Hunger”

Worship Script 1


 Worship Script (1 of 4)

OPENING WORDS

By Katie Stein Sather

 

We gather to be together,

We gather to celebrate and to support our beloved community

We gather to commune in body as well as in spirit.

 Let us share both the food and the fellowship we find here tonight.

  

HYMN #67 We Sing Now Together

 

FIRST READING

“Bringing Home the Bacon”, Excerpts from a sermon by Rev. Micheal Tino


“For the year 2006, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that 35.5 million Americans lived in households considered to be ‘food insecure.’ Of these people, 22.9 million were adults (10% of all adults) and 12.6 million were children (17% of allchildren.) Black and Hispanic households experienced ‘food insecurity’ at far higher rates than the national average: 22% and 20%, respectively.” (UUA Study Guide)

 

In fact, 10.4% of New York households are labeled “food insecure,” meaning that they do not have access to enough food for “an active, healthy life for all household members.” (Bread for the World, USDA Food Security websites)  Some 4% of New York households experience chronic hunger and malnutrition.

 

And the numbers on food insecurity and hunger are bound to rise when statistics for 2008 and 2009 come out.  We cannot wait for the statistics to be logged in order to do something.

We must seek both short- and long-term solutions to issues of food insecurity in this country, and in this community.  People must be able to eat now, and they must have access to adequate, nutritious food from now on.

  

SECOND READING

“The Kindness of Lo Mein”, by Kaaren Solveig Anderson

 My friend Marcy and her boyfriend Brian recently ate dinner at a local Chinese restaurant. As they enjoyed a plate of lo mein, engrossed in conversation, a hand reached down and ushered away their platter of noodles. A voice quick and agitated mumbled "Sorry!" and a thin, poorly dressed woman left the restaurant with their plate of lo mein.

 In astonishment, they watched her walk down the street, holding the plate with the flat of her hand as she stuffed noodles into her mouth, slapping sharply against her face. The owner realized what had happened and darted out the front door, chasing after the noodle thief. He stood firmly in front of her, blocking her way and grabbing a side of the plate. A struggle ensued, noodles slid uneasily from one side to the other, slopping over the edge. He surged forward and pulled with a heroic strong-arm attempt to retrieve his plate. The woman's fingers slid from the plate. Noodles flew, then flopped pathetically on the sidewalk.

 Left empty-handed, with soggy, contaminated noodles at her feet, the woman stood with arms hung dejectedly at her side. The owner walked victoriously back to the restaurant with the soiled plate in hand. My friends were given a new heaping plate of lo mein, although they had already consumed half of the stolen plate. A stream of apology in Chinese came from the proprietor. Unable to eat anymore, they asked to have the noodles wrapped up and set off to see their movie.

 A block later, they happened upon the lo mein thief. The woman was hypercharged. She simultaneously cried, convulsed, and shouted at a man, who rapidly retreated from her side. My friend, unsure about what to do, listened to her boyfriend's plea to just walk away. But she didn't. Instead, she walked over to the thief and said, "Ah, we haven't formally met, but about ten minutes ago, you were interested in our noodles. They gave us some new ones, are you still hungry?" The woman nodded and extended her bony arms. She took the styrofoam container in her hands, bowed ever so slightly, and murmured, "Thank you, you're very kind."

 What makes us walk away from discomfort? Or stay? You could say a lot about my friend's story—a lot about generosity, kindness, attention, and thievery. I'm more interested in what motivates us to confront that which makes us uncomfortable and makes us look at the guts and grit of decisions, the choices to not address things that are uncomfortable, uneasy, unbalanced, unnatural, unbelievable. When our foundations start to shake, we can feel the tremors move up our legs and into our torsos. And we want more than anything to make it stop. Any how. Any way.

 My friend Marcy could feel herself shake. I know because she told me so. But she chose not to walk away, she dealt with uncomfortableness. She held firm in the muck. Sometimes, that's all we need or can do to get to the other side—the side where generosity, comfort, and kindness reside, the side where foundations are firm and stable. Where one's shaking walks back to the other side.

