Jun26MonA sermon on Leviticus 19:9-11 (Indigenous Peoples' Sunday: Food Sovereignty) June 26, 2023 by Sebastian Meadows-Helmer
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- Pr. Sebastian
In our reading from Leviticus this morning, the key to holy living is that we
must care for those living at the margins. This is not just an option, but a command from God,
which applies to all people.
The command to seek food justice for the poor is as important as prohibitions on incest and human sacrifice,
Seeking food security for all is similar to restrictions on bestiality and idolatry.
When you reap the harvest, don’t reap to the edges of the field:
or in other words, don’t take more than you need
so that all can have enough to eat.
Don’t strip the vineyards bare.
Even for the good stuff of life, wine and so on,
don’t rape and pillage the earth’s resources so that nothing is left over for anyone else!
Don’t steal, don’t deal falsely, don’t lie to one another.
This could mean in today’s context: If there are land treaties, honour them, don’t break them,
and if they’re broken, repair them.
Don’t cheat people of land that has been promised to them.
As settlers, we must acknowledge the history of colonialism:
that unfair treaties were forced on the First Nations,
that the land reserved for them was poor quality and couldn’t sustain them since the soil in these areas was shallow and infertile,
while settlers claimed the most fertile agricultural land,
We remember that even the water is poisoned with 24 indigenous communities in Ontario currently having water-boil advisories.
We have an obligation to learn more about the food sovereignty movement.
(United Church “Principles of Food Sovereignty”)
One way to explain it is to chart how we respond to hunger.
The first response to the problem of hunger is usually charity: handouts of food like in soup kitchens, our Out of the Cold programme, or the weekend and holiday food programmes of Food4Kids.
The second step is “food security”:
helping people have “Reliable access to a sufficient quality of affordable, nutritious food”: this can involve a variety of strategies such as community gardens and kitchens + community food teaching centres, like the saying goes:
"if you give a hungry person a fish, you feed her for a day,
but if you teach her how to fish,
than you feed her for a lifetime.”
The third step is to “address systemic and underlying justice issues that create food insecurity”, that is to go beyond just feeding people
to addressing root causes.
Food justice means that we move beyond a charity/ handout model
to a model of personal and political empowerment.
It’s moving from a band-aid fix,
to long-term solutions to address inequalities in the systems
that cause the problems in the first place.
For example, food sovereignty calls into question capitalist - neo-colonialist monoculture like tropical coffee, avocado and banana plantations that destroy natural habitats and ecosystems, often displacing indigenous peoples.
The food sovereignty movement draws attention to the large number of farmers (Canadian and international) who are in debt,
some in forms of modern-day slavery.
Another highlight is how corporate Agribusiness prosecutes farmers for infringing upon their patents,
as is the case with Monsanto, for example.
A goal of Christians is to live holy lives:
By not lying, cheating, or stealing.
God loves all people and wants all to live together with peace and justice.
Our actions and decisions reflect on the God we follow and love.
Individual actions affect the wellbeing of the entire community.
What are some things we can do?
We can take more time to understand where our food comes from;
is it produced in a fair, and sustainable manner that provides a decent livelihood for its producers?
Are adequate services and education available for the farmers?
How many miles does your food travel to get to your table?
We can investigate food charters like the Guelph Local Food Charter that can help guide local decision-making (a few copies are located in the Narthex).
We can support less-exploitative food stores and food sources, and look for Organic labels or “Fair Trade” labels when we purchase items.
Food is a “source of life, not a mere commodity to be bought and sold for profit” (United Church)
If we are to be holy people,
then we need to recognize the holiness of food,
and strive to build longer tables, where there is room for all to be fed,
And seek food justice so that hunger is met with compassion
and the will to change things for the betterment of all peoples.