SERMON: Community Cupboard Sunday

SERMON: Community Cupboard Sunday

A sermon preached by Nikolaj Christensen at Rose Hill Methodist Church and at the evening service at St Mary’s on 30 January 2022. You can also watch the sermon on YouTube.

We apologise for the technical issues we experienced this morning when attempting to live-stream the morning service at St Mary’s with our guest preacher, the Revd Peter Powers, Superintendent of the Oxford Methodist Circuit.

Today we celebrate 8 years of Community Cupboard, and 8 years of partnership between our two churches. When we were together in one united service of celebration 2 years ago, we couldn’t have imagined what the next 2 years were to bring. But we made it through. And, sadly, a place like Community Cupboard is needed more than ever.

You may have heard that prices have gone up by a record 5% recently, but recently the food writer and former food bank user Jack Monroe got a lot of attention for posting on Twitter about some observations she had made, to say that the 5% is just the tip of the iceberg. Here’s a bit of what she wrote:

This time last year, the cheapest pasta in my local supermarket … was 29p for 500g. Today it’s 70p. That’s a 141% price increase as it hits the poorest and most vulnerable households.

This time last year, the cheapest rice at the same supermarket was 45p for a kilogram bag. Today it’s £1 for 500g. That’s a 344% price increase …

Canned spaghetti. Was 13p, now 35p. A price increase of 169%. …

Peanut butter. Was 62p, now £1.50. A price increase of 142%. …

And just to add:
– an upmarket ready meal range was £7.50 ten years ago, and is still £7.50 today.
– a high-end stores ‘Dine In For Two For £10’ has been £10 for as long as I can remember.
– [but] my local supermarket had 400+ items in their value range, it’s now [only] 91 (and counting down).

If it was just for that – but this isn’t the only area where those who can least afford it are being squeezed the most. The cost of gas and electricity is rising dramatically for everyone, but most of all for those on prepayment meters, who were already paying the highest rates. On top of that, Universal Credit is being cut. National Insurance is going up. Many are still suffering the effects of the pandemic, mentally and physically, not least children who have been kept home from school. And then there’s the changing job market which is leaving some people feeling unwanted. All of this is hitting our friends who come to Community Cupboard.

But it’s not anger that leads us to keep the doors open. Let me go back to that passage we heard from 1 Corinthians and suggest that the ultimate foundation of Community Cupboard is love. Love for our neighbours, yes, but first and foremost the love of God as we have experienced it in our own lives.

‘Love is patient; love is kind; love … bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things’. That’s above all a description of the nature of God our Father as we know him in the face of his Son, Jesus Christ.

Because as St John says, ‘God is love … We love because he first loved us’. As St Paul says: ‘God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.’ And so, in the reading we have heard today, Paul seeks to persuade the Corinthians that the foundation of everything is love. Because they were a community where Christian brothers and sisters had been torn apart by divisions, with some claiming to belong to the party of Apollos, some to Peter, and some to Paul, and competing about who was the most spiritual. And while they were squabbling about their differences, the poor were being left out when the community came to eat together.

Paul has to remind them here that love should take first place in how we relate to each other. Again, to quote St John: ‘since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.’ Community Cupboard was founded in that love – in a friendship between two ministers from different churches, Carol and Sarah, coming together not to discuss whether it’s better to be Methodist or Anglican, but to bring our churches together in a partnership for the good of our neighbours.

So, God’s love for us inspires us to love one another as brothers and sisters, and that love spills over into love for all in our local community, especially those in greatest need. Above all, we hope that those who come to Community Cupboard leave not just with food but with a feeling of having been seen and recognised as an individual worthy of every good thing, worthy of friendship, and worthy of a love that springs from God’s love. —

As we look to the year ahead – and the years ahead – we will pray that we will be filled more and more with a knowledge of God’s love for us each as individuals. We must pray that our churches will continue to be places marked by love for one another, within each of our churches and between them. We must pray that our hearts will be broken for the things that are broken in our world. But above all, we must give thanks for all the great mercies that have been shown us, and all the gifts we have been given: some of them gifts to give away, as we sometimes say in our prayers at Community Cupboard.