Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How Was Your Day?

This question is so simple.  Yet it begs of much, much more.

I was listening to NPR on my short drive to school this week.  On the news was an interview with astronaut Mark Kelly talking about Rep. Gabby Giffords' recovery.  Kelly says how hard it is to be in conversation with someone who cannot ask a question.  He described how her speech was so severely impaired that she was unable to ask any question for months.  Until one day. 

The first question Giffords asked was, "How was your day?"

"It was a big event," Kelly says. "It was so big to me, it completely locked my brain up — I could not remember one thing I did that day. So I had a hard time answering her. So she had this momentous event where she finally asked a question and I had no answer because I was so happy about it."

When I heard this piece of the interview, I nearly pulled over to the side of the road.  Emotionally, Kelly described a moment that was so sacred, so filled with simply love, so momentous for them both in her recovery that it stopped him.  Time stopped. 

And I thought about how many times in the last half year that I have been able to sit across from my beloved and over dinner, ask, simply, "How was your day?"  In our exchanges, we catch up on the mundane and the silly and the sacred.  It's our time together - no TV, no cell phones, nothing but us.  Time stops.  How was your day?  It reminds me to count my blessings and to cherish how the Sacred shows up in ordinary ways, on God's time - kairos - the fullness of time.

I believe this happens in the Holy Eucharist.  We come to God's table and time stops.  We experience the sacred moment of transformation in that space, with those sacred elements.  We share our day with the One who was and is and is to come.  And God listens to our human attempt at responding to How Was Your Day.

And God offers faith, hope and Love. Glory!

How was your day?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Guest Entry: Food Waste on Thanksgiving

I recently read a captivating article that is timely for celebrating Thanksgiving with a spirit of good stewardship.  Thank you, guest writer!
Despite being pushed to the back of the shelf, there it is – that six-day-old eggplant parmesan – every time I open the refrigerator. It was delicious last Friday, a new recipe made with eggplant fresh from the farm. I know I need to eat it soon before it spoils and must be thrown out, wasted, like one quarter to one half of all food in America.1

My eyes were opened to the enormous waste of food in a NC sweet potato field on a crisp, autumn morning at the Society of St. Andrew’s 19th annual “Yam Jam.” In four hours, more than 800 volunteers gleaned 84,010 pounds of sweet potatoes for regional food pantries. I was shocked at the volume of perfectly edible food that would otherwise have been left to rot and be plowed back under by the farmer. “And this is only one field!” I kept saying over and over to anyone who would listen. How much food is really being wasted in this country, I wondered? What is being done about it? And, how can I help? Though I am no food waste expert, I continue this journey, seeking to become a more informed, engaged and faithful steward.
Food loss and waste occurs all along the supply chain: harvesting, processing, storage, retail distribution, food service, and households. Here are some revealing statistics:
• The US wastes 96 billion pounds of food each year. It costs $1 billion to dispose of this waste.2

• An average grocery store disposes on average 700-800 pounds of food per day. With more than 35,000 stores in this country, total daily grocery store waste is 30 million pounds.3

• Americans throw away 15%–25% of food brought into our homes. Assuming a family of four is shopping on the USDA low-cost plan, spending $175 a week on groceries, they squander $1,365 to $2,275 a year. 4

• Food waste makes up 14% of solid waste entering landfills, where, in decomposition, it produces methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas. 5
Given what I’ve learned, I cannot turn a blind eye to food waste. I see it everywhere, as if I were seeking it out.

While visiting friends in Maine recently we stopped at the local bakery to pick up leftover bread for their pigs. This wasn’t just any bread. We retrieved about 60 loaves of sweet and savory artisan bread that sells for $7.00 a loaf. The bakery only sells bread that is baked fresh that day and throws out what is left when the store closes each evening. I was appalled! Though the bread didn’t feed hungry people, at least we kept it from the landfill and made the pigs happy. (The French toast and grilled cheese sandwiches we humans ate the next day made us happy, too.)

DC Central Kitchen, a Washington DC based organization that turns leftover food into healthy meals, recycles 3,000 pounds of food per day. I see a small portion of this food when I volunteer each week. The food arrives from grocery stores, farms, restaurants, wholesalers, and even Nationals ballpark; much of it is local and organic. Standing at my cutting board, I remove brown, wilted leaves from lettuce; cut blemishes from tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and onions; then chop, slice and dice them into appropriate sizes. This produce, rescued from certain demise, will be assembled into fifty to eighty 25- serving pans by the end of my three-hour shift. Combined with hot food being prepared in another part of the kitchen, DCCK will distribute 4,500 – 5,000 meals later today (and everyday) to 88 partner agencies serving at-risk individuals. This is food recovery at its best!

Fortunately, there is hope. More people are connecting the dots between hunger, economics, creation care, and food waste. Individuals are choosing to reduce household food waste; groups are recovering food from the waste stream; retailers, educated on Good Samaritan Act (1996), are more willing to donate food; companies are being held accountable to reducing food waste by stricter regulations that carry financial incentives or penalties; and businesses are sending their food waste to anaerobic digesters to convert into energy.