  

HYMN #124 Be That Guide

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES
Fair vs. Equal (an all-ages activity/Time for All Ages) Activity by Erika A. Hewitt

 What does “fair” mean? Is “fair” the same thing as “equal”? Which one is reflected in the concept of “justice”? Designed to be used as a Message for All Ages or as part of a Children's Chapel service, this activity uses cookies (yum!) to explore the differences between fair and equal.

To prepare, you’ll need cookies or crackers ("regular" sized, not goldfish crackers or mini-cookies). You’ll also need two plates. Be sure to first read through this description carefully, as this activity requires “on the ground” thinking!

Today’s service/message is about fairness. What does it mean when something is unfair? Has anything unfair ever happened to you?

Invite people to share their comments and experiences, or simply ask for a show of hands as affirmation that they have been in an “unfair” situation.

Is “fair” the same thing as “equal”?

Listen to and moderate opinions about “fair” versus “equal.”

To help us see for ourselves whether "fair" and "equal" are the same thing, we're going to use some volunteers and this bag of cookies [or crackers].

Explain as you go:

Bring out 10 of the cookies/crackers and two plates.

Invite two volunteers, preferably children or youth of about the same age, to come forward. Give each of the children an empty plate. Narrate as you divide the 10 cookies/crackers equally between the two children’s plates. (Make sure that all of your volunteers know that the cookies are for demonstration purposesno fair eating them until the service is over!)

Each of our volunteers has five cookies. Is that equal?

Confirm: ten divided by two = five cookies each.

Is it “fair” for each person to get five cookies? It might be. But let's start asking our volunteers some questions.

Ask your two child volunteers what they had for breakfast, and it should be obvious whose breakfast was bigger.

Since X (name) had a bigger breakfast than Y (name), their breakfasts weren’t equal size. Don’t you think that it’s fair to give Y more cookies, to make up for their smaller breakfast?

Invite people to offer their opinions, thanking them for each opinion. As they make suggestions, you or the volunteers can shuffle the cookies back and forth on the two plates to reflect general consensus of what a “fair” distribution of the ten cookies looks like. If no one has already mentioned it, say:

Wait! Maybe one of our volunteers is hungrier than the other!

Ask volunteers if they’re feeling is hungry. Determine – however whimsically, or just on a self-reported scale of one to ten, which child is hungrier than the other.

Since X (name) is hungrier than Y (name), isn’t it fair to give X more than half of the cookies, even though it’s not equal?

Again, solicit feedback about what a “fair” distribution of cookies is, based on hunger.

Send one of the volunteers back to their seat (big thank you from the group). Invite a volunteer of a much different age to come join the other volunteer. Each of them should still hold a plate.

Now we have people of different sizes to share the ten cookies. X (child’s name) is n years old. Z (adult’s name) is... well, older than that!

Since X is so much smaller than Z, is it fair to split the cookies evenly? Do you think that Z get more cookies because they’re bigger than X? Or should Z get fewer cookies because they’re a grown-up and can buy cookies anytime they want to?

Solicit opinions and move cookies from plate to plate, according to comments. Then:

You know, we haven’t even talked yet about what kind of cookies these are! Maybe we should find out whether X and Z even like gingersnaps (or lemon cookies, or fig newtons...)!

Ask your volunteers whether they like the cookies being offered.

If both volunteers report that they like the cookie type, send one volunteer back to their seat (with thanks). Ask for yet another volunteer: one who does not like the type of cookie being offered, or who is allergic to the type of cookie being offered.

Now we have a very different situation. Z  really likes eating this type of cookie. But Q (dislikes/allergic) doesn’t want to eat any. What’s the fairest way to split the cookies now? Is it fair that Z gets all ten cookies just because they like (the gingersnaps), and Q doesn’t get any?

