99 posts categorized "Faith"
This week marks the 2015 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It is a time for Christians around the world to give thanks for the unity we already have as followers of the one Christ and for us to pray that we would make that unity visible among ourselves. Congregations and parishes often exchange preachers or arrange special ecumenical celebrations and prayer services during this week.
This year’s theme, “Jesus said to her: ‘Give me to drink’” (John 4:7), centers around the importance of water. Some may immediately think of their own baptism as one of most popular images of water - a symbol of life and divine affirmation of God with us. In John 4:7, we see an illustration of this in a conversation Jesus had with a Samaritan woman about the difference between good drinking water and living water.
After being tired from his journey and sending the disciples to get food, Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at a historic well called Jacob’s well in a place called Sychar. This place, which was near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph, was known for having good water that nourished the community. Jesus breaks the cultural taboo of asking a Samaritan to share with a Jew by requesting a drink of water from her. The Samaritan woman responds to Jesus by saying, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” Jesus responds with a surprising statement that moves the conversation to one that seeks to bridge their cultural and gender identities when he states: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink’, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
It is important to point out that although Jesus didn’t need to ask the Samaritan woman for a drink, he did. He put the Samaritan woman in the position of being the giver and hospitable host despite the ethnic and gender differences between them.
This story invites all of us to be givers and hospitable hosts. At Bread, one way we can give is to lend our voice to helping our nation’s children receive the meals they need by supporting the reauthorization of the child nutrition bill. The bill is set to expire this fall. The bill funds five major programs: National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Summer Food Service Program, Child and Adult Care food Program and WIC Program.
This year’s Offering of Letters focuses on the importance of nutrition among children, who are especially vulnerable to the effects of malnutrition during their early years of development. Bread is urging Congress to pass a child nutrition bill that protects these nutrition programs and gives more hungry children access to the meals they need to thrive and to ensure such programs are not paid for by cuts to other vital safety-net programs.
During this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Bread for the World gives thanks for the support it receives and the partnerships it has with a wide variety of denominations and faith communities—for the ecumenical nature of the mission it carries out. American Christianity has many faces and worships in so many different ways, but there is one thing we can agree on: God calls us to end hunger. Our denominations may not look unified, but we come together in places like Bread for the World because of our mandate from the same Jesus, who set the highest example of caring for people’s bodily needs.
In 2015, Bread invites you to learn about hunger and to join us in our effort to end hunger by 2030. It’s only with persistence and prayer that we can build the political will to end hunger here and abroad.
Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith is the associate for national African-American church engagement at Bread for the World.
Photo: In rural areas of developing countries, women and girls are responsible for retrieving water used in cooking, drinking, cleaning, and washing. Richard Lord for Bread for the World.
By Bread Staff
Derick Dailey, a board member of Bread for the World, recently wrote on the issues of hunger and poverty for Yale Divinity School's Reflections: A Magazine of Theological and Ethical Inquiry.
He said "too many Americans still live on the outskirts of hope" because of the country's "broken immigration system, dysfunctional public schools, black and brown genocide in our city streets, and chronically unproductive legislative structures."
At Bread, we are committed to ending hunger by 2030. It is only with voices like Dailey’s, spreading the message of the challenges and the solutions, that ending hunger can become reality. The following are excerpts from Dailey’s insightful piece:
On how faith institutions play a role in ending hunger:
Social justice is a larger priority for faith institutions and theological education. Congregations are embracing strands of political theology to fight poverty and hunger.
Involvement looks different for each community. Some groups run local soup kitchens and food giveaways. Others ask Congress to support strong poverty-reduction policies. Others directly invest in building schools and libraries in underdeveloped countries. Another trend is the collective mobilization of their church, typically the national body, to divest from companies that do not support their vision of justice. Thanks to progressive theological education, new generations of faith leaders are demanding that social justice be central to a prophetic gospel in ecclesial bodies, businesses, and global.
On how “smart power” is changing the fight against hunger and poverty:
Smart power is now in the policy arsenal of most developed countries. Rich countries are investing unprecedented dollars toward poverty reduction to ensure stability and exert influence throughout high-conflict regions. The United Kingdom, in 2013 alone, spent 11.3 billion pounds on international aid. 7 Non-state actors such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank invest in anti-poverty policies through debt relief and development. Under President Obama, the U.S. State Department has doubled the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the executive agency tasked with issues of food aid and humanitarian assistance. Hunger reduction continues to infiltrate American mainstream political discourse and policy circles.
