Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Moment of Abundance

When I pause to happily gather
The produce of my inner garden
Everything that yields abundance
Holds your flavor, scent and shape.

-Edward Hayes

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Is Food a Sacrament or a Commodity or Both or Neither? Find Out at Ghost Ranch this Summer

I arise each day with two competing desires: to reform the world, and to enjoy it. It makes us hard to plan the day."   -E.B. White

No matter how much we tryto remain mindful of what we eat, more often than not we tend to take food for granted. This is especially true for those of us who have access to nourishment on a daily basis.  Of course, many of us do take a moment before a meal to offer a word of thanks to the Creator.

During Lent we give food a little more thought by depriving ourselves of a food item--whether it's coffee, or chocolate, or refined sugar, or red meat. We often view fasting as a matter of personal strength instead of an opportunity to open ourselves to weakness (and thus remove an obstacle to offer a deeper thanks to our Creator for those times when WE DO have food).  But that's a discussion for another time. 

Which brings us to the related question, is food a sacrament or a commodity.  Is it both?  Or is it neither?  That question is the basis for a great course offered at Ghost Ranch, the Presbyterian education andi retreat center near Abiquiu, New Mexico, on June 18-24, 2012.

The course, entitled Food, Glorious Food: The Eucharist & Your Foodshed, examines our relationship to the food web and the foodshed.  Here's a short description:
If being at table is a core sacrament for most religions, as it is for the Christian Eucharist, what is its relationship to the foodshed? Is there a Eucharistic vision of the natural world that intersects agribusiness? What does Eucharist mean if God is a gardener, we are tillers and keepers and the world is hungry? The anchor book for the week is Norman Wirzba's newest book, Food and Faith.
In case you're wondering, Norman Wirzba--who teaches theology, ecology and rural studies at The Duke Divinity School--is one of five presenters. (Below is a video about the book Food and Faith). 

Four other great instructors will take part in the course:
-Melanie Harris: teaches Christian Social Ethics, Womanist Ethics, African American Spirituality and Ecospirituality at Texas Christian University.
-Larry Rasmussen: Reinhold Niebuhr Professor Emeritus, Union Theological Seminary. He is the organizer of Ghost Ranch's decade project on Earth-honoring Faith and author of the award-winning volume "Earth Community, Earth Ethics."
-Janet Walton: professor of Worship and the Arts, Union Theological Seminary, New York.
-Jay Harris: a culinary expert at the Art Institute of Colorado

"From day one, we’ll be working together to answer the question, How do we take this home? And do so in ways that both 'reform' and 'enjoy' the world," said Larry Rasmussen. "This is education not only as information (about food, foodsheds, food as sacrament and commodity) but education as drawing us out (e-duce) in a creative space together. We hope to facilitate that by being 'At Table' all week—sitting around tables set in sacred space (the Agape Worship Center)."

So what is the cost of attending this great event?  The fee for the course alone is $360  Click here to check for information on lodging and meals. Okay, when you add it up, it gets pretty expensive. That's why Ghost Ranch is offering scholarships.  Click here to download a scholarship form.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Fast God Seeks: Ash Wednesday Reflections

(A reflection on Isaiah 58:1-12)
Hope in the Desert Episcopal Church (Albuquerque)
To the proud and the haughty,
To the bruised and the broken,
The prophet lifts up the trumpet of God.
The prophet declares the judgment of God.

To the impatient and smug,
To the sad and discouraged,
The prophet shouts out
The Word of God.

To some, words of comfort;
To some, words of challenge.
God speaks of rebellion in the form of a turn--
A sharp turn from righteousness into ritual.

To those home from exile,
To those living in ruin,
God offers a way,
A way back into righteousness:

Leave that sackcloth behind.
Wash those ashes off your face.
God does not call for stoic denial;
A tender heart is what God seeks.

Leave that sackcloth behind.
Wash those ashes off your face.
This is not the fast that God desires,
This is not the fast we’re called to keep.

Don’t beat your chest.
Don’t wail or moan.
This is not the fast that God desires.
This is not the fast we’re called to keep.

It’s not about you; it’s not about me.
It’s not about our solemn ways. 
It’s about our sense of us
Our common kin and our connectedness.

 Chris Jacobsen made this cross at Art Street

Ashes to ashes
Dust to dust
Again and again
Our Ash Wednesday refrain.

Ashes to ashes,
Dust to dust,
Words to remind us
That we are one.

“Loose the bonds; undo the thongs,”
“Share your bread;”  God says to us.
This is the fast God chooses for us.
This is the turn into righteousness.

Commitment for life
Not just for a season. 
Work harder by far
Than ashes and sackcloth.

The work of repairer,
The way of restorer:
Healing the breach,
Making safe the street.

Today we’re invited to a holy Lent—
To walk the way of righteousness; to do the works of justice.
This is the fast God calls us to.
This is the fast God chooses for us.

God—to whom we’ve always belonged;
God to whom we’re called to turn.
Remember that we are God’s
And to God we shall return.- 

-Rev. Susan Allison-Hatch

(The author is a priest at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, where she leads the Live at Five bicultural service. She is also chaplain at St. Martin's Hospitality Center and was recently been appointed Missioner to the Poor and People Living on the Street for the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande).