.)
Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, 15 as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”
2 Cor. 8:13-15
Here in the final months of my year as a Young Adult Volunteer serving both at Church of the Covenant and at Women’s Lunch Place, I find myself looking back quite a bit. Getting nostalgic for something that isn’t even over just yet. I love my job, and I have to hand it over pretty soon. So indulge me in a quick memory montage as I recall the highlights this year.
This year marked my first time to the Northeast, the choir of cars honking has become a sweet melody in my dreams.
I have been to Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, ventured down to Florida, and will soon head to Detroit all in the name of Food Justice work. Work that I love.
I lived on a mostly local food only diet, and canning and applesauce making became a normative activity after dinner.
I learned 32 different ways to prepare kale.
I became a gardener when I learned that all it took was the act of planting something in the ground and willing it to grow.
I swam with a manatee.
After life-long denial, I learned that I actually love apples.
I taught a nutrition class to the fine ladies downstairs.
I became one of those people who quote Wendell Berry.
I started receiving SNAP benefits (aka Food Stamps).
I wrote prayers and liturgy for the first time being able to really reconcile my love of words, God, and this earth.
I was supported and accepted into this lovely community with wide open arms.
And in Boston, I have finally found a place that I want to stay.
You see, I am an excellent wanderer, and I have struggled with the idea of “home” for a long time. Though I grew up wonderfully in Kansas with a family that taught me how to laugh, I longed for bigger places.
Denver was amazing for college and I realized just how small you feel when standing on the top of a mountain, Russia taught me to love another culture and the joy of black tea, and China, well, China gave me plenty of hard lessons,but none of these places really felt like I was meant to stay there.
They weren’t home.
I was delightfully passing through, gaining experiences, and funny stories, until the next place on my list.
It’s really easy for me to have wandering soul because I am horribly uncomfortable with the idea of stuff. Things that pile up and clutter stress me out, and I am always trying to figure out if I can get through life with one less thing. I also quite enjoy the fact that I can pack up my two suitcases in 45 minutes and be out of here. Onto my next place.
Two weeks ago I was in Florida as an Eco Steward, and part of the week is learning to tell your Eco faith Journey. Where you recognize how your faith and the environment over lap. I was quite ready to talk about food and my work in food justice, hello look at my life. It is a walking ode to organic sustainable farming and food access.
But instead, the idea of “enough” kept coming up. So I talked about stuff. How it makes me uncomfortable. How I don’t have a lot, how stuff weighs you down, holds you back, makes you feel like you deserve something that has been a gift all along. I have enough, so why should I have more when it is just heavier to carry. Why should I have more when there are so many with so little? Why should I take up more space, use more, buy more, eat more, throw away more? So I have made myself smaller, my presence smaller, my impact smaller, and I have viewed my transient life as a life of simplicity. An eco-minded response to the vapid consumerism attributed to my generation, my culture. Because that sounds much better than what it really is.
A Fear. A fear of settling. A fear of committing to a place and a people. A fear of caring for others, and yet not having enough for myself.
At the Good Friday service we had a few months ago, God and I were talking. Most people call that praying. I don’t remember about what, then God decided to show me something. Bear with me, I know this sounds a little strange. But in my mind, I was walking around giving away pieces of my heart, and it hurt, giving it all away bit by bit. It got smaller, and I got sadder. There wasn’t enough left for me. What was I to do with half a heart, broken and torn apart? I started giving it away slower and slower, until I looked up, and there was God giving me a piece of his heart. I looked around and there he was giving everyone a piece, over and over again. We thought we were running out, giving it all away, leaving nothing for ourselves, but the more of our hearts we gave, the more God gave to us. And there was plenty.
I have plenty. And it isn’t weighing me down. It makes me want to stay, dig my roots in, and take care of those around me. I am not done here. I am sticking around, and I have come to realize that right now, “home” is where I am serving, living life with people. I have plenty, and it is time give out of that plenty.
In the Corinthians text, it says “the goal is equality.” It makes an allusion to the Manna falling to the ground for the Israelites who wandered in the desert. “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.” Everyone had the same. We, here and now, are not there yet.
We know this with every stroke of injustice we sense. I know this because people are still hungry. In the richest, most extrvagant country in the world, where we throw away 40% of our food, people are still hungry, and we try to do something about it. Here at our church, we have a food pantry that provides food on the weekends. At WLP, we provide breakfast and lunch to any woman who walks in the door. In MA, there are hundreds of food pantries, meals programs, and people just walking around handing out sandwiches. And yet, we know that they are still hungry.
The goal is equality. Everyone at the same level, at the same table. And we are not there yet.
We know this because the people picking our tomatoes off the vines aren’t given a livable wage. Can’t afford the very food they harvest.
We know this because 14% of Americans don’t know where their next meal is coming from.
We know this because most people receiving SNAP benefits use them up by the third week of the month, and don’t have any extra money for food.
We know this because we drain our water onto fields of food destined for feedlots.
We know this because patents on life have become more valuable than lives.
We know this because a fresh vegetable, locally grown has become a privilege.
We know the problems. So we problem solve.
We give more, what we can scrape together from the back of our cupboard. We grow gardens. And we give more. We glean, we protest, we advocate and give and give and give.
But are we also giving away pieces of our hearts? Not just practically combating an injustice, but compassionately engaging with a place and a people. Truly hearing the voices of the forgotten oppressed, ignored, and hungry, and possessing a willingness to participate in the act of giving our hearts. God’s heart.
Because when you are giving out of your plenty and into someone’s lacking you know them, you love them, and at some point those who were lacking now have plenty to give to you.
We know we will not be depleted. We know there is enough. So we give.
The goal is equality.
We are not there yet, but in Christ we are. At the communion table we will soon participate in, we have a beautiful glimpse of it. We are all welcome to the meal together, we are all sitting next to each other, and we are all full.
The goal is equality. Oh what a beautiful day when this is true.
A picture of the day. Me with the pastor, coworkers, and fellow YAVs