I do not wear shoes when I preach.
It started out as a theological statement: that in worship we come into God’s presence, just as Moses did at the burning bush. And in recognizing this space as holy ground, we (like Moses) remove our shoes.
But removing my shoes is not an empty theological gesture that has no consequences. On the contrary! Every week, I remove my shoes and allow my feet to be visible to all who would examine them. (And my feet are not traditionally something I am excited to show off.)
Moses removed his shoes … and then, in his encounter with God, went on to demonstrate both his best and his worst natures. So, too, do I find that God’s call utilizes my best gifts, while challenging me in those areas where I need the most improvement.
In an act that is both freeing … and slightly unsettling … I remove my shoes each week and allow the less-than-polished parts to be visible. Barefootedness is no longer just a theological signpost; it has become a continual reminder and my weekly, intentional consent to allow my vulnerabilities to be apparent, rather than hiding behind a polished facade.
This week, I am thinking of Shoeless Mo (Exodus 3) and I am particularly cognizant of the unusual places in our lives that God is at work. And I am oh-so-thankful at the opportunity to remove my shoes and come into God’s presence.
Tonight was the second week of our series on food ethics at FPC. Those who were gathered made up quite a good group: large enough to spark some interesting conversation and plenty of diverse opinions.
At some point, a lightbulb went on over my head and I thought: this topic is a landmine. It’s not the kind of issue that is so controversial that it comes with it’s own red warning light that flashes “DANGER” to pastors who would approach. But it is still very much an issue that can stir up controversy; it just does it subtly.
So, why bother with it? Why have the difficult conversation about food ethics? And what would I say to those in any congregation, anywhere in the country that might prefer NOT to be more aware of how their food choices affect people and animals and ecosystems and economies around the world?
As you might imagine, I’ve given this issue a fair bit of thought. For me, it comes down to one answer: because we are the people of God.
The God we serve has commanded his people throughout every age to tend to those in need: the widow, the orphan, the least of these. As the people of God, we do not have the option of ignoring the consequences of our actions, even actions that would be easy to take for granted (like our food choices).
When it comes to eating ethically, there is no easy answer.
No one way of eating (organic, vegetarian, etc.) will eliminate every ethical dilemma.(For more on this topic, watch to Michael Pollan’s brilliant lecture at Princeton University’s conference on Food, Ethics and the Environment available on iTunes.)
But because we are given the responsibility of stewardship of creation – and of care for one another – we are commanded to take our choices seriously: to eat with our eyes open and to be willing to bear the weight of the consequences of our actions.
This post is short, but don’t let that fool you. My affection is sincere!
I’ve already informed my mother that she’s getting it for Mother’s Day. Ladies, look out: I’m itching for an excuse to give this one to friends!
While that title might look like Greek … it’s actually the Irish translation of Shrove Tuesday. (Irish seems appropriate, since we’re coming up on St. Patrick’s Day next week.)
If I knew how to pronounce the Irish phrase, I might start using it instead of Mardi Gras (which is the French translation of Fat Tuesday.)
Mairt Inide. Pancake Tuesday. Shrove Tuesday. Mardi Gras. Carnival (which is Latin for “farewell to meat”). Fat Tuesday.
No matter the name, they all have a common heritage and point to the same thing: the day before the beginning of Lent.
The early church marked the time leading up to Easter as a time when the faithful would be prayerful and reflective in preparation to rededicate themselves … and as a time when those who were new to the church would prepare for baptism.
Later, an emphasis on Lenten fasting was added to the priority already placed on prayer …
Easter, of course, is in the spring … and in the centuries before our food system was industrialized and before produce was plentiful year-round, the weeks leading up to Easter found families living on the dwindling supplies that had been stored for winter.
Produce that had been stored (what was left of it) was beginning to look rather sorry. The grains held up pretty well, but meat was scarce and chickens don’t lay eggs in winter.
Smaller and plainer meals were not voluntary or optional. They were just a part of life, in that day and age.
But Lenten fasting gave purpose to their poverty. It allowed the people to see their circumstances as having spiritual significance.
Of course, with advances in refrigeration, transportation and agriculture, Lenten eating is a very different experience for us today. For example:
The day before Lent is sometimes called Pancake Tuesday, because making pancakes was a good way to rid the house of some of the richer food items (eggs, sugar, etc.) before Lent. But the idea of getting rid of a surplus in early spring (before the fields were even planted) would have seemed crazy in certain cultures at various times in history
The tradition of Mardi Gras or Carnival is based on the idea of gorging oneself on all the vices (rich food, strong drink and, well, whatever else) before entering into a penitential season. Again, the notion of such luxury at the end of a long winter would not have made sense to our fore-mothers and fore-fathers.
On Sunday, I invited the congregation I serve to NOT give up something for Lent this year. Instead, I suggested that we all be more mindful of what and how we eat.
Here are some suggestions:
instead of giving up chocolate or coffee or tea, pledge that you will only eat or drink fair trade chocolate or coffee or tea;
instead of giving up fast food, pledge to slow down (and not rush) your meals but to sit down with family and take time to connect across the table;
instead of giving up eating out at restaurants, pledge to eat only at restaurants that purchase their ingredients from local farmers;
instead of giving up a particular item (chips, soda, etc.), pledge to read the list of ingredients on the food labels of everything you eat.
Happy Mairt Inide, friends. And a blessings on your Lenten journey.
Discipline. Discipline. Discipline. I confess that I resist it.
I’m not talking about the kind of discipline a parent imposes with children. I’m talking about a commitment to practices that help give our lives shape and form.
In my line of work, I deal with spiritual disciplines (sometimes called prayer practices). I recognize the importance of them; I know their role in the life of faith; I even know which ones work best for me.
But I have a hard time sticking with the practice.
Since writing is one of my spiritual disciplines … and since I am apparently in need of some accountability … I have decided to commit to blogging this year. Starting today, I will be posting once a day for all of 2011.
(What? Am I kidding? Do I realize how much work that’s going to be? Have I also realized that this will mean that my natural perfectionist tendencies will go largely unsatisfied? Do I intend to make peace with my own inner critic enough that I’ll be able to actually be able to post things without revision upon revision?)
I know it won’t be easy. And there will be times that it might not even be pretty. But it might be fun. It might be inspiring. It might even be a real learning experience.
But I’ll need your comments and encouragement along the way. I’ll be counting on your comments, and I hope you’ll “like” and share these posts with others.