This is an adapted form of the sermon I preached this morning, the Feast of Christ the King. We also had a special “hunger emphasis” in worship this morning. The gospel text was Luke 23:33-43.
Have you ever been hungry? Sure you have. Heck, I’m kind of peckish right now. But I’ve never been hungry the way we’re talking about it today. When I was a child, my parents forbade me from ever saying, “I’m starving.” My sister and I were not allowed to say that, because no matter how hungry we felt, we have never experienced what it is to starve.
But today we remember that many people do. Over two hundred million people are starving in sub-Saharan Africa alone, about one in four. Even in the United States, one of the richest countries in the world, one in six people don’t know where their next meal’s coming from. One in six. Right in our backyard, over three hundred families routinely visit the Portland-Upper Mt Bethel Food Pantry because they don’t have enough food. Some people have to make tragic decisions between food and medicine. Some people eat nothing but junk food because it’s cheaper. Hunger, real hunger, is everywhere. No country is immune from it. No state, no county, no town.
And it’s not because the world can’t produce enough food. Even with over seven billion people in the world, we can produce plenty. The trouble is, not everyone can get it. For some, it’s access. They can’t get from where they are to where the food is. People experienced something like that in Bangor just this year, for the months when Main St. Market was closed. There are some people in town who don’t have the means to drive out to Weis or Giant. Thank God the Market is open again. But for others, it’s not access, but poverty. Food costs money. And when you have no money, you have no food.
Today we celebrate that Christ is King. And not that Christ is king of some faraway heaven, or that he will be king here one day in the future. Today we celebrate that Christ is King. King of our world, now. This is Christ’s kingdom, this world with so much poverty, so much hunger. And we might ask, and reasonably so, O King, O Mighty Majestic King, why don’t you do something about this? Why don’t you feed your people? Why don’t you fix this?
And our King might look down on us from on high, and say, “I am. I am. I am feeding the hungry.”
Because our king, our mighty majestic king, is not seated on a throne, surrounded by people feeding him grapes. Our king hangs upon a cross. That’s why today’s gospel was appropriate for Christ the King.
Because it is on the cross that Christ was crowned and proclaimed king. When he was lifted up for all to see. There on the cross, Christ won the victory over sin and death. There on the cross, Christ made known that God loves this world so much that he gave his only Son. There on the cross, that Son became king forever. Our king rules not by sending armies. Our king rules not by signing bills. Our king rules not through force, not through personal charisma, not through wealth. Our king rules through sacrifice. Our king rules by giving himself up for the life of the world.
And in a way, he did it all for the sake of those who are hungry. Because the night before he died, he said to his friends, take and eat. This is my body. Take and drink. This is my blood. Eat and drink. Christ still comes to us today through food and drink, through bread and wine that we will share in just a few minutes. And through this food and drink, we are nourished and sent out.
So when Christ our King says to us, “I am feeding the hungry,” he means that we are doing so, because we, the church, nourished with his body, are his hands in the world. We are now the body of Christ given for the sake of the world. Ours are the feet that travel to food pantries and to food banks. Ours are the wallets that open to purchase peanut butter and so many other things. Ours are hands that dig gardens. Ours are the change that rattles in the cans, making a Joyful Noise to God. Ours are the voices that reach out to our elected officials, asking them to pass bills for the sake of the hungry. Ours are the souls that pray earnestly and gratefully and hungrily, pleading with God to make a difference, for God to use us to make a difference.
We hunger for justice, we hunger for peace, we hunger for hope. Jesus, our king, says to us in the Sermon on the Mount, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Jesus, our king, says to us in the Sermon on the Plain, blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. I used to think these were two separate things. But our hunger and thirst for righteousness in this world is filled when those who hunger and thirst for food and drink receive what they need. God feeds those who are hungry through us, and through that, our hunger is sated as well, and we experience God’s kingdom.
Jesus, our king, says to us from the cross, “Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Today, when you follow my will. Today, when you trust in my love and my guidance. Today, when you receive and share my grace. Today, when you show others a sign of my love, a sign of Paradise, you too will be with me in Paradise.
William Blake is said to have written something like this:
I sought my God and my God I couldn’t see;
I sought my soul and my soul eluded me;
I sought to serve my brother in his need, and I found all three;
My God, my soul, and thee.
This is how God’s kingdom works. In serving we are served. In loving we are loved. In feeding we are fed. Christ feeds the hungry. Eat, drink, and share.