You give them something to eat
I wonder if the people who were fed that day in Galilee wondered where all the food came from? Did they ask how it got here to this deserted place? Did they ask who made and provided all this bread? Did they wonder who had caught and cooked and brought enough fish to feed thousands of people?
Do you ever think about where your food comes from? I was at a picnic last Saturday for rescued greyhounds and their owners. It was held in a field on a hillside near Nowra. It was a lovely warm day more like Summer than the middle of winter. People shared their food with each other. As I ate an egg sandwich, I wondered whether this was an egg from hens that are caged in battery farms or an egg from a free-range farm? Have you ever thought about where your food comes from? Next time you are biting into a steak think about where it came from? On what farm was the animal raised? What food was it fed? Did she grow up roaming the fields eating green grass or did she spend her whole life being fed meal in a dirty confined feed lot?
All our food has a source. It comes from somewhere? It doesn’t come out of thin air or magically appear. There are costs in producing it and getting it to your plate. Sometimes it comes from round the corner perhaps from horticultural gardens on the fringes of cities and sometimes from overseas from the other side of the world. Food scarcity and food security are very big issues that the world is facing. For those who are concerned about the environment and global warming there are great concerns about food production. Each year thousands of acres of land in Australia no longer are arable due to salt leaching and soil erosion. Rain forests controlling the earth’s climate are logged, burned and turned into agricultural land to meet the world’s demand for beef and palm oil etc. Even Ireland with its ‘40 shades of green’ is becoming concerned because climate change is causing irregular rainfall and mini droughts thus effecting Summer food production. Polluted seas are increasingly becoming choked with rubbish and effecting marine life. Fish numbers are diminishing.
When the disciples raised the issue of hungry people far from home in a deserted place, Jesus replied, "They need not go away; you give them something to eat." They replied, "We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish." And he said, "Bring them here to me." Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.
You give them something to eat – Jesus was concerned for the welfare of the people, but he said to the disciples, “You give them something to eat.” We all know the miraculous story and how the food was multiplied. It causes people to ask how did Jesus make that happen? Who is this? That was then but today people still need to be fed. What might this story tell us today about feeding those who are hungry? I am very pleased that our congregation is involved in the recycling and redistribution of food through the Second Bite program and Coles Supermarkets, delivering food to people who are struggling without employment or access government allowances. As disciples of Jesus we are still doing what Jesus asked us to do, we are giving people something to eat. But we also have to be concerned about where the food comes from and the costs to the environment and the welfare of animals, poultry and fish in food production.
God gave us a beautiful world to care for and each other to love and care for. We can change our eating habits. For example, we can eat less meat or no meat. We can eat food only from sustainable sources and sources that ensure the best practices in animal welfare. Farmers can change the way they produce food and they can change the food they produce. They need government support to change so that they can maintain their livelihoods. Even city dwellers can find ways of producing food from creating or joining community gardens, growing more vegetables in their gardens or in pots on their verandas or on their window ledges.
Who is this God who has given us such a beautiful world? Who is this God who breathes life into every living thing? Who is this God who says to us - care for the world? Who is this God who says - you give them something to eat? Who are we who would destroy this world? Who are we that would treat animals without care? Who are we that would withhold food from the hungry? Let us take responsibility for the spiritual production of our food, which is means caring ethically and environmentally for soils, waters, air, animals, poultry, crops and people.
Dear Lord, We thank you for the blessings of food, water, shelter, family and well-being. As we enjoy healthy food, we will think of those who struggle to feed their families every day. You taught us to pray. As we say “Give us today our daily bread” we make that prayer also for the millions who go hungry every day. You fed the hungry. Inspire in us the commitment to follow your example, showing compassion in action and sharing what we have with those who have less. You cared for all. Help us to remember your command to love one another. Help us to see you in each of our brothers and sisters – especially those who are in need. You are the Bread of Life. Strengthen us as we work for justice in the world. Help us to stand in solidarity with the poorest of the poor. You came so that we could have life and have it to the full. Our prayer is that this might be true for all. We pray that communities and governments recognise our shared responsibility to be more just in sharing the world’s resources. Help us to care more deeply, live more simply and share more fully. Amen
(A Prayer for Food – Caritas Australia)
Photo: County Cork, Republic of Ireland (My name is Dubh which means black in Gaelic - Cattle are more than a number on a tag, each one is known by name by God and loved)
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Minister of Campsie Earlwood Clemton Park Uniting Church Congregation