Ask people to suggest a “fair” re-distribution of the ten cookies, and move the cookies to the appropriate plate.

Thank both volunteers, taking the plates with cookies and inviting them to return to their seats with thankful “applause.”

What did we see, by bringing up different pairs of people and trying to split ten cookies between them? What are some factors that make something seem “fair”?

As you invite comments and discussion, narrow the conversation to the “moral” of this service:

It turns out that “equal” is not the same thing as “fair.” Equality is a good thing: when we talk about people being "equal," or having "equal" rights, we mean that all people have the same giant amount of inherent worth and dignity.

As we saw, though, fairness is different. Fair doesn’t mean we get the same thing that everyone else has. Fair means that we go beyond what looks equal and instead ask a lot of questions. We’re beginning to see that fairness is complicated!

As Unitarian Universalists, we talk a lot about “justice.” When we use the word justice, often we’re talking about fairness. When we see something that's unfair, we believe in saying so. And just like we had to talk about ways to divide up the cookies, sometimes we need to talk (...a lot) about how to make things fair. This can be complicated, but it's a wonderful thing about Unitarian Universalism: we believe in equality AND in fairness, even when they're different.

 

 

MEDITATION

“A Prayer Addressing All Hungers by Debra Smith

We are hungry

 

We are eating our daily bread

and bowing our heads

and yet we are hungry

 

We are thanking the farmer

and the farm worker

and yet we are hungry

 

We are speaking in spaces

for food that is healthy

and still we are hungry

 

We are tiring of slogans that say

Feed the Children

and mean feed the children

leftovers

 

We are hungry for something

that feeds more than bodies

 

We are hungry for help

Help us oh you who apportion the funds

Find in your hearts the child who you were

who would share with a friend

free and friendly

Lead us not into meanness

 

For we are the hungry

We want the loaves

and the fishes

the water

and the wine

of sweet justice for all

 

We are hungry

  

CANDLES OF JOY AND CONCERN

Those who are so moved are now invited to come forward to light a candle, expressing a joy or concern in their lives.  As you do, you may briefly share what it is.  We ask that people coming forward speak for no more than a sentence or two, and speak from the heart about issues in their lives, rather than political issues, which we can take up at coffee hour or in the parking lot.

 

SERMON

“Setting the Table”

 “I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all.”  Richard Wright

 “Food is not merely something we eat.  It is a ceaseless reminder that we are mortal, earthbound hungry and in need.  We are bound by a biological imperative that forever keeps us returning to the soil, plants, animals, and running waters for replenishment.  Eating is life.  Each time we eat, the soul continues its earthly journey.  With every morsel of food swallowed a voice says, “I choose life.  I choose to eat, for a I yearn for something more.”   (unknown)

 “In Africa they say there are two hungers – the lesser and the greater hunger.  The lesser hunger is for things to sustain life, the goods & services, and the money to pay for them, which we all need.  The greater hunger is for an answer to the question why? For some understanding of what this life is for.”  Charles Hardy

 “When you give food to the poor, they call you a saint. When you ask why the poor have no food, they call you a communist.”     --Archbishop Helder Camara

 “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” -- Indira Gandhi

"There is much suffering in the world - physical, material, mental. The suffering of some can be blamed on the greed of others. The material and physical suffering is suffering from hunger, from homelessness, from all kinds of diseases. But the greatest suffering is being lonely, feeling unloved, having no one. I have come more and more to realize that it is being unwanted that is the worst disease that any human being can ever experience." -- Mother Teresa (1910-1998)

 “Our lives are to be used and thus to be lived as fully as possible, and truly it seems that we are never so alive as when we concern ourselves with other people.” Harry Chapin

 “On our knees drinking with cupped hands from our [spring] is a kind of praying for my daughters and me.  In times of drought there is nothing holier than the water in the bowls of our hands poured over our upraised faces or sipped on bent knee giving thanks.  Religions is such a simple thing, . . . it is cupping hands in deep gratitude and filling them with [spring] water swallowing God whole. . .” Journey of the Medicine Man

