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Summit Presbyterian Church Summit Presbyterian Church

Djeet? Djeet?

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   Discussion: Djeet?
Jeanne Gay · 11 years, 5 months ago

Sermon preached by Jeanne Gay

April 22, 2007        Summit Presbyterian Church

Psalm 65:9-13        Luke 11:1-4


We’ll start by having you ask the question that’s the sermon title:  Djeet?

(Jeanne) No, djou?

Did you eat?

No, did you?

And of course that’s the theme of today’s word: eating. Our daily bread. The sustenance that comes to us from God’s good earth – from all over God’s good earth, near and far.

Burt and the other members of the committee have done a good job of filling us in on many of the issues around the production of food today. We know about the huge costs of transporting out-of-season fruits and vegetables from halfway around the world. We know about the small farms in the U.S. that are going under because they cannot compete with globalized food production. I almost expect farming these days to be called Pre-Processed Nutrient Production or some other such ridiculous jargon.

Pre-Processed Nutrient Production. The term may be made-up, but the way it takes us away from the reality of farming – of bringing food out of the earth – that’s a reality for most of us. When we sit down to a bowl of Cheerios in the morning or run to the Wawa for a sandwich at lunch, do we spend time thinking about how that food came to be sitting in front of us? When I was writing this sermon, I was munching on some Trader Joe’s Honey Nut O’s. I looked at the ingredients and learned that there are almonds in that cereal. Where do you suppose they were grown? Whose hand shook the tree to knock those almonds to the ground? And where did the honey come from? And who ran the machines that mixed all these ingredients and baked them and put them in boxes? And how do they get them into those little O’s, anyway?

There are a lot of people involved in the Processing of our Nutrients. That Wawa sandwich probably had a tomato (or what purported to be a tomato) on it, right? And there’s a good chance that it was picked by a migrant worker, perhaps in Florida. Maybe someone like Flavia Garcia, who has spent most of the last 15 years trudging from farm to farm in the U.S. Flavia is part of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a community-based farmworker organization comprised largely of Latino, Haitian and Mayan Indian immigrants working in Florida. Flavia and other CIW members traveled to Chicago a week and a half ago, preparing to be part of a rally against McDonald’s and its farmworker exploitation, the culmination of CIW’s “McDonald’s Truth Tour 2007: Beyond the Golden Arches.” But as it turned out, they didn’t need to protest, because just a few days earlier McDonald’s agreed on a stronger code of conduct relating to the workers – and a one penny per pound increase in the price they would pay for tomatoes. The workers have been earning about 45 cents for every 32-pound bucket of tomatoes they pick. This increase will take them to 77 cents a bucket. “Meat is expensive,” Flavia said through an interpreter. Now “we’ll be able to buy more.”

How do I know about Flavia? Because the PC(USA) has been a leader in helping the CIW with this fight. In 2005 we helped the farmworkers reach an agreement with the company that owns Taco Bell. The next target, by the way, is Burger King, which is refusing to budge.

I’m proud to be a member of a church that fights for the Flavias of the world. And I’m glad to know that I can continue to eat McDonald’s hamburgers without worrying about oppressing the migrant workers who picked my tomatoes. (Of course, there are other things I probably should worry about, eating fast-food hamburgers!)

Supporting organizations like the CIW is an important thing to do – as is signing letters to Congress like the one we have before us today. And so is growing our own vegetables and buying produce from farmers’ markets and through CSA farms. They’re important because they allow us to be part of efforts to reclaim God’s good creation.

I’m going to ask you to go in a different, equally important, direction this morning. I’d like you to think about eating: How do we eat?

I think it’s pertinent that in our culture we say, “Djeet?” It’s the fast-food version of the question. In Biblical times, when Jesus taught us to pray for our daily bread, eating could not be treated so casually. Preparing food to eat took work. It took time. It took energy and attention. Serving bread at a meal required far more than running to the Co-op or the Acme to pick up a loaf of Arnold’s 7-grain. Barley or wheat needed to be planted and tended and harvested. The grains needed to be ground by hand. Oil needed to be pressed from olives. … You get the idea.

And so when they ate, they were conscious of their food. They knew that God had sent rain when it was needed and that the earth had produced well that year. They knew that the aged grandmother had been well enough to sit in the sun and grind some of the barley the day before. They knew that the olive trees had been planted when the grandmother was a young child. Each bite, each act of chewing, of swallowing, reminded them of people and land they knew – and because they likely knew seasons when the bread was not as easily come by, each bite reminded them of God’s goodness.

Now, I don’t know how typical I am, but I am not someone who generally pays attention to every bite. I am one of those people who often live in their heads more than in the “real world,” and I’m a multi-tasker as well, so my meals are often something I do while reading or working at the computer or watching t.v. or driving somewhere. My attention is almost anywhere other than the food I eat.

I hope you’re not as oblivious as I am. I hope that you taste each bite, savor each bite, noticing temperatures and tastes and textures. I hope that each swallow reminds you of your connectedness to the earth, to God’s good creation.

Because I am convinced that paying attention to the details of our lives is part of God’s plan for us. Paying attention to the food we eat grounds us in our bodies, in our rootedness is the earth and in the Creator.

Christians have often “despised the flesh” and thought that the spirit is more important than the body. But that’s an idea that crept into early Christianity from other religions in the Middle East at the time, and it’s always been considered a heresy, actually. God created our bodies. God created our bodies to need food from God’s earth. Why would we despise these bodies or the food they require? Instead, let us honor them – honor ourselves. Let’s pay attention to the food our bodies need and rejoice in each bite of it.

And when we pay attention to the food that we eat, we have to wonder about where it came from. Did the oats in our breakfast cereal come from the very last crop a small farm was able to produce before it was taken over by a farming corporation? Are the strawberries we sliced to eat with it tasteless because they were shipped from thousands of miles away and had to be picked before they were ripe? Was the tomato on our lunchtime sandwich picked by Flavia Garcia, part of one of many 32-pound buckets picked on a hot and humid day in Immokalee, Florida?

When we wonder about our food, we become more aware of it. And when we become more aware of it, we are pulled to action – to signing petitions and shopping in farmers’ markets and growing our own vegetables.

And finally, when we pay attention to our food, we are reminded that God is at the center of all of our lives. Just look at all the food on our communion table this morning! Doesn’t it make your mouth water? Plump, juicy strawberries … crisp peppers … tangy, sweet oranges …
What variety! What richness! And all from God, the Creator. As Psalm 34 says, “O taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Taste and see that the Lord is good. This is the fruit of the creation – God’s creation. And our responsibility as stewards of that creation.

“Djeet” just doesn’t quite work when we’re thinking about this kind of attention, does it? I’m reminded that in many parts of Asia, when people see each other they don’t say “How are you?” as we do – they say, “Have you eaten?”

Have you eaten? Have you tasted and seen that the Lord is good? Have you praised God for creating fruits and vegetables and land to grow them and people to tend them? Do you rejoice in your connection to God’s good earth, God’s creation? I hope so. Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Let us pray: Give us this day our daily bread, O God. Help us to know, deep inside us, that our daily bread isn’t just a convenience or a necessity but part of our connection to your creation and you. Give us this day our daily bread, and let us not forget to care for the earth it comes from. Give us this day our daily bread, and let us taste and see that you are good. Amen.

copyright Jeanne Gay 2007

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