I have some good news. At first, I thought about hanging a big banner across the front of the worship area. I was thinking about big, block letters: "Mission Accomplished." As you can see, I decided against it. That phrase seems a little tarnished right now. Besides, I don't have a bomber jacket. So, I went without props today.
But I do have some good news: the hungry will be satisfied.
There's going to be a feast. And it's going to be a real feast. There won't be any bricks of surplus cheese. There won't be any instant noodles. Nothing will come from a can. Those who are hungry will eat the finest fare.
Today, there are hungry people who stand in line. On tired feet, they wait for someone else to measure out the portion given to them. All this will change. On the day of that great feast, the hungry will be given a place of honor at the table. They will be asked, "What would you like to eat?" They will be invited to try foods they have never seen. And whatever they want to eat will be brought to them. Bowls and platters will be set before them. They will take what they want and eat until they are satisfied. God will do this.
Today, there are hungry people who must drink water from a polluted source. This too will change. On the day of the great feast, the hungry will drink aged wine. They will drink espresso from demitasse cups. They will drink pure water from mountain streams.
God will prepare a feast for all peoples. God will do this.
And there's more.
When that day of feasting finally arrives, we will all sit together at the same table. All of us. The unspoken barriers that keep us divided will vanish. The lines between us will disappear. We will be together like never before.
* * *
Right now, most of can count ourselves among the well-fed. When we think about the hungry, we're thinking about them. We're thinking about other people. During Hunger Month, we turn our attention to helping them.
It's very noble of us, isn't it? Nobility, of course, is a luxury. And that's the problem. Most of us feel overwhelmed by our everyday lives. We have bills to pay and dishes to wash. We have pets and children and old houses. We have jobs. We have schoolwork. There's only so much time in a day, and even less energy.
If Hunger Month is all about us feeding them, then it probably feels like one more obligation in our busy lives. From this perspective, Hunger Month probably feels like a burden. Maybe we can think of Hunger Month as a necessary burden – like going to the dentist or hauling the trash down to the bottom of the driveway – but it's a burden nonetheless. It's the sort of thing that we will avoid if we can. Those among us with enough discipline will put their shoulders to the wheel and get the job done. But if it feels like a burden, then we'll be glad when it's over. We'll be glad when it's over.
It's only natural for us to feel this way. If we think about Hunger Month as a time for us to feed them, it is only natural that we would feel some resentment. There's only so much we can do.
Without really meaning to do so, I think Peace and Justice Christians often talk in a way that emphasizes our sense of burden. Whenever we talk about something like hunger, we tend to report on the magnitude of the problem. We talk about the vast numbers of children who go to bed hungry. We talk about all the people who die each day from hunger-related causes. We talk about the staggering burden of poverty and famine and war.
We emphasize the problem. We put all these needs on the table. Then, with injustice looming like a mountain in our eyes, we hope others be motivated to take action. I'm starting to question the strategy.
In this culture, we live under constant pressure. It's the weight of all we carry. How many people work ten hours a day? How many people are caring for children or aging parents? So many things need our attention. The obligations of life are full fathoms five. Beneath this constant pressure, our bones turn to coral and our eyes harden into pearls. When we look out toward the needs around us, we tend to do so with eyes of stone.
War? Injustice? Hunger? Yes, the list is terrible. And it is more than we can bear. It is too much for us. The problem is bigger than the strength we possess.
So let me say it again. I have some good news. The hungry will be satisfied. There will be rich food for all people. The Lord has spoken and it will be so.
And there's more. When that day of feasting finally arrives, we will all sit together at the same table. All of us. There will no longer be a line to divide the underfed and the overfed. That line will vanish. There won't be a separate group of people called, The Hungry. We won't be feeding them. Instead, there will be one people. And all of us together will feast and rejoice and thank the God who saves us.
The promise of that great feast stirs my soul. I want that. Even though I can count myself among the overfed, I truly hunger for the day when God brings all of us together as brothers and sisters. I long for the day when all that divides us vanishes like mist in the rising sun of God's presence. Not even death will separate us.
"On this mountain God will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; God will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; God will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth."
That doesn't sound like a burden to me. It sounds like a beautiful invitation.
As a person of faith, I don't have to wait for someday. I don't have to wait for God to heat up a million cans of Sterno and set out the banquet tables from horizon to horizon. You see, this is where things start to get really exciting. Right here – this very instant – we can start living the reality of God's big party. We can root our lives in the certainty of what God will do. We can recognize that all people are brothers and sisters. All the divisions between us are fleeting. We can live according the promise that one table awaits us all.
If we live inside this promise, it changes everything.
It is possible for your life and mine to foreshadow the coming feast. This is part of the invitation. This is part of the plan. "The Kingdom of God is within you." As you open yourself to the invitation, you become an invitation to others.
During the recent war with Israel, Lebanese Christians opened their homes to displaced Muslim neighbors. This is the coming feast among us!
In the aftermath of a school shooting, social workers in Lancaster Counter met with Amish families. The Amish surprised the social workers by asking how the Amish community could support the family of the shooter. In the midst of tragedy, this is the coming feast among us.
A small Quaker church in Portland Oregon embraces a chance to feed hungry neighbors. This is the coming feast among us.
Take heart my Friends, there are signs of the coming feast all around us.
God is at work.
This month, let us celebrate the end of hunger.
How will you live inside the promise?