 “It is not your job to finish the work but you do not have permission to leave it.”  Hebrew saying

put tray of Guest at Your Table boxes on table

The Guest at your Table program has been running for decades, raising money to help feed people, get them clean water, and advocate for workers rights.  This year they are telling the story of their work in South Africa with a woman who was not getting enough water in her home.  The water company was supplying less water to poor homes.  UUSC helped her work through the legal system to require the company to provide sufficient water to her home, and many other homes.  They were victorious.  They also tell the story of working with immigrants in the US working in Poultry factories who needed advocates and care.  They work around the world to help people take hold of their own lives.  Guest at your table is an exciting program because it helps fund life changing programs for people who are hungry for food and for life.  It is also a lovely spiritual practice, to put the box on your table and remember that we always have the world with us at our tables, we always have a guest at our Tables.  Please take a box.  And bring it back to our Christmas Eve service.

Reading          Hungers, by Kendra Ford

for truth

for recognition

for the foods of our childhood

for affection

for gratitude, peace, revenge

for all the substances that sedate and electrify and untangle our minds

for fairness

for sugar and butter

for being the most important person

for escape

for blue things, shiny things, for comfort

for one more chance to get it right

for the dead to return, if only for an hour

for someone to listen long enough for us to say what we really mean

for sweet fruit, ripe in the sun

for joy

for safety

for potatoes, onions, salt

for the answer

to know what we are meant to do with these lives

 

Reflection

As a college freshman I participated in a fast as part of a program to raise both awareness and money to prevent hunger.  A group of us got people to sponsor us to fast for two days.  The money we raised was given to a hunger relief organization.  It was a symbolic fast and it was an educational fast.  And at the same time I was getting to be friends with people who were Jewish and Muslim who fasted as part of their religious practice.  Christianity has its own fasting traditions but they are not widely practiced anymore. 

Here’s one thing I learned – it frees up a lot of time if you are not planning meals, eating, cleaning up from them.  It takes hours of everyday to take in food, even simple food.  You have all kinds of extra time to read and sleep and meditate if you stop dealing with food.   

 I never really got hungry, during my fast.  I got quiet.  I found that was interested in watching everything, listening.  That I wanted to be around people but didn’t have much to say.  I remember sitting with the other people who were fasting and talking about our lives -- why we had chosen to do this and what other people thought about it.  One of the other women fasting was Jewish and had fasted several times as part of her observance of Yom Kippur.  She did complain about being hungry and talked about visiting Israel with her grandmother the year before.  A young man talked about his troubled family and his commitment to the homeless shelter program.   I was so grateful to be with the people I was with because I noticed how very lonely I was.  I don’t think I was that clear about it at the time.  But not eating, not participating in the noise and activity of the dining hall or the coffee shop; I remember an emptiness that I found both frightening and something of a relief.  I was learning about hunger in the literal sense, what it’s like to not eat.  And that was frightening.  And I was learning about the hunger of the soul and that hunger was good to get to know better.  It was good to get still, to listen.  I learned that I could be hungry and just be hungry.      

Reflection                       For what do we Hunger?

We sat with my 6 year old niece yesterday at lunch-time talking about our family.  And I said something about my Mother.  My niece asked, “Who’s your mom?”  I think she knows that her Grandmother is my mother.  But I told her again.  And then she said, “Who is her Mom?”  So I named my Grandmother, Dorothy.  “And who is her mom?”.  It wasn’t long before I couldn’t name the mothers any further back.  But she still wanted to know.  Who is the first mother?  Who loved my people?  Who dreamed us?

I heard a story recently about the Alutiiq people in Alaska (on the radio Program, Friday Journal entitled “Coming Home: the Return of the Alutiiq Masks” aired on NHPR on Friday, Nov. 21 2008) who had lost almost all of their culture between the Russian invasion at the end of the 19th century, the American purchase of Alaska in the 20th century, to a terrible earthquake in the 1960s.  Their artwork was mostly taken from them, their legends were forgotten, and were forced to give up their language.  I suspect they were so traumatized they could barely begin to think about what they wanted. 

