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Lenten Reflection - Food

Lenten Reflection:  Food


Lent church programWeekly Reflection

Mindful Eating Connects us to the Gift of Food


Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life.
Whoever comes to me will never go hungry,
and who believes in me will never be thirsty.”
John 6: 35

Try peeling an orange slowly.  Let the intense aroma and the intricate patterns of the tiny juicy-buds surprise you.  Take some moments to imagine what had to transpire to bring this actual piece of fruit to your hand.  Can you see and smell the orange blossoms?  The formation of a tiny green fruit and then the months of growth until it hung heavy on its tree?  Gaze at the brightly colored food.  Be aware of the passing of days and nights, of sunshine, of rainfall, of a farmer’s attention, a harvester’s care, all wrapped into the peel, the juice, the fragrance in your hand. 

This week of Lent could be the perfect time to connect in this way, to contemplate the gifts of the earth and of the workers’ hands that have brought us our food.  This simple practice can connect us, in a prayerful fashion, with that which nourishes us.   

Indeed, the act of eating -- our very fork! -- connects us with all of God’s creation and with God’s people around the world.  Knowing that God calls us all family encourages us to think about the moral implications of eating.  Where we buy our food, the farming methods used, the treatment of farm workers, any pesticides employed, and the protection of the earth and waterways in the course of production are all issues an aware person might consider. 

It is an act of solidarity to make a personal connection with a local farmer. We are partners after all, unable to exist without the other. Consider buying a share in a Community Supported Agriculture arrangement (CSA) to receive a portion of what your farmer has grown each week of the growing season.  Take the time to visit a farmers’ market to buy fruits and vegetables that used little transportation to arrive at your table.  Locally grown produce saves an excessive expenditure of fossil fuels.

Jesus modeled the importance of gathering as family, even with “the stranger.” We read frequent feeding stories in the Gospels where he gathers with disciples, sinners, and multitudes to break, bless and share bread.  We believe that Jesus has become our food:  “I am the Bread of Life.” 

Jesus taught us to pray:  Give us this day our daily bread.   Yet many of our relatives live with “food insecurity,” a daily fear of being unable to feed their family.  It is painful to imagine that 47 million Americans – that is about four times the population of the entire state of Illinois – struggle to have enough to live.  Internationally, over a billion of the world population eat too little or too infrequently for adequate health.  It is estimated that as the second hand ticks now four times, one person has died of hunger or a hunger-related illness in our world.  

This week let us all take a little time to look at our gift of food with eyes of wonder.  Take some time before each meal to imagine how it arrived at your table.  May we each pause to reflect on how our personal food choices might be adjusted for the love of God’s people and God’s creation. 


Lenten program for ChurchThis Week's Practice 

Considering Eating Habits


Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated
as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples,
"Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." 
So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves
left over by those who had eaten.
John 6: 11-12


The hamburger is an icon of our age.  Dress it with what you like.  Eat it here or there or anywhere.  It’s grilled at backyard picnics, picked up at fast food stops and dined upon in restaurants.   

But there is a challenging story in each burger we eat.   

Many years ago an idealistic high school student stopped eating beef when she found out that it took 22 pounds of grain fed to a cow to produce a single pound of edible beef.  When she explained her decision to a friend, she was laughingly challenged: “How can one person’s food choices make any difference in the world?”

Our food choices can make a difference to those living with hunger daily.  Our meat-based Western diet has profound ramifications on our earth’s health as well as in relation to world production. 

We use more than two thirds of all cereal grain production in this country to feed animals.  Much of that same grain could feed people at a much more efficient rate.  Imagine also that half of all water, a full 80% of all agricultural land, and nearly a third of all fossil fuels produced in the U.S. are invested in raising farm animals.

We import over 200 million pounds of beef annually, much of it raised in South and Central America.  Vital rainforests, like the Amazon in Brazil, are clear-cut to create grassland to enable this source of meat production.  Unfortunately, the pastureland formed by destroying forest land is not fruitful for long, so more rainforest must be cleared.  It is estimated that 55 square feet of forest is destroyed for each individual hamburger that originated from animals grazing on such land.  In the last 40 years, 40% of all rainforests have been cleared or burned for this industry.

Let us consider participating in the ancient Christian practice of abstaining from meat just one day this week, or using meat as a condiment in a day’s meal preparation.  Such an action is a mighty step toward personal transformation that will bear fruit in our world. 

Watch the Meatrix at http://www.themeatrix.com/

Learn more


Lent church programChurches in Action

Response to a Food Desert

Excerpted from an article entitled “Just Eating? a curriculum boost to food-justice, health ministries, written by Jeff Woodard and found at http://www.ucc.org/news/just-eating-curriculum-a.html


"I so strongly believe that healing and health ministries are a baseline for all we do as Christian churches," said Rev. Michael Mulberry, pastor of United Church of Byron, Illinois United Church of Christ. 

