Wednesday Week 1 of Advent

Jesus is up in the hills of the Galilee, sitting there, and crowds flock to him with their needy, the lame, the crippled, the blind, the sick. They are placed at his feet and he heals them and the crowd erupts in praise of God. But not only are the people crippled and sick—he sees their hunger and he feeds them, feeds them all when there isn’t enough to go round.
According to the New York Times this morning the crowd that gathered in Seattle yesterday was “a Noah’s’ Ark of flat-earth advocates, protectionist trade unions, and yuppies looking for their 1960s fix.” Well the crowd was definitely an astonishing mix of people bringing the needs of those they represent—ecological advocates and labour unions, anarchists and lobbyists. But one way or another they were—are—looking for their needs to be met and—ultimately—looking for food.
“On this mountain the Lord of Hosts will prepare for all peoples a banquet of rich food, and fine wine. On this mountain god will remove the mourning veil covering all peoples, the shroud enwrapping all nations—God will destroy death forever.”
It’s those three images that stand together in my mind and confuse me. Jesus, once upon a time, drawing to him a crowd of the sick and needy and satisfying them. The restored Israel of the end-times, drawing all the world to it for feeding, for healing, for life. And the world trade organisation besieged by protesters. Are they parallels or not?
I’ve spent the afternoon reading news reports from around the world about the Seattle riots and I can’t for the life of me unravel who wants what and why and who wants the very opposite. I can’t adjudicate the claims. There doesn’t seem to be enough to go round. I’m sure it’s not as simple as Free Trade vs. Fair Trade but it does seem to me that end-time vision of jubilee is at stake. Are we heading towards food and life for all people or towards greater profit for those who have the economic clout? I know they shouldn’t be opposites. I know that trade brings food, brings life. But why are all these different groups drawn here to beg that the face of those dear to them not be forgotten?
And where are we? Why did the people once stream to Jesus and promise again to flock to Zion but here and now riot around the WTO? Why does God seem irrelevant? It can’t be that food and life no longer matter to God. Maybe it’s because they no longer matter to us. Isn’t it a relief that the crowds riot in Seattle and not Rome, and not at our front door? Isn’t it a relief that we are not responsible for feeding the hungry and healing the sick? Thank God it’s out of our hands!
But it can’t be. It can’t be as long as we celebrate Eucharist. We are in the business of feeding. Jesus took the loaves and gave thanks and broke them and handed them to the disciples who handed them to the crowds. Taken, blessed, broken, given.
Whatever is going on in Seattle—tear gas and all—is wound up in what we do here. Or what we do here isn’t Eucharist at all.