About three years ago, my husband and I set out on a course that completely revolutionized our faith. We were sitting in our car when we heard No Impact Man being interviewed on NPR. Now the author of a book and star of a documentary, he was just a guy trying to live in NYC with his family with little to no net environmental impact, and blogging all the way. As we began to examine the ways our lives impact our environment, we discovered Rob Bell’s book Velvet Elvis. We started listening to Bell’s sermons via iTunes. We discovered Brian McLaren’s book The Secret Message of Jesus. And through these authors we discovered the thing which completely changed our way of believing: Jesus didn’t come just so we could go away to some heavenly kingdom when we die, but so we can help make that heavenly kingdom a reality here on earth, right now. When Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is at hand” He literally meant right here and right now. The kingdom where God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven, the New Jerusalem, is exploding into our reality starting with the resurrection and Jesus’ defeat of death. And we have the honor of being asked to participate in God’s project of renewing all things.
In Genesis 2, when God puts Adam in the Garden of Eden and tells him to work and take care of this creation, the Hebrew verbs “to work” and “to take care of” are words used almost exclusively elsewhere to describe the worship of God. When we take care of creation, we are worshipping its Creator.
Rather than treat this planet as someplace disposable we’re leaving when we go to heaven, we believe we have a divine assignment to care for our environment and everything in it. One area of our lives in which this is most visible is the way we eat. And we believe food is literally a spiritual issue! Many of Jesus’ teachings took place in the context of a meal, whether it was the feeding of the 5,000, Mary anointing His feet with perfume and tears, the Last Supper, or the seaside breakfast He prepared for His disciples following His resurrection, when some of them didn’t recognize Him until they broke bread together. I think a case could be made that some of the times we can best see Jesus are when we are sharing a meal with others.
In our lives, this means eating food that is grown with respect to the planet, the workers who grow and harvest it, and the food itself. One interesting thing I have learned about Jews like Jesus is that when they pray before a meal, they do so in order to bless God for His provision, not to ask Him to bless their food. To have food to eat at all is to already be blessed. To choose food that is produced in a way that respects all of creation is to turn eating itself into an act of thankfulness and worship, even as we anticipate a joyous feast in God’s coming kingdom.