Just Deserts and Just Desserts


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 43; 149, Ezekiel 39:21-29, Philippians 4:10-20, John 17:20-26

Have you heard the term “food desert?” A food desert is generally understood as an area – usually urban, usually economically distressed – where circumstances limit people’s access to affordable, nutritious food. Picture an inner city neighborhood loaded with overpriced convenience store snacks, but no groceries with fresh produce. Because the available food is junk, people living in food deserts are commonly both overweight and undernourished.

Paul had never heard of food deserts when he told the Philippians he had “learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need” (Phil 4:12).  He did recognize that we never have so much abundance that we don’t still need Jesus. We can grow fat on the riches of the world, but they will never give us true life. Yet even a small taste of the Bread of Life will leave us satisfied. Like Paul, we will “[learn] to be content with whatever [we] have” (v 11).

We’re all familiar with the practice of giving something up for Lent, a symbolic fast demonstrating our solidarity with Christ’s forty days in the desert. An equally important but less frequently observed tradition is almsgiving, or giving to people in need. Our Lenten sacrifice has more meaning when these practices go hand-in-hand. It’s not our business to judge anyone’s sacrifice, but there is a qualitative difference between giving up chocolate because it dovetails with weight loss goals, and giving up a daily five-dollar latte and donating the money to a food bank instead.

Our wilderness fast with Christ is a time of spiritual growth. The deeper we sink our roots into that desert, the more Living Water we will find.  Desert plants are biologically efficient and waste little energy on unnecessary processes, yet when resources allow they produce stunning blooms. Which of our resources could be put to better use in deserts both spiritual and nutritional? What sacrifices can we make so others might blossom in the love Christ calls us to share? Time and again the prophets remind us God loves mercy above sacrifice, but sometimes we must sow sacrifice to reap mercy.

Comfort: Like Paul, you can learn to be content under all circumstances.

Challenge: Learn more about food deserts and how you can help. What sacrifices of time and money might you be able to make to help people with little access to nutritional food?

Prayer: Gracious and merciful God, I thank you for all things you have given me. Help me understand which are mine to use, and which you have entrusted me to share with others in need. When my hunger for food is satisfied, may I feel even more strongly a hunger to share the Bread of Life with the world. Amen.

Discussion: On what do you spend a lot of time and energy which gives you little to no nourishment in return? Do you think it would be possible to reprioritize that time and energy?

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