On how people of faith can get involved:
Ending hunger will not happen without a move of God. For the Old Testament prophets, food was, in effect, a basic human right. They remind us to seek justice for everyone, especially the orphan and the widow, so that everyone has enough to eat. There is no shortage of biblical support for food justice and God’s continued grace. So we must pray and act. Pursue food justice locally. Urge policymakers to embrace poverty-reduction strategies. Leverage your voices and your votes.
In this election season, consider contacting your federal legislators about eliminating hunger in the world. Tell them you are moved by God’s grace to work to end hunger by 2030, and your vote depends on their support for poverty-reduction policies. Encourage your church to pray for the end of hunger in its weekly devotionals, Bible study, and worship.
Dailey graduated with a master's degree from Yale Divinity School last year and is now attending Hofstra Law School in Hempstead, N.Y.
By Jennifer Gonzalez
Christian leaders from the Circle of Protection gathered Thursday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to implore 2016 presidential hopefuls to make ending hunger and poverty a national priority.
The Circle of Protection represents various denominations which millions of Americans are members of, and Christian relief and development agencies that work to alleviate hunger and poverty here and abroad. Christian leaders are challenging the 2016 presidential hopefuls to submit videos outlining how they would end hunger and poverty - putting pressure on them not to stay silent on the issue.
Here is a sample of what the Christian leaders said on Thursday:
Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World: "There is broad consensus among faith leaders that our country has been culpably neglectful of poverty, especially in our own country. 100 Christian leaders of all stripes are urging all the candidates to explain, on camera, what they would do to provide help and opportunity to hungry and poor people in our country and around the world.”
Galen Carey, vice president for government relations, National Association of Evangelicals: “There are different ways to address the needs of poor and vulnerable people—some more effective than others. Christians who believe government leaders are called to share God’s concern for the poor and vulnerable want to know how presidential candidates would approach this essential responsibility. Silence on poverty is inexcusable.”
Rev. Carlos Malavè, executive director, Christian Churches Together in the USA: “Christian leaders from all major Christian traditions have come to have a shared sense that the extent of poverty in this country is unnecessary and shameful. We expect that our president, regardless of which political party he or she represents, place hunger and poverty at the top of his or her priorities."
Fr. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA: “For the 45 million Americans living in poverty, the state of our union leaves them struggling to get by. Helping them achieve their full potential should not be a partisan issue - it's time for candidates from both sides of the aisle to have a meaningful conversation about advancing the common good."
Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World.
By Bread Staff
Jesus never avoided uncomfortable subjects. Where polite society might frown on talking openly about money, Jesus confronted people’s beliefs, both spoken and unspoken, regarding finances.
He understood how much of human life is affected by our attitudes toward wealth, by the way workers are compensated, and especially by economic realities—including taxes—that affect everyone.
More than once, Jesus was questioned about the morality of paying taxes. In each case, he acknowledged the responsibility to pay taxes while drawing attention to the deeper questions about the place of economics in our lives.
When asked to pay the temple tax, he directed his disciple to catch a fish, whose mouth held a coin worth enough to pay for both of their taxes (Matthew 17:24-27).
When asked about the lawfulness of paying taxes to the emperor, he reminded the Pharisees that their first loyalty is owed to God. Everything belongs to God, the first and greatest giver.
Since we are made in God’s image, we can follow that example and order our economic life, including our tax policies, accordingly (Matthew 22:15-22).
An Economics of Sharing
These stories affirm the central place of an economics of sharing in a life governed by love for neighbor.
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan, who provided for the needs of a complete stranger after he had been beaten, robbed, and left for dead (Luke 10:25-37). Jesus told that story to expand our understanding of who is our neighbor, not to tell us to wait until someone is bleeding by the roadside before we help.
In telling his disciples to “go and do likewise,” isn’t he also calling us to make provisions for our neighbors who are victimized by their situation in life?
This call to seek justice for hungry and poor people requires us to take such compassionate actions to another level, moving beyond simple acts of sharing with those in need to the more encompassing action of advocacy. Through our advocacy for better government policies, we can help more families receive sufficient resources so they can keep from going hungry.
