January 15, 2011

Praying in the Produce Aisle

Grocery shopping can be a chore: something on the weekly to-do list, necessary but not especially rewarding or exciting. I suspect it is safe to say that most folks don’t approach this task as an occasion for prayer -- but perhaps we should.

The next time you are in the produce aisle, take some time to reflect on the bounty before you. Even a regular grocery store will have at least six varieties of apples, maybe eight different lettuces, five kinds of tomatoes. Kale comes in two or three forms, each one colorful and interesting; there are red, yellow, orange, and green sweet peppers, and small fiery chiles. For relatively small amounts of money, we can have the fruits of someone else's labor in unimaginable array.

When I am in a hurry, tired, stressed, it is easy to miss the extraordinary beauty and abundance in this ordinary place. But instead of mentally griping about the high prices or the hassle, I am trying instead to engage my shopping chores with a sense of gratitude and thanksgiving. I am trying to be mindful of the care and provision that God makes for all creation, understanding that as pure grace, and rejoicing.

And I am also reminding myself of those unable to partake of the bounty because they are poor, disabled, ill; because there is no real grocery story in their neighborhood; because they have to ride a bus to shop. I am reminding myself to offer prayers prayers of intercession on behalf of the hungry in my own area and then concentrating on putting those intercessions into action.

And finally, I think that produce aisle might also be a call to repentance. There is enough food in the world so no one has to go hungry and yet people are still starving to death. The problem is not lack of food, but lack of will. Might we repent of our self-focus and turn our skill and ability to repairing the structures that keep the hungry from being fed?

Physicist Brian Swimme writes about the creation of the universe as “a titanic bestowal, a stupendous quantum of free energy given forth from the bottomless vaults of generosity.” All that gift is played out in microcosm right there in the midst of the squash and the celery and the peppers. Let us pray that we may be part of realizing that overflowing abundance.

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