What can we do to reduce food waste?

* Purchase less food.
* Use up leftovers.
* De-clutter our refrigerator so we can see more easily what is in it.
* Eat down what is in our refrigerator and cabinets before purchasing more.
* Plan our meals; make a grocery list; and stick to it.
* Beware of bulk and buy- one-get-one free purchases that may go bad before we can use it up.
* Educate ourselves on “sell-by” and “use-by” date labels.
* Compost.
* Give our food scraps to farmers for their animals.
* Link up with our neighborhood bakery to retrieve unsellable leftovers and take them to the local shelter for homeless families on a regular basis.
* Encourage our grocery stores to donate edible food to food recovery groups.
* Join the Eat Trash campaign, asking Trader Joe’s to initiate a Zero Waste corporate-wide policy.
* Tell our produce managers that we are willing to purchase fruits and vegetables that may not be cosmetically perfect or uniform in size and shape, as we know they are still nutritious and tasty—and then do it.
* Encourage restaurants to reduce portion sizes.
* Take leftovers home.
* Ask every coffee shop, café, and restaurant we frequent what they do with unused food and encourage them to donate it.
* Patronize grocery stores and restaurants who donate to food recovery groups. (There’s even a new app that identifies restaurants in NYC that donate!)
* Volunteer with food recovery organizations like Interfaith Food Shuttle (NC), City Harvest (NY), or DC Central Kitchen. * Glean with an organization like Society of St. Andrew or Senior Gleaners (CA).
* Educate our CSA farm and farmers at the Farmer’s Market about gleaning and ask if we can connect them with a gleaning organization.
* Start a campaign to provide curbside composting for food waste.

Reducing food waste can help feed hungry people, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and save money. We all eat, so we all can make a difference. As I John 3:18 reminds us, we love “not in our word or speech, but in truth and action.”

I’ll be having that eggplant parmesan for dinner.

Leah McCullough, a United Church of Christ minister from North Carolina, is spending a sabbatical year in the Washington DC area. While there she is listening more deeply and exploring a potentially new call to “Feed my sheep,” perhaps by recovering some of the staggering amounts of food waste in this country. She may be contacted at leah62367@yahoo.com

1 Jonathan Bloom, in American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half Its Food (and What We Can Do About It), (Cambridge, Mass: Da Capo Press, 2010), xi.

2 US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Waste Not, Want Not: A Guide for Feeding the Hungry and Reducing Solid Waste Through Food Recovery,” last updates on November 1, 2011, http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/organics/pubs/wastenot.htm

3 Bloom, 150.

4 Bloom, 186-187.

5 US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Basic Information about Food Waste,” last updated on November 1, 2011, http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/organics/food/index.htm

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sermon for Chapel, November 3

Sermon – November 3, 2011 ~ Vicki Hesse, Seminarian
Text: Luke 15:1-10
Listen to the audio on YouTube - click here 

We humans have an
insatiable hunger for Lost and Found stories. 
Surely there are people
much smarter that I
who can name this
psychological archetype ~
lost thing goes missing,
lost thing is found,
much rejoicing occurs. 

For example, on the national news
there was a story about a cat
that had been lost on August 25
at JFK Airport, “Jack.”[1] 
Jack’s owner had handed him over
to the airlines
for shipment to San Francisco,
but Jack never arrived. 
When the story aired last week,
after two months,
Jack had been found,
having fallen through the ceiling tiles
at the airport.

By that time, he had 22,000 friends
on facebook (“Jack is Back”).
American Airlines agreed to fly his mom
back to New York for the reunion and rejoicing. 

Or how about the Massachusetts folks
that got lost in a corn maze last week.[2] 
The couple and their baby
entered the maze at daylight
but got lost as darkness fell.
They had to call 911 to be rescued.
The Police K9 unit found the family
in 7 minutes. 
While the couple was embarrassed,
the farm was rejoicing
with all the media coverage. 
Apparently, many more people
wanted to experience the maze,
thus their revenue increased. 

Even last week at the beach,
a man scanning the sand with a metal detector
told me how exciting it is
to find lost items on the beach –
especially after a storm,
when the coins and jewelry turn up
all in a bunch. 
His whole life revolves around
finding lost items… recovering The Lost
is his passion in life.

And in today’s Gospel,
we have the “lost” people –
the tax collectors and “sinners” –
and the “found” people –
the Pharisees and scribes –
who have come to listen to Jesus. 

The Pharisees grumble about Jesus,
thinking that he is lost
and must be found (out). 
Jesus, of course,
knows they are trying
to trick him. 
So, he tells two Lost and Found parables –
from today –
[followed by the Lost “Prodigal” Son parable,
but we have to wait for Lent for that lectionary.] 
These Lost and Found stories are familiar –
The shepherd leaves 99 sheep
to find the lost one
and when finding the lost sheep,
rejoices and celebrates
with friends and neighbors. 
The woman with 10 coins leaves 9 alone
to find the lost coin
and when finding the lost coin,
rejoices and celebrates
with friends and neighbors. 