At the end of the 19th century a man from France visited their community and collected stories and traditionally made masks.  He left many notebooks of written stories with a museum in the US and took the masks back to France and stored them in a collection in a castle.  The people in Alaska had no masks and very few traditional stories left.  Recently a woman from the Alutiiq community heard someone talk about this collection – heard someone talk about the Alutiiq masks in the Castle in France.  She nearly fainted.  And then figured out how to fly to France to see them.  Artists from the community have begun to reconstruct their crafts and songs and dances from the notes and collected works of this one man.  This is a hunger for the stories and world understanding of her people, a hunger for language – both literal and the language of the soul.  This is a hunger that all people have – the hunger to know, Are these my people?  Do I belong here?  Who came before me?  In the absence of deep connection to ancestors and loving connections to land and true teachers, most of us are hungry, deeply hungry and not fed.  Some of us had such painful relationships with our immediate ancestors that our hunger is confused – we don’t want our family connections but we still have a physical hunger for that deep grounding in a history and a story of life. 

"There is much suffering in the world - physical, material, mental. The suffering of some can be blamed on the greed of others. The material and physical suffering is suffering from hunger, from homelessness, from all kinds of diseases. But the greatest suffering is being lonely, feeling unloved, having no one. I have come more and more to realize that it is being unwanted that is the worst disease that any human being can ever experience." -- Mother Teresa

It was stunning to me that Mother Teresa, who worked with people every day who were dying of hunger could see that under the hunger for bread or rice was the great sorrow of having been separated from the human family by violence or neglect.  That the hunger loving human connection is deepest and most fundamental.  And that connection almost always brings with it nourishment for the body.  Even we, living in privilege and plenty encounter this hunger of the soul and mostly don’t haven any idea what to do with it, don’t even really comprehend that it is at work in our lives – after all, we have so much.

“In Africa they say there are two hungers – the lesser and the greater hunger.  The lesser hunger is for things to sustain life, the goods & services, and the money to pay for them, which we all need.  The greater hunger is for an answer to the question why? For some understanding of what this life is for.”  Charles Hardy

So we try to satisfy that hunger with other substances.  Food.  Alcohol.  Shoes.  Catalogs.  Cruising the mall or the internet.  I think most of this is an attempt to imbue our lives with the meaning and connections that sustain our souls.  It works for a few minutes, maybe a few days.  But the nagging hunger comes back again and again.  And you know what happens if you get hungry and you just drink coffee instead of eating dinner.  You get a little jittery, a little antsy, you might even get light headed.  That’s us.  We’re hungry, for our people, for deep affection and kindness.  We’re hungry to be listened to.  And we make our best attempts every day.  And mostly we’re running trying to get through the day on the spiritual equivalent of coffee and a doughnut.  It’s what’s been offered.  And we do pretty well with what’s been handed to us.  And we’re hungry for much more.  Deeply hungry. 

It’s not always clear to me how we get connected to the truly life sustaining substances and ways.  So much has to be rebuilt.  So we’re all shuffling along making it up as we go along.  And I’m pretty sure that the most important work in getting our souls fed and in ending world hunger is getting closer to each other.  It can feel quite dangerous.  And I’m pretty sure that everything else spring from it.  

Our ability to find ways to end the first hunger, the hunger of the stomach, will increase when we can truly tell we are working together – as will our ability to shape the world we want.  We find our way together when we look for the divine in each other’s faces.  For all our hungers, for all our wanting, we find our way through together.  

 

HYMN #71 In the Sprint With Plow and Harrow

 

BENEDICTION
Faith Food and Friends

 

For food in a world where many walk in hunger

For faith in a world where many walk in fear

For friends in a world where many walk alone

We give you thanks, O God.

Amen.