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Lenten Reflection - Consumption

Lenten Reflection:  Consumption


Lent Church programWeekly Reflection

Mindful Eating Connects us to Consumption

Then he said, “This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goodsI have plenty of good things laid up for many years. I can take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."    But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”
Luke 12: 18-20

The preacher stood before the congregation with a notebook in his hand.  He held it up for all to see and declared, “You can tell a lot about a person by how they treat inanimate objects.  Do they respect a book?  How do they handle a hammer … or a lowly nail?  The way we treat material objects is also a measure of how we respect living beings.”

For those of us born into a warm home and three meals a day in the U.S., it is difficult to imagine what living carefully and being mindful of material things really means.   We have access to ample paper, clothes, water and so much more.  We can buy in bulk at lower cost.  We toss away junk mail, disposable cups and straws and napkins as a matter of course.   Our trash cans overflow! 

How often have you walked down the street and see food wrappers blowing in the wind?  Or slightly worn but discarded furniture at the curb for junk pick up day?

Just as we are what we eat, we become what we buy and what we throw away. 

Let’s remember that every material thing has a history of its own.  Someone cut down the trees, processed the fibers into paper.  Miners extracted the minerals from the earth that were shaped into your laptop, guided by the hands of many people.  Energy and people-power drew fossil fuels from the ground and worked them into toys and medical equipment and disposable cups and a million more things of our daily life. 

There is both a natural resource and a human cost to every object we possess.  We know about dwindling forests that must be responsibly cared for so that future generations have wood and paper.  We might not realize that discarded items leach chemicals into our water systems.  But did we hear that some Chinese workers in cell phone factories suffer from such terrible working conditions like exposure to debilitating chemicals or excessively long shifts that they feel driven to desperate means, even suicide? 

Especially now, in a society that prizes the new and shiny, it is important for Christians to think with a different mind.  If we are to try to live within our 4.5 acres, we need to choose carefully and mindfully. 

Arun Gandhi often tells a story about living with his grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi, the famous Indian peacemaker.  When Arun was walking home from school one day, he tells us, he threw away his very short pencil.   A self-described irresponsible 13 year old, Arun thought he deserved a better pencil and believed that his grandfather would give him a new one.  Instead, the elder Gandhi grilled him about his actions, and sent him out in the dark with a flashlight to find the pencil.  It took him two hours to find it.  Arun explains the life-wisdom that Mahatma Gandhi taught him that night.      

“The first lesson is that even in the making of a simple thing like a pencil we use a lot of the world’s natural resources and when we throw them away we are throwing away the world’s natural resources and that is a violence against nature.  Lesson number two is that because in an affluent country we can afford to buy all these things in bulk, we over-consume the resources of the world.  And because we over-consume them, we are depriving people elsewhere of these resources and they have to live in poverty.  And that is violence against humanity.”  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DEt9t6m9k8)

We are what we buy and what we throw away.   Think about how you treat what you have and then think carefully before you buy.  Do you really need it?  Do you need it today?  Will it still be useful six months from now?  What kind of labor and materials went into its creation? 

This Lent let us be mindful of the preciousness of all material things.

Watch this mini documentary about recycling plastic bottles to enable solar light in dark homes in the Philippines.

Borrow a copy of Plastic: A Toxic Love Story, by Susan Freinkel, from your local library.

For more about ethical consumerism, visit this site.



Simplify the junk in your mailbox

The mailbox is full. But who asked for it?  Catalogues, coupons, donation requests, advertisements of all kinds.   Some estimate that the average adult in the U.S. will receive 41 pounds of junk mail alone this year.   By some measurements that is around 600 pieces of unwanted mail, and chances are that nearly half of it will never even be opened. 

We know the cost to God’s creation. Trees. Inks. Trace plastics. Wasted resources have tragic consequences for the lives of our children and grandchildren. Trees help our planet breathe, soaking up excess CO2 emissions, breathing out oxygen. Chemically based inks are harmful to make and break down into poisonous waste when thrown away. Plastic takes hundreds of years to break down. 

