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Hoping it’s not us? 30 November 2016

Posted by Dr Moose in Advent, Life, Ponderings.
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Day 4 of the Advent blogging and no (externally-appointed) daily themes have shown up. Such is life: full of both opportunity and obligation. Sometimes one dominates the other, sometimes not, and quite often I suspect we find ourselves wishing for the one when actually we have to other. After all, I’ve been used to having to work to deadlines and on themed projects, whereupon I’ve wanted the freedom, the opportunity to do exactly as I wish, and then, given that very same freedom, wish for structure and guidance (even obligation).

Today’s thoughts arose from an observation yesterday. Here in our University Chaplaincy we act both as a collecting point for the official foodbank, and, in a very quiet and limited capacity as a dispensary for food assistance, from our own limited supplies, gleaned from here and there, to students. Food comes in, usually to be passed on, sometimes for our own purposes.

prunesWhat I find interesting is the actual nature of the food supplies that pass through here. They make me wonder what preconceptions and expectations are at work in the mind of the donors (for whom I must stress that we are highly grateful). Besides the more usual, the pasta and the tinned tomatoes, there’s often the unexpected, mushy peas & mango pulp, for example. Most bizarrely, a recent bagful was dominated by prunes. Perhaps it says more about me, my age and upbringing, but prunes speak to me of that class of very healthy but thoroughly unpleasant food, something that I’m promised is good for me, but almost automatically tastes vile without serious help (although prunes soaked in port and used in stuffing are one of the unexpectedly enjoyable variations I’ve encountered). The subtext that comes with prunes, for me, is pretty explicitly that old phrase “beggars can’t be choosers”, the idea that if you need help that much you should be grateful for what you get.

Before any of my dear readers (all three of you!) accuse me of being unnecessarily judgmental about the motives of others I will freely admit to realising some time ago that I, too, was open to criticism. If I truly would want the same for others as for myself, any food I contribute should be of the same standard I’d expect for myself. If I’m happy buying supermarket own-brand economy ranges for my own use, then there’s no reason not to do so for others, but if I don’t but instead buy the highest quality for me and “lesser” produce to contribute to others who need it, then I may need to ask myself why. One perfectly valid answer may lie in good financial stewardship, the process of making my limited resources go further. At the same time I might need to carefully weigh up whether I’m making a value judgment somewhere in the process, that somehow I’m worth more than someone else. To do that falls foul of Jesus’ instruction to not only love God (with the fullness of all I have to offer), but also to love my fellow human beings as myself. (And then there’s the scarily counter-intuitive parable of the labourers in the vineyard!)

Which, eventually, brings this rambling blog back to the nature of the Advent Hope, and that the promises of God, as revealed in Jesus Christ through his life, works and words, and by the Holy Spirit through his Church, are full, free and generous beyond anything we deserve, or can truly grasp.In the economy of God, we don’t need to hope that it’s not us…

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1. tim ellis - 2 December 2016

Another possibility is that people are donating things they have ended up with that they don’t want? I remember my brother, when he first left home, saying he had been going around the supermarket and picked up a tin of Rice Pudding, because it would be a “quick and handy” desert or snack. It was only when he got home and was putting way his purchases he remembered he didn’t actually like rice pudding, and only ever ate it as a last resort. Maybe your mysterious prune donor had likewise “impulse bought” something they knew were “good for them” and subsequently realised they were never likely to eat (or as a student had been sent them as part of a “food parcel” from home)

Dr Moose - 2 December 2016

That is entirely possible too. I think it’s how we end up with tinned mushy peas…


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