Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

116 posts categorized "Faith"

The Economics of Love for Neighbor

Child tax credits pull more children out of poverty than any other federal program. 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.

May I Hunger Enough

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

Finding Life's Purpose Through Travel, Faith, and Education

Kivu pic lightened
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.


Bread for the Preacher: Counting Our Days Wisely

5367306766_3044fcba3c_bEvery 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.

For You Always Have the Poor With You

3963306049_3d6267a1f5_oBy Bishop Jose Garcia

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

Transforming Fear Into Action

On-faithBy Rev. Ann Tiemeyer

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.

Advent Devotions: Listening Distractions?


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

I Corinthians 1:3-9           

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

Advent Devotions: Are You Ready to Be Seen?


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. Ruth T. West

Isaiah 64:1-9         

I am struck by the power that these words evoke as the writer of Isaiah recalls God's awesomeness. I imagine, as I read, the glory of God's majesty lighting up the night sky like a fireworks show at the end of a triumphal event. Creation quakes at the very anticipation of God's presence in the world.

When we are faced with troubled and troubling times, there seems to be some hope and comfort in remembering or invoking images of a powerful and majestic God.

As we recall the magnitude of what we think God has done, we are by necessity and comparison humbled to acknowledge our collective smallness. It seems there is an inner lens that makes it easier for us to see the sin, perceived sin, or wrongdoing of others. We righteously force humility onto ourselves by chanting together corporate prayers of confession. But can we see our individual selves - that is, can I see myself - the way God does? It is not particularly easy for me to be so specific about my own lapses in character.

Yet the writer seems to invite us to stand before God and ask to be seen.

Not only can God forgive our iniquities (sins), God is able to NOT remember. The stains of our shortcomings become invisible - not severed from our experience - rather they are present and yet un-seen.

So our request to be seen represents our hope for God's loving-kindness to embrace us despite our very selves. It encourages us to be open to be changed, and to be thankful that we are made to be malleable. It invites us to recall our personal experiences of God and to speak to a hurting world through them.

Rev. Ruth T. West is program manager for the Christian Spirituality program at San Francisco Theological Seminary

Advent Devotions: The Advent Listeners


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. Scott Clark

Luke 2:25-40        

This year, the story of Simeon and Anna concludes our Lessons & Carols services, and it begins our Advent devotions. It may seem a strange story to include at all in our Advent storytelling. Advent is the season that leads up to and anticipates Christmas. It is a season of waiting and looking and listening. But this story takes place eight days after Christmas, after Jesus is born. Mary and Joseph bring the baby Jesus to the Temple, and there they encounter Simeon and Anna. The parents put the baby in Simeon's arms, and Simeon and Anna announce: "This is God's salvation; this is God's light of revelation." They speak and begin to share this embodied Word. In the first days of Advent, this story may feel a little bit . . . out of season.

But there is an Advent story here, too: When this story opens, Simeon has been waiting for years and years "for the consolation of Israel." He lives in a world dominated by empire - a world of war, and oppression, and bare subsistence living. Simeon waits and watches and listens for God's word of consolation.

So too, Anna. Anna is an 84-year-old prophet and widow, who has lived most of her years waiting for that word, too: "Anna never left the temple, but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day."

Anna and Simeon are the original Advent listeners. In the years leading up to this story, Anna and Simeon are waiting and watching and listening - listening for God's word of consolation and hope and peace. And in this story, the long-awaited Word is made flesh in the midst of them.

Our Advent theme this year is "Listening for the Word Made Flesh." At Christmas, we celebrate the miracle of incarnation: "The Word was made flesh and dwelt in our midst . . . full of grace and truth." (John 1:14) During Advent, we listen and wait for that embodied Word. This year's theme asks us to join those first Advent listeners -- Anna and Simeon, John the Baptizer, Elizabeth and Mary, Zechariah and Joseph, shepherds, a people longing for liberation -- to listen to their stories, and then to listen in our world for the Word made flesh in the midst of us.

Where do we hear a Word in their stories?

Where do we hear an embodied Word coming to life in ours?

Rev. Scott Clark is chaplain and associate dean of student life at San Francisco Theological Seminary



A Holistic Message is Needed

Jerusalem - Old City ramparts 3
City walls, Jerusalem. (Stephen Padre/Bread for the World)

By Bishop José García

There is a pressing need to preach a holistic Gospel. We need to hear of the challenges and opportunities in responding to God’s call for an engaging ministry that can lead to spiritual and moral change, which in turn leads to socio-political and economic change. Scripture provides examples of men and women of God who acted as agents of change by engaging the political structures of their time.

One such case is that of Ezra and Nehemiah. They used what Dr. Ray Rivera calls the “Community Engagement Method.” Nehemiah, as a concerned citizen, felt burdened in a situation that was creating distress in the Jewish community. He addressed that need by using the available resources in the powers of government. Nehemiah was able to sort out the ethical differences between co-belligerency and advocacy on issues and survived as a capable leader working for a corrupt politician. Understanding that it was in the public interest of the king and a good political move for Israel to have the walls restored, Nehemiah engaged the king to get the resources and involved the local community in Jerusalem to support the wall-restoration project. In doing so, he got Ezra outside the “temple walls” to help rebuild the city walls. Ezra had rebuilt the temple, yet the city walls were in ruins. Sometimes the Church is too concerned with building the house of worship while the community around it is in emotional, social, and economic ruins.

In the book Heart for the Community, we find this quote: “It is unfortunate but true that many sermons on Sunday have nothing to do with our neighborhood reality of Monday.” This calls for the Church today to leave the church building in an incarnational spirit, to become one with the community, and to learn about conditions of pain, misery, suffering, and oppression outside its walls. By staying inside the walls, the Church has lost its prophetic voice to call for justice and righteousness. It is time for the Church to incarnate the values and lifestyle of the Kingdom and to share the Gospel that will “proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18, 19). This is a holistic message.

Because of the fall and curse on all of creation, this will require also dealing with the dysfunctional systems and structures that have an impact in the total welfare of people’s spirit, mind, and body. Jesus wants his church to “feed the hungry, give water to those who are thirsty, invite the stranger, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and those in prison.” Then he will say, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’” (Matthew 25:40).

At Bread for the World, we believe this is the generation that can end hunger in the United States and throughout the world by 2030. This will require a holistic message, where the Church can come out of the temple walls into the city walls to “proclaim release to the captives” from individual and systemic sin.

José García is the director of church relations at Bread for the World.

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