Isaiah brings up the idea of fasting…
Fasting is not my favorite spiritual practice.
I fast just once a year – and … it’s for my cholesterol test.
I don’t know what gets in my head…
but when it’s time for my cholesterol test, I nearly panic…
it’s only for 8 hours, but in my head, it’s enough to make me think I’m going to starve!
So I make sure I have a late night snack,
I schedule the test as early in the next morning as I can,
and I console myself with a plan to go to Friendly’s for breakfast immediately after it’s over.
Fasting for my cholesterol test is most certainly not a spiritual practice for me.
The thought of going 8 hours without food is “hunger” for me….
Hunger for me is inconvenient…
it’s a momentary discomfort…
it’s a little bit of anxiety…
Hunger for me (as for most of you) is temporary and minor.
But of course real hunger looks so very different.
Real hunger is not a choice – it results from poverty and war and natural disasters and political corruption.
Real hunger looks like the child who just arrived in a refugee camp from Syria
whose belly is distended and limbs are as thin as a skeleton
because of the lack of protein.
Real hunger looks like a six year old who is permanently bow-legged from rickets
because of a lack of calcium and vitamin D.
Real hunger looks like the 3rd grade boy who is lethargic
and can’t concentrate in school.
Real hunger looks like the elderly woman who buys cat food to feed herself.
Real hunger looks like the disabled vet who is
trying to get by on food stamps – amounting to about $1.40/meal.
(When was the last time that you had a meal for $1.40 or less?)
Real hunger is what 50 million people in the United States experience every day.
Real hunger results from poverty and war and natural disasters and political corruption…
and maybe it is a choice.
Maybe it’s a choice that those of us who are not hungry have made…
Because we have the means to end hunger in our world and we have not done it.
About 8 years ago former US Senators Bob Dole and George McGovern wrote a book together
called, “Ending Hunger Now: A Challenge to Persons of Faith”
According to the authors, it will be possible to end world hunger,
when “all people of faith agree on the religious priority,
of helping people who lack the basic necessities of food to sustain life.”
Whether we make it a priority or not –
that is a choice.
In our passage from Isaiah,
we hear that prayer and fasting are important…
but they are important in that they are supposed to make us more aware of God.
Isaiah ridicules those who fast but seem unaware of God.
“You fast but do not see!
You humble yourselves but do not notice!’
Well, Isaiah says, God is fed up with that kind of fasting.
God chooses a different fast.
The fast God chooses according to Isaiah,
is a fast which
shares your bread with the hungry,
and brings the homeless poor into your house;
God’s fast brings clothing to the naked,
and does not ignore the needs of our own brothers and sisters.’
Today is Bread for the World weekend.
Bread for the World is a bipartisan advocacy organization
which encourages Christians to fast- Isaiah-style..
to make a choice to end real hunger.
There are any number of ways to alleviate hunger…and we at St. James take part in a number of them…
giving food to the food pantry;
donating to the soup kitchen;
serving breakfast to the homeless who stay in the CARES program;
giving offerings amounting to nearly $2000/month now for vouchers for food to Kennies or to Giant.
Food banks and food charities in the United States now distribute an estimated
$5 billion dollars worth of groceries every year!
Those are wonderful signs of compassion…but it is not enough.
In fact all the food provided by all the charities in the country amounts to about 6%
of the amount of food that poor people receive from federal food programs such as school lunches and food stamps.
As Pastor Jeanette Salguero from New York’s Lower East Side says,
“We churches are pretty good at relief.
She says, “If someone is being thrown from a mountain, the church is very good
at asking that individual, ‘What is it that you need?’
Can I help you??
Can I heal your wounds?
However, the church also needs to ask who is launching them from the mountain.”
That is where Bread for the World comes in.
Bread for the World asks you to look at another side of help –
to look where food policies are written and enacted –
to write to your favorite legislator – a member of Congress, the president, a state legislator,
and tell them that ending hunger is important to you;
that nutrition programs are important to you;
that feeding the world is important to you.
It’s a both-and kind of thing…
bring your canned goods for the food pantry,
and also write a note to your state legislator about supporting food pantries;
donate to the soup kitchen,
and also let your representative in Congress know that you follow their efforts to end hunger
make breakfast for the homeless,
and also tell the president to set ending hunger around the world as a priority.
On this bread for the world Sunday you are asked to respond to the abundant gifts God has provided us and fast- Isaiah style…
to make a choice to end hunger.