These stories touch our own primeval
desire for lost and found stories
So where are we?  
who are we,
as seminarians, staff, faculty –
in these stories? 
Are we the lost ones –
in whole or in part? 
Is it possible that
maybe we are not wholely, totally lost,
but perhaps we can say
that we might have lost
part of our faith? 
Too much messy church history,
too much deconstruction of scriptures,
too much preoccupation with Greek? 

Have we lost our faith
in the midst of seminary? 

Or, as priests-in-training,
are we the searchers
looking for lost folks to “save”? 

Or, are we grumbling
about who else is lost
and must be “found out”?

How is this lost and found metaphor
playing out in our life?
Are we losing and finding? 

Speaking of losing and finding,
Last week’s news reported
the results of a government study.[3] 
It noted that the rich are getting richer and
the very rich are getting very richer. 

Over the last three decades,
the richest 1%
saw an income growth of 275%. 
Yes, 275%. 
Meanwhile, the middle income growth was 40%
and the lower income growth was just 18%. 

Certainly we have some
lost and found stories in this financial report –
which may be fuel
for the “Occupy” movement. 

In over 70 cities and 600 communities, “Occupy”
protestors (who feel like they are the “lost”)
have set up camp. 
Their rallying cry is “We are the 99%!” 
But wait –
didn’t the “lost” sheep parable
say that the 99 were left behind
while the shepherd went and found the 1? 
So who is lost in this real-life parable? 
Who is found?

At these “We are the 99%” protests,
perhaps a message is that everyone
is affected by the 1%,
the “manipulating ruthless profiteers,”[4]
which could be something
like the Pharisees and the Scribes
in today’s lesson. 

The Pharisees and scribes were grumbling. 
And Jesus found with them common ground.

Yes, the Tax collectors and sinners were “lost”
and God would find them. 
Jesus emphasized the compassionate,
searching nature of God –
the rejoicing, celebratory nature of God. 
The Pharisees would have agreed with this.

The subtle reversal occurred
when Jesus said that
rejoicing in heaven happens
whenever anyone repents,
or has a change of heart. 
That would include the Pharisees and scribes –
whenever one turns,
there is rejoicing in heaven!

The good news today
is that God’s mercy extends to all –
not just the lost 99%
but the Pharisees and scribes, too. 
What about that
“We are the 99%” cry? 
If you listen,
you can hear a double-entendre. 
Yes, the majority is suffering
from systemic manipulation
AND we are all, in some way,
complicit in creating and resolving
what ails us. 
In other words, “We are the 100%”. 

In God’s economy,
there is only an “us.” 
One person who stood squarely
in the midst of a
Lost and Found, reformation-age
Controversy –
one in which parties cried
about “systemic manipulation”
is Richard Hooker.[5] 

He is as important today
as he was in the 16th Century. 
And not just if you are studying for GOEs,
but for the way he defined our “via media”
way of doing theology. 

Hooker made an active attempt
to confront, reconcile and hold in communion
the deeply opposed “lost” and “found” groups. 
In finding this middle way –
this “via media” –

Hooker crafted
what we now call
in his masterful response
to the Puritans. 
His response was
the multi-volume book
with the snappy name,
“Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity.” 
(The subtitle could be “How to build and run a church.”)

Hooker is important because
he defended the ideas and practices
of the Church of England,
with sensitivities to the Puritans. 
He valued the catholic aspects
of polity and worship,
yet sought reformation. 

he denied the bible as the only authority,
he argued that reason was a gift from God to be used and valued in interpretation, and
he held up the traditional ceremonies as recovered from their original intent. 

Et, voila!
The Three Legged Stool –
scripture, tradition, reason. 

What was lost in religious controversy,
Hooker showed, could be found
in what we now call Anglicanism. 
There is much more to say
about Richard Hooker. 
He is for me a great inspiration.
He continues to inform
why I love the Anglican Church. 
One reason is that
he emphasized participation,
not grumbling and analyzing. 
Hooker would not argue
about what happens
to the bread and wine at Communion,
but held that transubstantiation
occurs in us
when we take and eat –
to quote,
“there follows [in communion]
a true change of both soul and body,
an alteration from death to life and
a sharing in Christ.” 

In other words, transformation occurs.
Transformation –
a turning,
a change of heart,
a repentance –
all of which
Jesus emphasized
in today’s lost parables. 

The good news today
is that in our community,
in our being lost,
in our Holy Communion,  
we are found.
Found by a compassionate, searching God. 
This is a God
who rejoices over one sinner –
over one part of the whole –
who is transformed, changed, turned. 

Will you rejoice with me?


[1]Jack The Cat is Lost in AA Baggage at JFK” on Facebook

[2] http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/nationnow/2011/10/couple-lost-in-corn-maze-call-911.html
[3] http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/money_co/2011/10/income-for-the-top-1-has-soared-over-past-three-decades.html
[4] http://www.ecusa.anglican.org/80050_130158_ENG_HTM.htm
[5] http://www.amazon.com/Glorious-Companions-Centuries-Anglican-Spirituality/dp/0802822223