All People’s Pantry: Global Foods that nourishes our Bodies and Souls
Genesis 42:1-2 and Mark 7:1-8
World Communion Sunday is a unique and special day in our church calendar. Many Churches gathered today around the table to share holy communion and to celebrate the blessings and privilege to be able to gather and worship.
If you have been paying attention my sermons are mostly on food. My relationship with food has been getting better. Growing up my family would pity me because I would always struggle to finish my plate and acid reflux in my stomach would worsen my appetite. However, in our last meal with my family they were all shocked, especially my Mom. They couldn’t believe how my appetite had skyrocketed being the first to clear my plate and ready for the second portion.
There is a special way a shared meal or food does connect us no matter the religious background, gender, social class, nationality, or education you can name them.
As you have noticed our sanctuary is decorated with culturally appropriate food that gets consumed across the globe. These are the same foods that we do distribute during the All People’s Pantry.
These foods do more than nourish our bodies. They nourish our souls, too.
A meal can connect us to our past, bring back cherished memories with loved ones, and remind us of home.
Sadly, this can be lost for some migrants and refugees in America, and this is where as a church Hanscom Park United Methodist Church you came in. To do better loving and listening to our brothers and sisters, the New Americans who were in need of food from home. And because of your generous gifts for the last six months, you fed more than 1000 families in need of cultural/home food.
When I came here as an intern all the way from Kenya about 8 thousand plus miles I experienced that love from you. So are many other New Americans when they walk in through these doors and get that bag of grain or flour.
Just like Jacob in our today’s reading you have broken the barrier of fear to dream big for a just society where everybody feels welcome.
I am intrigued by Jacob’s action when he learned that there was grain in Egypt. He asked his sons, “Why do you just keep looking at each other?”, “I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die.”
To Jacob, there was no time to waste feeling pity and wondering what to do. Yes, Egypt was far and probably not friendly but it was worth it for them to take that risk, or else they would starve to death. Jacob’s sons were probably reluctant to take action or think outside the box because it was hard work as opposed to sitting and doing nothing or maintaining the tradition or waiting for someone else to help.
As a congregation we could have chosen the path of being comfortable or stay safe like Jacob’s sons by just reading statistics, hearing or just observing our community members in need of food starving and do nothing but you opted to take a bold step to learn and do the hard work. You gave your gifts, drove around the city to find grains and food for the New Americans in need.
A month ago, I and Leah missed one of the popular Kenyan dishes known as Githeri, which is boiled Whole Dried Corn Kernels with beans that later get to be fried. A very common meal in Kenya. So we looked around grocery stores to find the right ingredients for making Githeri but we were not successful so we decided to go online Githeri shopping and we turned to Amazon which seemed promising. We made an order and eagerly waited for it to arrive.
I remember Leah on several occasions she would track the shipment to find the location of these grains.
The package made it home but there was something missing -Whole Dried Corn Kernels grain was missing and Githeri won’t be complete without it.
There has been a shortage of grains and these have been attributed to the ongoing war in Ukraine. This war has caused a lot of suffering to the Ukrainian people and we have as well experience the it’s effects that has negatively impacted gas price and even the food supply chain and food insecurity has become a norm to many people who can no longer be able to afford food anymore.
These foods at sanctuary some have traveled across the ocean: Teff seeds from Ethiopia grinded to flour to make Injera, plantains from West Africa grinded to flour to make Fufu, millet seeds from East Africa grinded to make Wimbi for porridge, corn from here in Nebraska to make various corn meals.
These foods that are mostly seeds have a special way of bringing us together from all the walks of life. People have traveled thousands of miles to just find these special seeds that get to our tables.
In fact, these same seeds that domesticated our ancestors and continue to domesticate us even today. We tend the garden and farms and in return we get these seeds that nourish our body and souls.
Seeds brought us here today from different places. I am always thrilled to share the diversity here in Omaha city using the All People’s Pantry impact on our community. These foods brought the best of our diversity because people feel welcomed here through offering culturally appropriate foods.
These foods resonate with people. Although these foods or seeds might look different in shape and size they serve their intended goal at the table when we commune together.
I am always amazed by table etiquette from different cultures. There is never one practice that is superior to the other. Whether you use your fingers like many in Africa parts like Kenya while eating Ugali, or spoons alone while eating chicken adobo in the Philippines or the use of chopsticks in Japan and here in the US where families would prefer to use a set of cutlery (knifes, spoons, and folks).
It can be easy to view oneself as better ; our cuisine is better, this is the way one should eat and so many other rules.
In our reading we encounter food drama whereby the Pharisees encounter Jesus’ and complain about his disciples’ lack of table manners.
The synagogue’s leaders of that day had made the meal table to be a political site, a place for the few elite, a place for identity politics, a place to examine who belongs and not. The leaders got so deeply embedded with the laws and the countless of how you should eat this way or wash like this and forgot the most important role of serving the people where they are.
The hand-washing rituals, cultures and norms of the day blinded them from learning and serving the community’s needs. Instead they were making it hard for the people to enjoy their meals and to offer their blessings freely.
To tempt Jesus the scribes and Pharisees ask him why some of his disciples do not wash their hands, of course this question wasn’t an innocent one. It is meant to indict Jesus. To make him look bad and how his followers do not live according to the tradition of the elders and accusing him of not following the law.
Knowing this, Jesus responds with a rebuke from Isaiah (Isaiah 7:6-7), which changes the direction of the conversation: “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me they have abandon the commandment of God to love their neighbor and they cling more on upholding to human tradition” (Mark 7:8).
Beloved may be challenged today to celebrate and love one another beyond our traditions and prejudices. Now, I will ask you to face your neighbor, share that smile, shake hands and clap for Jesus.
Thanks be to God. Amen!
Rev. Peter Karanja