Proverbs 13:23 states, “The field of the poor may yield much food, but it is swept away through injustice.” Today the labor of poor people is essential to the success of our economy, yet many workers do not see a fair share of the harvest. It is unjust that many who may work full-time at low wages will not take home an amount adequate for their families’ basic needs. The biblical call to do justice compels us to make sure that more of the harvest reaches those who produce it.
This year, we can help prevent the erosion of income by supporting tax credits for low-income workers. These tax credits can help millions of American workers support themselves and their families. Our efforts can put food into the mouths of hungry children, and restore hope and dignity to millions of households. It’s compassionate justice in action.
Find more reflections like this on the Bread for the World website.
Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World
Lord, let me hunger enough that I not forget the world’s hunger.
Lord, let me hunger enough that I may have bread to share.
Lord, let me hunger enough that I may long for the Bread of Heaven.
Lord, let me hunger enough that I may be filled.
But, O Lord, let me not hunger so much that I seek after that which is not bread, nor try to live by bread alone.
From Banquet of Praise
KIVU Gap Year students Caroline Barry, left, and Margaret Kuester, center, visit the office of U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA-11). Jared Noetzel, right, evangelical engagement fellow at Bread, sits in the meeting. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.
By Jennifer Gonzalez
Roughly 20 college-bound high school graduates visited Bread for the World’s offices last week to learn about Bread’s work and how they can become advocates to end hunger by 2030.
The students’ visit is part of their 8-month “gap year” experience facilitated by faith-based KIVU Gap Year. A “gap year” is when students take a year off school in between high school and college (typically deferring college enrollment) to explore their educational and life goals before starting college.
Part of the students’ experience at Bread was learning about our advocacy work. Before heading out to Capitol Hill to speak with their members of Congress, the students received a tutorial of sorts about Bread’s advocacy goals, especially the child nutrition reauthorization bill, and how to speak with legislators.
The bill is set to expire this year, and Bread plans to work vigorously to ensure its reauthorization. In fact, this year’s Offering of Letters focuses on the importance of child nutrition.
“Having student groups like Kivu Gap Year visit Bread is a great opportunity for young people to learn about living out their faith through advocacy,” said Christine Melendez Ashley, senior policy analyst at Bread. “They get to put that into practice by going to visit their members of Congress. We help empower them to be a voice for the voiceless, in this case, for kids at risk of hunger.”
Maggie Parsley, 18, from Columbus, Ohio, said she found her visit to Bread both informative and inspiring. She got to visit with aides from the offices of Ohio Sens. Sherrod Brown (D) and Rob Portman (R) and speak with them about the importance of child nutrition.
Parsley said she hopes the “gap year” experience will give her an opportunity to figure out her life’s passion and be better prepared for college. “For me, I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do [after high school],” she said. “I didn’t know where I wanted to go.”
KIVU’s gap year is divided into two components: domestic and international. Students spend the first half of their “gap year” doing a domestic internship. Parsley did hers at a refugee resettlement center in Denver, Col. On Saturday, the students left to go overseas to begin their international internships in countries such as Rwanda, Philippines, Tanzania and Israel.
For some students, the opportunity to grow closer to God and deepen their faith was central to their decision to join KIVU’s gap year experience. “I believe God was calling me to do this,” said Courtney Lashar, 19, of Norman, Okla. Lasher spent her domestic internship at Sox Place - a daytime youth drop-in center in Denver, Colo.
In fact, Lashar’s meeting with Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK-4) turned from a political encounter to a spiritual one when prayer was recited at the end of their meeting - first by Krisanne Vaillancourt-Murphy, who leads national evangelical church relations at Bread, and then by the congressman himself. “He wanted to pray for us. For our trip and what we were doing as part of KIVU,” Lashar said. “It was an amazing thing to see.”
Jared Noetzel, evangelical engagement fellow at Bread, said that advocacy should be part of Christian discipleship, and that these young people get that. "They are ready not only to take their faith seriously, but to turn it into action. Their choice to advocate for the marginalized in society represents the best of our shared, Christian social ethic."
Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World.
Every month, the church relations department at Bread for the World produces a resource specifically for pastors. Whether you are searching for inspiration for a sermon you're writing or are just a lectionary enthusiast, Bread for the Preacher is for you.
