Archbishop Desmond Tutu from South Africa wrote a children’s book that many of us are familiar with: God’s Dream. Here, He asks the question Dear child of God, what do you dream about in your loveliest of dreams? And shortly after, the question: Do you know what God dreams about?
Centuries earlier Isaiah addressed the same question: Do you know what God dreams about?
God dreams that there will be a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines – a world where all tears will be wiped away, where there will be a refuge/a shelter for the needy from the rainstorms of daily living. So many of Isaiah’s images that relate to God’s dream stand in sharp contrast from our culture today. We are taught from childhood that big is better than small, that strong is more effective than weak, that the ability to make war is more important than the unremitting effort to make peace, that the individual is powerless in the face of corporations and a superpower world. In both our world as well as in Isaiah’s might, size, energy, quantity is what counts, not the insignificant one standing on the corner asking for bread, or the unemployed father/mother seeking some way to pay the rent.
While we have made great progress in reducing hunger, we live in a world where, there are still one in nine people that do not get enough nutritious food to live healthy and active lives. – that’s 795 million. Around 70% of the hungry people are farmers and women suffer from hunger disproportionately. 20 million people right now in five different countries (Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen) have been facing an extreme hunger crisis and famine. Right here in Canada, the food and housing crisis insists we pay attention to the needy in our corner of the world as well.
God’s longing expressed in Isaiah is shared by many of us and it is here that hope lies – a hope that offers the energy and momentum that can move us beyond our backyard out into the far reaches of the world, because, the truth is that none of us is really powerless as long as we are willing to persist, using the gifts and abilities and energies we have, as long as we offer what we do have, even when we cannot do everything and as long as we do it for as long as it takes for the world to be a better place. We are empowered by the God who dreams, who cares and enables us to move forward if we but listen, if we care. In a world broken and fractured by poverty, violence and grief, our hope and our strength comes from God’s activity in and through us.
God dreams about people sharing; God dreams about people caring. God dreams that we reach out and take one another’s hand and laugh with one another’s hearts and forgive one another. God dreams that every one of us will see that we are all brothers and sisters – even when we live in different faraway lands and when we speak different languages and have different eyes and different skin.
Making God’s dream a reality takes co- partnership with God, with one another and with partners around the world. Affirmed in Isaiah’s covenantal phrase: “O Lord, you are my God” the reversals, unexpected and always fresh, and new, begins and is strengthened in and through our relationship with God. The Lord our God, the God of the Hebrew people and our God has faithfully blessed our lives calls on us to be a blessing so that ‘all peoples’ will share a table for feasting – ‘rich food’ – not only for a select few but for all! God’s invitation for God’s people is clear – come and listen to me and then go out, strengthened to spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world so that God’s goodness and unfailing love will be for all peoples everywhere.
The message of WFD the authors seek to send around the world is that God’s large and generous table is not ‘just a dream’ but in fact is entrusted to us to realize as we work together. Such a table includes not only friends and relatives and people who can repay us and look like us, believe and live like us but also at this table of God there is room enough for those who associate with those who see with other eyes, whose experiences are unlike our own, who challenge our perspectives and who are just plain different. The Lord of hosts longs to provide food – fine food – for all peoples – and that is exactly what the Lord of hosts intends to do.
You and I are invited at this table. All people of God’s world are invited to be part of God’s generous table so that we may eat together and join each other’s conversations and together we may realize God’s dream where there is plenty for all. And remember, just when we think the table is full, well, God leaves space for one more at the table and may it be so at your table too.
And so we pray…
Loving God, take our hands, take our lives, ordinary as wheat or cornmeal, daily as bread – our stumbling generosity, our simple actions, and find them good enough to help prepare the feast for all your people.
In Luke’s gospel, table fellowship is a central image. There are stories that offer instructions and guidelines about eating – about banquets – It was around a table that significant events like the last supper and revelations of the risen Christ happened more so than the other gospels. Jesus even gets into trouble because of his eating buddies in Luke’s stories and he is know as a “friend of tax collectors and sinners” because he ate with them. The table – who were the quests – where people sat – all seemed to matter to in Luke’s time. It is important to notice that meals were also symbols of the in-breaking and anticipated rule of God – God’s dream. Through Luke’s telling of the story, Jesus’ life and ministry speaks clearly: that the table is not only where one may say grace; it the space where one extends grace.
The inclusiveness of Jesus revealed by the company he kept, especially of the socially ostracized, turned all the social etiquette and rules upside down then as they do now. Jesus speaks to everyone, guests and hosts, the privileged and the underprivileged, about the table hospitality that in its inclusion turns our understanding of fellowship inside out/upside down. His voice addresses our smaller family tables and the larger gatherings of our faith communities everywhere. The kingdom of God metaphor where they “will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God” throws out all our presumptions of priority and privilege, or class and race and ethnicity and identity and invites us into a true koinonia that belongs to all – where all people enjoy a place of honour in our lives. In this reading we see a Jesus who is less about manners and instead is about turning towards the poor, the cripple, the lame and the blind. Our list from era to era, place to place, of who is included and who to turn aside may shift but Jesus’ challenge here reaches across all boundaries of place and time and calls on us to be aware of whom we are inclined to avert our eyes and to follow him, ever mindful of those who are typically left out. In God’s dream, the banquet table will include people from every place, including those typically uninvited – where the north pole will become the south pole and the south pole becomes the north pole.
Dear child of God, do you know how to make God’s dream come true? Desmond Tutu asked. It is really quite easy. As easy as sharing, loving, caring…as easy as knowing we are family because we are all God’s children.
Called to be allies – to walk with – to accompany – to advocate on behalf of those who have no voice –– called to share the bread we enjoy with the poor and the hungry so that there will be enough for all – and in our sharing to free humanity from hunger and malnutrition, and to effectively manage our food systems – this if the message of WFD. This is scripture’s mandate!
Urgent issues press upon us everywhere – food and water security, health, education, access to land, human rights, peace and justice. Humanitarian crises – all invite us to discern with wisdom the way each of us and all of us as a faith community can respond with care and concern so that we may support and enable healing for all and all may know the goodness of the creator. The God who is creative and self-giving who generously blesses our lives, moves in all the near and distant corners of our world invites us to respond with a gratitude that is abundant and overflowing for the sake of all.
We can in thankfulness for the Creator’s goodness to us, be open to all, seek change that is needed in our circles of influence so that hunger and poverty no longer are the scar, the scandal of our world and there is enough food and a place at the table for everyone.
May God’s Spirit guide us as we seek change, so everybody has enough food to flourish and a place at the table spread for all.
Prayer of Commitment
God our Father,
We give you thanks for the abundance of your creation,
and the generosity of your gifts.
We are sorry that amongst us
are so many people
who are excluded from the feast
prepared by you for us all.
May your Spirit inspire us and lead us
as we seek change,
so that hunger and poverty
are no longer a scar and scandal in our world.