Why not do your garbage or recycling bin a favor this Lent and log onto https://www.catalogchoice.org/ for free help to get rid of your unwanted junk mail.



Taking Recycling to the Streets

A Lifetime of Recycling

Excerpted and adapted from the website of Wesley United Methodist Church, Yakima, Washington    


Recently the recycling crew at Wesley United Methodist in Yakima, Washington, was nominated “Yakima County Recycling Heroes!” They will receive the award at the commissioners meeting at 10 am on Tuesday, April 19th. Below is an excerpt from the nomination letter submitted by Mary Lou Schut.

This is strictly a volunteer group of men who for over 31 years have donated their time in this worthwhile project.  Wesley began this project in the year 1980 and has recycled a total of 7,314,462 pounds of newspaper, shredded paper, cardboard, plastic milk jugs, clear plastic water bottles, aluminum and tin cans in the 31 years of its recycling program.  Its primary purpose was to keep these items out of our landfills and serves as a money making project for the Church’s program also.

In its first year, 1980, they recycled 28,837 lbs. of material.  In 1989, after the first ten years they had recycled a total of 665,378 lbs.  In 1999 after 20 years they had recycled a total of 2,089,998 lbs.  In 2009 after 30 years, they had recycled 6,530,158 lbs.  This last year, 2010, they had a record year. They recycled 784,304 lbs. in 2010 totaling up to 7,314,462 lbs. of recyclable waste since they began in 1980.

This effort was started in 1980 by Keith Case, a previous recycling hero named by your committee.  He is still active in the program.  The other members who contribute many, many hours each week are Elmer Bigham, Dale Kingery, Bob Sullivan, Larry Patrick, Nick Nielson, Roger Short, Dave Heron, Gary Schemp, Ken Reeder, Paul Schafer, Lloyd Johnson, John Distler, Bob Braden, Allen Rogstad, Jim McLain, Omar & Brenda Arumbul and Dick Schut. There have been many other people over the last 31 years who have been associated with them.  This group of men is assisted occasionally during heavy weeks of recycling such as the holiday period by many other men and women plus young people and children of Wesley.  It has been a real joint effort on everyone’s part, and there is usually someone there at the site at different times during the 7 day a week time frame.

The side benefits of this project have been the great friendships and camaraderie, while greening a community, as well as the dollars they have raised for their church.

Congratulations to these recycling heroes from Lent 4.5!



Catholic Church

Taken  from 2010 World Day of Peace Message by Pope Benedict XVI, no. 5

Our present crises – be they economic, food-related, environmental or social – are ultimately also moral crises, and all of them are interrelated. They require us to rethink the path which we are travelling together.               

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Excerpted from “Environment Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice,” 1993.           

The Sabbath and jubilee laws of the Hebrew tradition remind us that we may not press creation relentlessly in an effort to maximize productivity (Exodus 20:8-11; Lev 25). The principle of sustainability means providing an acceptable quality of life for present generations without compromising that of future generations.

Protection of species and their habitats, preservation of clean land and water, reduction of wastes, care of the land--these are priorities. But production of basic goods and services, equitable distribution, accessible markets, stabilization of population, quality education, full employment--these are priorities as well.

We recognize the obstacles to sustainability. Neither economic growth that ignores environmental cost nor conservation of nature that ignores human cost is sustainable. Both will result in injustice and, eventually, environmental degradation. We know that a healthy economy can exist only within a healthy environment, but that it is difficult to promote both in our decisions.

The principle of sustainability summons our church, in its global work with poor people, to pursue sustainable development strategies. It summons our church to support U.S. farmers who are turning to sustainable methods, and to encourage industries to produce sustainably. It summons each of us, in every aspect of our lives, to behave in ways that are consistent with the long-term sustainability of our planet.


Prayer for Week Two - Consumption

O Giver of Life,
you are the source of all creation,
Through the healing power of Jesus
you brought sight to the blind. 
Open our eyes to the pervasive
consumerism in this country.
Free us from its grip 
so we might enjoy spiritual freedom. 
Teach us to use your creation 
with moderation and compassion 
for those who do not have enough. 
You are our hope.

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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