What are you having for tea tonight? For many of us the only difficulty we might have in answering is trying to decide from the many options available to us, from beans on toast to a traditional roast dinner with all the trimmings.
It’s difficult then to imagine that in many parts of Derbyshire, the question might not be ‘What’s for tea?’ but ‘Is there anything at all for tea?’ or even ‘I’ll skip tea again so that my children can eat’. It’s hard to believe that in the 21st century, here on our own doorstep, people will go to bed hungry tonight.
I was invited to speak recently at a conference called ‘Feeding Derbyshire’. Those present were a mixture of church volunteers, representatives of community groups, leaders of charities and members of the County Council. The aim was simple. To work towards a three year plan to do as much as we can to ensure that no-one in our county has to go without food.
I was proud to be able to say that it was the churches who first noticed what was happening in our local communities, and who were the first to respond by setting up food banks in the neediest areas of our Diocese. We were well represented at the conference with parish clergy, lay representatives and our own Community Action Officer, Stella Collishaw all contributing.
Why, as Christians, should we take such a special interest in ensuring that everyone in our county is fed? Well, Jesus had a special concern for the poor. And Jesus had a special concern too for those who were hungry. When thousands gathered to hear him teach and preach and the sun began to go down, the disciples were anxious that Jesus should send everyone away because there wasn’t enough food to go round. Instead, Jesus invited a young child with two fish and five loaves of bread to come forward, and somehow all five thousand people were fed. We don’t know how it happened, so we call it a miracle. But I like to think too that those who were selfishly hanging on to their own food were humbled by the generosity of that small child, and in turn shared their bread so that no-one went away hungry. It’s not for nothing that we refer to Jesus as the living bread in whom all our hungers are satisfied : spiritually yes, but rumbling tummies too.