I love mornings. I refer to mornings as my holy time. For me, mornings are spent with God. One of my favorite activities is writing in my prayer journal. I’m very much a visual learner, and seeing words makes them come more alive to me than hearing them.
This is my way of experiencing the Sabbath each and every day.
My morning conversations with God are often dominated by whatever makes me feel anxious. Sometimes my anxiety comes from interactions with the people around me. Conflict is often the source of my anxiety. We weren’t built for conflict. And, for me, conflict is like a constant dose of poisonous venom.
Another ongoing subject for my conversations with God is hunger. For me, hunger is a craving for that which gives abundant life. So I’m not talking about craving tacos from Taco Bell, Big Macs, or KFC. Instead, we hunger for nutrients that fuel our minds and bodies. And, just as important, we hunger for intimate connections. We hunger to be close to God. And we hunger for connections to other people who care about us. Most of all, we hunger to know and be connected to ourselves.
Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about food shortages. Again, I’m referring to food that offers nutrients needed by our bodies more than food that satisfies our cravings and addictions. I’ve noticed that considering the global scale of hunger helps me put my own challenges in perspective. This allows me to keep my fears from hindering decisions that come out of my daily conversations with God.
For example, this past week, I scanned a United Nations report published by the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC). Their conclusions predict a worsening situation for hunger as more land is exploited and greenhouse gases deteriorate our atmosphere. However, I’ve noticed that farmers are aware of climate change without reading reports. 1
International journalist Anthony Faiola reported in a Washington Post article that countries reliant on food exports from Ukraine and Russia responded with emergency trade restrictions to protect their already strained food supplies. Unfortunately, their actions further exacerbate global food shortages caused by both availability and access. 2
According to Wikipedia, the World Food Programme is the largest humanitarian organization focused on hunger and food security. In a recent opinion article, Executive Director David Beasley writes that “Russia’s invasion has reminded us that the root cause of hunger around the world is human folly and reckless disregard for human life.” 3
Approximately one-half of the wheat that supplies this massive mobile kitchen comes from farmers under attack in Ukraine. A country familiar with the devastation brought on by authoritarian regimes focused on accumulating power and their own personal wealth.
In his article, he recalls how millions of Ukrainians perished when Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin enforced agricultural “collectivization.” A program that stripped peasant farmers of their land and produce. Imagine the horror felt by a people under attack by yet another dictator that values power above human life.
The WFP’s food budget is already up 30% from 2019, increasing $50 Million per month in three years. And now the movement of wheat that feeds millions of people is in reverse. If Ukrainian farmers cannot plant this spring, the entire world will feel the aftershock. While here in the United States, we’ll be inconvenienced and angry, the real suffering happens in the most vulnerable nations.
A line in a song we sang in worship a couple of times after the Russian invasion of Ukraine asks the haunting question, “If we are the body, why aren’t His hands healing…why aren’t His feet moving?” For me, we sang these questions to the church in Russia. What are they doing for peace besides hosting Putin’s military for a celebration of a new monument to their arsenal.
However, in my daily Sabbath, God keeps asking me what we are doing for peace in our own community? Are our hands healing? What are we doing to feed others? Are our feet moving?
Food insecurity is the anthesis of peace, but food insecurity didn’t start with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The problems that create food insecurity belong to all of us. And climate change is an increasing obstacle that denial won’t solve.
Admittedly, time spent on Sabbath doesn’t solve climate change, food insecurity, or a myriad of other struggles facing us. Instead, Sabbath is more like the huddle before the next play, the rehearsal before opening night, or creating a budget to launch a community kitchen.
Honoring a weekly day of rest is found among the Ten Commandments. According to scripture, God expects all humanity to set aside one day where work takes a backseat to the holy. And society struggles with how to live out this axiomatic requirement for health. Is part of our problem that we focus on the minutia of rules rather than the rhythms of how the Sabbath affects our daily lives.
In their commentary on the Sabbath, the Theology of Work Project authors notes how important starting each day with prayer was for Jesus. Based solely on the testimonies found in scripture, they conclude that Jesus “couldn’t imagine going to his work without prayer, much as most of us couldn’t imagine going to work without shoes.”
How else could Jesus know the will of His Father unless He took time to ask daily? There is no doubt that Jesus considered God’s will in the minutia of daily living.
The Sabbath was made for the good of human beings; they were not made for the Sabbath.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus says that “The Sabbath was made for the good of human beings” and not the other way around. This observation comes out of a conflict Jesus had with local religious leaders, critical of how His followers observed Sabbath.
We read that Jesus was walking near some wheat fields on a Saturday. The day of the week that His culture set aside as Sabbath. And as they walked by, a couple of them grabbed a few wheat kernels. Seeing this, the religious leaders said to Jesus, “Look, it is against our Law for your disciples to pick grain on the Sabbath!” (Mark 2:23-24).
They weren’t wrong in reading the rules spelled out in scripture. But Jesus points out another story, also found in scripture, where one of Israel’s all-time favorite kings fed bread that was off-limits to his troops. He even ate the bread himself.
This dialogue, by itself, doesn’t do a lot to elevate Sabbath to the level of necessity. However, Jesus concludes His defense by declaring that “The Sabbath was made for the good of human beings and not the other way around” (Mark 2:27).
Keeping Sabbath is for our own good and for the world’s good. It’s not about the specifics of how we each choose what we do for the Sabbath. Instead, Sabbath is about our connection to God, each other, the earth we depend on, and to ourselves. Sabbath is part of the rhythms of healthy living.
In our weekly group study, we’re trying to add new prayer habits into our daily routines. We’re using prayers that get used by millions of people around the world each and every day. This includes people in Ukraine and Russia.
Consider a way to receive the benefits of the Sabbath by adding a prayer habit. If you can, join us on Wednesdays for further discussions on praying with the church.
Feeding Flint is not a problem of having enough food. It’s a problem of available healthy options and equitable access. Not just access to food that satisfies our craving for unhealthy food that lasts for a little while. But the food that gives us the energy and nutrients for an abundant life. Feeding Flint is also about offering spiritual food that brings us closer to God, each other, the earth, and ourselves.
To learn how you can help address food insecurity in our community go to FeedFlint.org.
I invite you to join us for worship during this season of Lent as we consider how scripture addresses the subject of food. In addition, we’ll continue to celebrate Black History with celebrity guest interviews. We gather in the Asbury Arts Center in person and online on YouTube and Facebook. Video replays are available to watch later.
You can join us each Sunday online by going to the button on the homepage of our website – Click here to watch. This button takes you to our YouTube channel. You can find more information about us on our website at FlintAsbury.org.
A reminder that we publish this newsletter that we call the Circuit Rider each week. You can request this publication by email. Send a request to connect@FlintAsbury.org or let us know when you send a message through our website. We post an archive of past editions on our website under the tab, Connect – choose Newsletters.
1 J. P.R. Shukla, et al. “Climate Change and Land: an IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems.” Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change. Link to Article
2 Anthony Faiola. “Flour rationing in Lebanon, grain hoarding in Hungary: How the Ukraine war is lurching the globe toward a new food crisis.” © Washington Post, March 11, 2022. Retrieved from: Link to Article
3 David Beasley. “Opinion: The Ukraine war could leave hundreds of millions hungry around the world.” © Washington Post, March 7, 2022. Retrieved from: Link to Article