Moving words from David Cone


On my way home from work yesterday I heard about this exhibit in San Antonio that highlights poverty and hunger in the United States. I just caught the end of it, but was moved by what I heard. I listened as they played clips from the exhibit as people reflected upon times in their lives when they were hungry. It dawned on me as I pulled into my driveway, “I have never been hungry.” Now, that sounds like a pretty obvious comment, but I delved into the deeper ramifications of that fact. I’ve never been hungry. Ever. I’ve fasted on occasion, but never for more than 36 hours or so – and you don’t get really hungry in 36 hours. So to relate to these voices – real people who have experienced real hunger. It was moving to me. Convicting.

It’s the last week of Lent, and I feel a sense of accomplishment after having left both candy and pop behind for the duration (though I did have one bottle cap, and Monday convinced myself that chocolate covered cashews were more nut than candy). That’s how trite I am. This story helped me stop in the mundaneness of my suburban life and reflect on the hunger pangs that so many people in our world feel. It doesn’t make any sense to me, as I sit amidst so much excess it’s hard for me to comprehend. I decided it’s time for me to feel real hunger pangs. I’m committed to working towards a three-day fast in the near future. Three days seems sufficient for me right now. Just to connect. To reflect. To receive a kick in the butt. A wake up call. People feel this all the time.

Then, to top it off, I am reading Marvin McMickle’s book Where Have all the Prophets Gone? with some minister friends of mine, and I came across his quotation of an incredible poem from African American theologian David Cone. It seems timely as I reflect through these things:

I was hungry
And you formed a humanities club
And you discussed my hunger.
Thank you.

I was imprisoned
And you crept off quietly
To your chapel in the cellar
And prayed for my release.

I was sick
And you knelt and thanked God
For your health.

I was homeless
And you preached to me
Of the spiritual shelter of God.

I was lonely
And you left me alone
To pray for me.
You seem so holy
So close to God.

But I’m still very hungry
And lonely
And cold.

So where have your prayers gone?
What have they done?
What does it profit a man
To page through his book of prayers
When the rest of the world is crying for his help?

From Cone’s essay entitled “The Servant Church” in The Pastor as Servant. eds. Shelp and Sunderland Pilgrim Press, 1986.
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