by Rev. Joan Kessler
Luke 14:1, 7-14
I have a question to ask you this morning… what is something the average person does 22 times a day? I’m not sure what answers you are thinking about…when I heard it asked on a radio call-in contest, I was a bit stumped… it’s quite a lot of one activity. The answer you may be surprised to know is that we look in the fridge approximately 22 times in a single day… it’s fascinating that someone thought to count but I would agree with this number. And recollecting this quiz question got me thinking this week about what we find in our fridges as well as a conversation I had and how COVID has brought the topic of food security and solidarity into our social consciousness.
A few weeks ago I was introduced to Community Fridges when it was announced that such a project had been undertaken in the Regina neighborhood I used to call home. The Cathedral Village area is a very tight-knit community and it is home to a diverse socio-economic strata as well as hosting a vibrant arts festival every spring. A community fridge is just that… it is a fridge that is located in a neighborhood and its motto is Take what you need and leave what you have. So, for example, if you were going on holiday and had six eggs and a head of lettuce you hadn’t eaten, you could leave it in the fridge… and if you were perhaps a bit skimp one month and the grocery budget wasn’t stretching far enough, you could take those six eggs and head of lettuce, no questions asked. A small shed structure houses the fridge as well as a small pantry to share simple dry goods. This idea is growing in popularity with Kelowna opening its first Community Fridge doors just last month at the Unitarian Universalist centre.
The arrival of COVID early last year has seen food insecurity come into the forefront with aid agencies having to reimagine their delivery of services. The virus has exposed other cracks in the preparedness of governments to handle public health crises. If there is a time when food security is critical and needs to be a guarantee to all citizens, it has been during a pandemic that has seen people taking unpaid sick leave, loosing work, not having enough work… all issues that affect one’s access to healthy food. Communities are taking action in on-the-ground kinds of ways to help one another and are investing in their own infrastructures such as the Community Fridge. There is autonomy and freedom to choose what works for one’s household, whether a single or a family of many. It is the community helping the community… it is what is known as Mutual Aid. Mutual Aid is a system that where communities take on responsibility for caring for one another rather than leaving members to fend for themselves. Mutual Aid is not charity where an organization is created seeing one person give to another in need, forcing them to become dependent on a structure and negotiating their access to a service or material resources. Mutual aid creates a symbiotic relationship where all people offer material good and services to one anther… it is a mutual benefit to both the givers and the receivers so one is not to put in a box with a label.
This introduction to the Community Fridge brings me to a conversation I had with the outreach worker from All Are Family Outreach here in Lake Country. It turns out we have both been thinking about the possibility of a fridge for our community and she wondered if Winfield United would be interested in being a host site for the project. This is in the visioning stages but it is something I hope we as a congregation will give some serious consideration to as we strive to become more connected and responsive to our community and its needs. And maybe we can talk more about this at coffee after the service today.
And this brings me to our reading for today. Jesus has been invited to a dinner party and he notices how the guests are choosing their places at the table. Everyone wants to sit in a place of honor and be noticed, and in the ancient world just like today, eating together is an act of intimacy further solidified by the connection to conversation. Jesus tells them a parable about a wedding banquet and shares his best advice on how to attend such an event. Don’t look to sit in the place of importance at that table, because maybe that spot is left for someone more distinguished than you. The best dinner party practice is to just go and sit in a less conspicuous place because then you don’t have to worry. IN the Roman Empire, hierarchy was the norm, it was the way the community was organized and everyone knew their place so there were those who were motivated to use an event like a banquet to move themselves up the social ladder and gain prominence.
Luke’s Jesus was all about food and gathering around the table where everyone has a place. Do not invite your friends and your family to a meal because that is the easy thing to do. Instead, Jesus encourages a radical invitation go out that sees those society would rather not see come and break bread with the community… the disabled, the homeless, the working poor… all extended equal access to the necessities of life… food and belonging. This message encourages us, today in 2021 in the midst of food insecurity exposed because of COVID to do more than hang out the All Are Welcome sign. Jesus isn’t saying those with status and privilege to extend charity to those in need but rather to put off their privilege, to set aside their social status and extend this excess to those most in need. Jesus calls to mind a radical reversal of reparations we could say. It is an invitation to not only the act of meal-sharing but to the physical and emotional intimacy of knowing and claiming one another that such an act entails.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts and hopes for what a Community Fridge might look like here in Lake Country. May peace and good food fill you all this day.