After reading this introduction, explore this month’s readings on the Bread for the Preacher web page, where you can also sign up to have the resource emailed to you each month.
By Bishop José García
So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart (Psalm 90:12).
In our modern day, time is a precious commodity. In athletic competitions, milliseconds can be the difference between a gold, silver, or bronze medal. Endorsements and contracts worth millions hinge on those fractions of seconds.
Many of us make resolutions at the beginning of the new year. They can be related to diet, lifestyle, relationships, unhealthy behaviors, etc. The sales of books related to self-improvement, diet, and exercise spike at the beginning of the year. However, this Scripture encourages us to use time wisely. The best use of time is when we realign our priorities with God's kingdom priorities. Let us try to be light "before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). Let us use our time wisely to be advocates in prayer, action, and giving for justice for people who are struggling with hunger and poverty.
The political climate at the beginning of this year looked dim. However, because of the prayers, actions, such as the Offering of Letters, and advocacy visits to members of Congress, we rejoice in the many victories that were achieved in legislation that impacted hunger and poverty in the United States and globally. Read our blog at bog.bread.org for detailed information.
As we reflect on the lessons prepared for this month's lectionary readings, let us use our time wisely and shine for God's justice.
Jose Garcia is a bishop in the Church of God of Prophecy and the director of the church relations department at Bread for the World.
Photo: Offering of Letters. Dulce Gamboa/Bread for the World.
Outgoing Texas governor and potential presidential candidate Rick Perry was asked in a Dec. 9 Washington Post interview about the growing gap between rich and impoverished people in his state. The article on Perry’s interview states, “(Texas) has had strong job growth over the past decade but also has lagged in services for the underprivileged.” Perry’s response: “Biblically, the poor are always going to be with us in some form or fashion.”
Perry expressed an explanation that many Americans believe. He appears to be referencing a Bible passage in Mark 14:7: “For you always have the poor with you.”
I celebrate that the Bible is accessible to everybody. However, it must be understood in context and not used out of context.
Jesus uttered the words recorded in Mark 14:7 in an exchange in which some were criticizing a woman who chose to anoint Jesus before his burial with what was probably one of her most precious possessions, an ointment of nard. She could have been saving this very expensive nard for her wedding. During biblical times, brides were traditionally anointed with this oil. Yet in this passage, we see that the woman chooses to use the oil as an offering to honor Jesus.
It is interesting to note that some in our modern times use Jesus’ response to the criticism of this woman to make poverty seem like something inevitable—or even worse—to not make it a concern. Jesus praises the woman for her choice. His earthly ministry was about to end, and he was telling the disciples they would not have the opportunity to honor him in that fashion on earth again. Yet people living in poverty among us remain an opportunity to honor and serve God.
Maybe Jesus was referring to a sentiment expressed in Deuteronomy 15:11: “Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, ‘Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.’”
If we take this passage in context, verses 7 to 11—or the whole chapter, for that matter—we can see that it addresses the priority of caring for people struggling with poverty. God did not want people to live in extreme poverty and want. The laws established by God in this passage and many others make provision for economic justice.
However, because of the sins of greed and disobedience to God’s commandments, humanity experiences social and economic disparity. That should not be the case. Money and wealth should be tools with which we are given the power of choice to use for the welfare of all. The Bible does not discourage wealth but rather encourages us to use it as a tool for good works that reflect God’s love.
The Bible should not be used out of context as a pretext for government officials or anyone else to rationalize the lack of action toward the end of hunger and poverty. In our nation, the most prosperous, most technologically advanced in the world, nearly 49 million Americans struggle to put food on the table, and 45 million live in poverty. One in five children are not sure where their next meal will come from. We cannot choose one Bible text, out of context, to ignore the plight of millions who do not have a fair choice for their nutrition, decent housing, education, health, living wages, and job opportunities.
By faith, at Bread for the World we believe that if the president and Congress can, in a bipartisan way, summon the political will to end hunger and extreme poverty, this desire can become a top priority in our national policies and a goal achievable by the year 2030.
Jose Garcia is a bishop in the Church of God of Prophecy and the director of the church relations department at Bread for the World.
Photo: Bread for the World
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, ...
"Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, ..." (From Psalm 46)
Fear can be paralyzing. Fear can paralyze a person, a city, a nation, and a global community. When Ebola appeared in the United States, fear seemed to spread at lighting speed through Dallas and across our nation to our "leaders" in D.C. Calls for canceling flights threatened to paralyze a positive global response. As Christians, when we see fear that points a finger and blames innocent people — people who are sick, people who offered help to those who are sick, people who are different from us — how can we respond? How do we keep from being paralyzed by the fear? One powerful response is prayer — to take our fears to God. Psalm 46 reminds us that "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."
When I turned to prayer in the face of the U.S. Ebola fear, I found a deep sense of thanksgiving welled up my heart. I am thankful for the privilege of living in a country with a medical system that can, within two months and three days after the tragic death of Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas, give thanks for Dr. Craig Spencer's release from the hospital free of the Ebola virus.
When I turned to prayer in the face of the global Ebola fear, my heart was filled with thoughts of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Laymah Gbowee, whose foundation — begun with her Nobel Prize funds — immediately activated grants to stem the spread of Ebola. In the midst of her advocacy work, Gbowee experienced the loss her father. On her Facebook page she reflected:
The last few weeks have been a roller coaster week for me. Beyond the Ebola nightmare, I lost my dad two weeks ago in Ghana. This has been a hard time for me; however, I think my dad taught me a very valuable lesson before leaving me. Every day for the last nine days of his life, I sang his favorite hymn "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." The song's chorus chides us to take all of life's trials and tribulations to the "Lord in prayer." There we will find comfort, and most importantly wisdom and knowledge when our human understanding fails us. Today, I think I understand why my dad had me sing this song to him. He was telling me to talk to God in every situation: Talk to God, ...
When we take our fears to God in prayer, the overwhelming recognition of God's love for all of us can transform our fear into thankfulness and our thankfulness into action and advocacy.
So, as we gather with our families during this time of year, may we take time to be still and be in prayer. Let us utter out loud our fears. Fears such as our government continuing in deadlock, causing suffering for the poor, people who are un- and underemployed, hungry, undocumented, or incarcerated. As we transition from Thanksgiving to Advent, let us remember the biblical stories for this church season, how angels, sent from God, visited both Zechariah and Mary and told them, "Do not be afraid…"
We can carry into Advent our Thanksgiving gratefulness and prayers. Together in prayer, our fears will transform to thanksgiving — a thanksgiving for a loving God who is ultimately in charge. Thanksgiving for a God of love, forgiveness, empowerment, and life, who can move us to action and advocacy. Fear through prayer becomes thankfulness that can empower us to advocate for change that reflects God's love exalted among all nations.
Rev. Ann Tiemeyer (pictured), a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), is the former Associate General Secretary for Joint Action and Advocacy of the National Council of Churches.
This Advent season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals written by staff, alumni, and friends of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
By Rev. Dr. Bill Johnson
For me, today is special: It's my 80th birthday! Far more important than my birthday celebration is the promise that we have as we listen to and encounter God as made known to us in Jesus the Christ. God is to be listened to; Jesus is to be celebrated - especially as we begin this new, yet ancient, Advent season.
I have never been a good listener; I prefer to talk or read or cook or collect antiques or travel. Some of you might be like me in some ways. But, I have learned over the years to try to listen to God: sometimes as I read a biblical passage; sometimes through a sermon; sometimes via my wife or dear friends; sometimes through events in my community or our world; sometimes even through fact or fiction books. I kind of try to listen to "the still small voice" of God, which isn't always still or small. Sometimes it is a movement like a soft rustling breeze or a roaring wind; sometimes it shakes and rattles me like an earthquake. But, God speaks. Why? Because "God is faithful...."
From the time I was in junior high school I studied with music in the background. Just ask my classmates at UCLA or SFTS. Even when I write sermons, there is always classical music or jazz. But, somehow God has always broken through my self-made distractions so that, like some of you, I am privileged, blessed, even forced, to listen to God.
Here, in I Corinthians, we see Paul reminding the church of God's faithfulness - strengthening us in spite of the cacophony of distractions bombarding us from every direction. God speaks. The question is: Do we listen? And not necessarily in conventional ways.
During Advent, discover your listening level - and your distractions - as you are surrounded by the grace and peace of God in Jesus. That is all we really need to hear.
Rev. Dr. Bill Johnson is an alumnus of San Francisco Theological Seminary
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