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Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Praying Before Eating, Praying Before Consuming

Our mealtime prayers precede a kind of consuming. But that word consuming has a more complex meaning related to a form of economic activity central to our culture and society. Rachel Anderson wrote an intriguing reflection on the practice of praying before consuming, tying it to this seasonal feast of shopping.

We pray in gratitude at mealtime. Are we also grateful in our other consumer activity?

We pray in humility because we are not able on our own to assure the supply of food. Are we humble in our other consumer activity?

We pray in compassion for those who made it possible for us to eat and for those who may not share our abundance. Are we compassionate toward the makers, the workers, the less prosperous, in our buying?

We pray in hope for many more good meals shared with our loved ones. Are our acts of consumption acts of hope for shared prosperity?

The idea grabs hold of me as I think back on the past few weeks of shopping for a car and shopping for gifts. Here is a portion of Anderson's essay from God's Politics.

A gratitude economy involves, I think, a more spiritually conscious consumerism. It is no better to wallow in guilt about our need to buy things than to flaunt our ability to buy while considering ourselves specially blessed. It will not advance global justice to focus simply on what not to buy; rather we also have the responsibility to buy the right things –- for ourselves and for our brothers and sisters worldwide.

As we go about our shopping or no-shopping in the next days, why not say a prayer dedicating the buying and giving and receiving and yes -– our stuff — to God?

May the food we eat feed those who farmed it. May the things we buy support those who fashioned and shipped and sold them. For everything we enjoy from your good earth, God, thank you.

And if the purchase doesn’t sit right with the prayer –- well, maybe that’s a sign to put it back on the shelf.

This is a good place to link a video I saw recently from a group called the advent conspiracy. Take a look at it. It is not a new idea, but a good presentation of ideas long promoted by people like Alternatives for Simple Living and BPFNA.

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