121 posts categorized "Faith"
I am not into celebrating the lives of my ancestors for just one month out of the year. Rather, I take a moment each and every day to reflect on the lives of my ancestors, on the lives of greatness. Black History Month is not all that exciting for me, but it does serve as a reminder, nevertheless.
During the month of February, I am reminded, especially by others who celebrate the lives of black people, of how educated, beautiful, radiant, talented, driven, brilliant, intelligent, innovative, and legendary my people are. I am reminded that no matter how we are perceived today, that we were once kings, queens, inventors, innovators, educators, leaders, architects, and rulers of great nations, to name a few. I am reminded of how resilient and strong that we have always been and must continue to be.
Having grown up in the rural Mississippi Delta, I am reminded of my sharecropping grandparents who spent many years on a plantation in Leflore County. Many years in which they worked to provide housing and basic necessities for their eldest children. Many years in which they were short-changed daily by their “landlord” and barely made ends meet. It’s similar to the plight of so many residents in the Mississippi Delta, who struggle to provide for their families in 2015. I am reminded of the systemic issue of hunger and poverty that has always been pervasive in the Mississippi Delta due to blacks having little to no access to land or resources. I am reminded of the local, statewide, and federal policies that have allowed these systemic issues to remain commonplace.
I am reminded of great leaders who organized in an effort so that others and I would one day have better lives, opportunities, and a chance to live in a more just society void of systemic issues that plague black communities. I am reminded of Fannie Lou Hamer. I am reminded of June Johnson. I am reminded of Euvester Simpson. I am reminded of Victoria Gray Adams. I am reminded of Annie Devine. I am reminded of Unita Blackwell. I am reminded of Sam Block. I am reminded of Willie B. Peacock. I am reminded of Jesse Harris. I am reminded of Silas McGhee. I am reminded of Hollis Watkins.
In 2015, as we fight to prove that “black lives matter,” I am reminded of why I have chosen what I dare not call a career, but a way of life. I am reminded that the battles that my ancestors fought have not been won yet. The torch has been passed on. The fight must continue.
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” –Assata Shakur, an African-American activist (b. 1947)
Brittany Gray is a regional organizer at Bread for the World.
Photo: Brittany Gray at a Moral Movement Rally in Jackson, Miss. Brittany Gray/Bread for the World.
By Robin Stephenson
Can we turn our faith into action and become conduits of God’s love as leaders in our communities?
Travel writer and Bread for the World member Rick Steves thinks so. Steves talked about the importance of advocacy as an act of faith during the Faith Action Network (FAN) annual fundraising dinner in Seattle, Wash., last November.
Advocacy goes beyond models of charity. For Steves, it is the implementation of God’s love to address structural poverty. It is an extension of stewardship that considers community and neighbor. "We are so richly blessed," Steves said. "I think if we are honest with our faith, we take that stewardship seriously."
Steves used the image of a Whirling Dervish to show how people of faith can be tools of God.
“He plants one foot in community - his home - and his other foot goes around the world, acknowledging the beautiful diversity of God’s great creation," Steves said. "He raises one hand up to God to accept the love of his maker, the other hand, like the spout of a tea kettle, goes down and showers God’s love on his great creation as he whirls - one foot in his home with his loved one, the other celebrating the diversity in his community.”
Steves’ worldview is shaped by his faith and travel. He said that one of the reasons he values travel is that he can view his own country from a distance but also see the different ways communities across the globe deal with similar challenges. “We can learn from other people's experiences, we can share notes,” he said.
Steves’ book, Travel as a Political Act explores how travel can connect people and engender a mutual understanding. Travel opens our eyes because it exposes the similarities and diversities of various approaches to living. Sometimes what we see is gross inequality. But for Steves, that pushes him to engage his elected officials - the leaders who make policies that affect vulnerable people around the world.
Last year, Steves spoke out about a policy provision in a Coast Guard Reauthorization bill that would have increased the percentage of food aid required to be shipped on U.S. vessels from 50 to 75 percent. If passed, it would have reduced the reach of food-aid programs by 2 million people annually. Steves sees short-term profit over feeding hungry people as a problem of perspective.
“Sure, we have our economic challenges,” Steves wrote in The Seattle Times last June. “But 90 percent of humanity would love to have our crisis. Half of humanity is struggling to survive on $2 a day. When you travel, you understand that’s a real crisis.”
By speaking up in your communities and with your elected officials, advocates like you and Rick Steves, helped put a stop to the harmful provision. God’s love for humanity channeled through God’s people triumphed. That is faith in action!
A Whirling Dervish, perpetually in motion and radiating God’s love and promise out to the world, is a nice metaphor for what we do as faithful advocates. By urging our elected officials to craft programs and policies that celebrate human diversity, while acknowledging that we are one people tied together by God’s love, we most certainly do turn our faith into action.
Watch the video of Rick Steves' presentation on the Rick Steves' Europe Blog.
As the 114th Congress begins its work, we’ll need your help to ensure that food-aid reform is a priority. Bread will continue to work on this issue and urge Congress to pass legislation that helps those who need food the most to get it. Learn more: U.S. Food-Aid Reform.
Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.
Photo inset: Whirling Dervishes. Tomas Maltby/Wikimedia Commons.
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
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