"This is especially important for places such as the Rockford (Ill.) area," said Mulberry, whose church in Byron is just 12 miles from what he calls "the poorest multicultural, multiracial zip code" in the United States. "The whole west side of Rockford has been declared a food desert by the USDA. And it's growing. You can imagine what their food choices are presently."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service (USDA) reported in November 2009 that 11.1 percent of Illinois residents are "food insecure" –– lacking consistent access to adequate amounts of nutritious food. Rockford continues to struggle with the highest unemployment rate (13.2 percent) of any metropolitan area in the state, feeling the brunt of a sluggish national economy and cuts to social service programs.

Mulberry is planning a major food-justice event for late April. More than 30 workshops will be offered on such topics as table blessings, preserving and canning, making church meals more faith-full, starting a community garden, food and immigration, food and hunger policy, and food deserts and security.

"We’ll also have an organic meal at Angelic Organics, just outside of Rockford," said Mulberry. "It is the largest Community Supported Agriculture family farm in the country. We’re also developing for the event a detailed list of local and organic alternatives to the corporate or industrial farms." 

Lenten Church ProgramWhat Churches Are Saying

Episcopal Church

Excerpted from Resolution D015, adopted in 2009 by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church  (http://www.franciscan-anglican.com/enaw/Animal_Resolutions.pdf)

The Christian Tradition holds that God has created the earth and all that lives herein. It teaches that all God created is "good", and further, that we are held accountable for the right stewardship of God's creation.  

Food animals continue to be cruelly and mercilessly treated: pregnant sows are totally confined in gestation crates, veal calves are penned in veal crates and are barely able to move around or even stand up; chickens are crammed together for life into battery cages in a space no larger than this page; geese are brutally force fed to make foie gras; grazing animals are fed antibiotics to increase size, that are then contained within their meat, passing these antibiotics on to consuming humans who become more and more vulnerable to resistant bacterial strains. Huge factory farms house animals in deplorable and unsanitary conditions resulting in foul run off, polluted ground water, and contamination linked to human diseases. Stressed food animals produce stress hormones.

This can compromise their immune systems. Antibiotics are in turn routinely given to ensure that the animals are not overwhelmed by ambient microorganisms. Small doses of these antibiotics, showing up in the meat eaten by humans, actually increase human vulnerability to resistant strains of microorganisms.

By education we can make a real difference in the level of awareness of these problems and practices. Congregations can become aware of the most vulnerable of God's creation and respect the dignity of "all things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all" (Cecil Frances Alexander, Hymn 405 in Hymnal 1982).


United Church of Christ

Excerpt of The Resolution For Mindful And Faithful Eating, 32

Read the full text at  http://www.ucc.org/synod/resolutions/gs28/Resolution-on-Mindful-and-Faithful-Eating.pdf

Our dietary choices can have profound implications for the environment, human well-being, and animal welfare. Therefore, we encourage Christians to explore and discuss how food choices can accord with Christian values and beliefs. …

The Bible affirms that humans have a sacred responsibility to care for the earth (Genesis 17 2:15) and our own bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19); prohibits cruelty to animals (Deuteronomy 22:10, 25:4); expresses concerns for workers (James 5:4) 

WHEREAS, modern intensive farming is a leading cause of land, water, and energy consumption; worldwide animal agriculture contributes more to global warming (18% of  greenhouse gases) than all forms of transportation combined (14%) (“Livestock’s Long Shadow,” UN Food and Agriculture, 2006); and long-distance transport of food further increases the impact of our diets on the environment; and  …

WHEREAS, the intensive crowding and unhealthy living conditions that typify concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) do not show respect for animals, … 

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Twenty-eighth General Synod encourages  Conferences, Associations, congregations and individuals to explore ways in which our food choices can be mindful and faithful, so that, to the best of our abilities, what we eat reflects our values and beliefs.


Prayer for Week One - Food

Good and gracious God,
you provided manna in the desert 
for your chosen people. 
May we recognize that our food 
comes from your bounty,
the generosity of our planet,
and the strenuous work
of many human hands.
Teach us to reverence your creation
which supplies our food.
And show us how to make room
at the table for everyone.

Imagine if the Earth were divided equally among all of us. Each person would receive 4.5 acres. Now imagine that everything you need – food, energy, home, clothing, gadgets – must come from those 4.5 acres. But it takes 22.3 acres to maintain the average American lifestyle.There is a new way of observing Lent that helps us care for God’s creation by taking steps toward using only our fair share of its resources. Moving in the direction of 4.5 is essential for anyone walking in the footsteps of Jesus today.

Our Ministry

Lent 4.5 is a seven-week faith formation program which inspires and informs Christian communities on how to use the traditional Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving to protect God’s creation, embrace Gospel justice and nurture spiritual fulfillment. It offers practical opportunities for people of faith to apply the values of Christian Simplicity to their everyday lives.

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