We close the September edition of the “Advocating on the Road” series with this spiritual reflection.
By the Rev. Carol Jensen, co-chair of Faith Action Network of Washington State (successor to the Lutheran Public Policy Office)
Most Sunday afternoons during the summer months, you will find me at the Everett Farmers Market, a short distance from my home. The first time I saw the sign “WIC and Senior Farmers Market Checks Welcome Here” prominently displayed on the stalls, I have to admit a surge of pride. Lutherans in Washington played a key role in bringing this program to our state — ELCA members and congregations have been longtime advocates for these important programs. Even more exciting, however, was observing real people exchange these checks for the fresh vegetables and fruits grown by local farmers.
The Washington State Farmers Market Nutrition Program is a blessing to seniors, low income families, and the farmers seeking a living from the land, but it is also a blessing to the wider community. In part due to this program, our Farmers Markets have become places where people interact across the boundaries that often divide us from one another (e.g., age, race, class and rural/urban). The Farmers Market Nutrition Program checks are a small part of the markets’ economy, yet they help create a much more diverse community of participants than would occur without them.
In late August, the church concluded five weeks of gospel readings from John 6, beginning with Jesus feeding 5,000 people and continuing with Jesus’ commentary that he is the bread of life that can satisfy our deepest hunger for communion with God. These texts show us God’s desire for our material and spiritual well-being, and also for bringing us into relationship with God and with one another. In the sacramental meal, we receive the bread that is Christ’s body and we become Christ’s body in God’s world. We are entrusted with the mission not only to feed people but to bring people into relationship with one another.
The WIC and Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Program is one particular way for us as taxpayers to serve the mission of God to feed the world as well as to build diverse, interdependent communities. Through Christ, God breaks down the walls that are between us. Picture a grandmother living on Social Security, a single mom with two toddlers in a stroller, a Spanish-speaking farmer from the Yakima Valley, an engineer from The Boeing Company, a man in a wheel chair all gathered around the cherries and cucumbers that were sustainably grown in local orchards and fields. It is a scene to remind us that we are fed by the bounty of God’s earth and the relationships that bind us together with God and one another.