Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

110 posts categorized "Faith"

Advent Devotions: Listening Distractions?

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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?

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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

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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.

Bread for the Preacher: Show the World the Kingdom of God

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(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

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. — Isaiah 9:6-7

This is a glorious passage with a glorious promise. There will be a great, perfect government of peace, justice, and righteousness. It will be like that because the Prince of Peace, our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, and Everlasting Father will be in charge. No earthly government can accomplish that.

However, we do not have to wait for the reign of the Messiah to experience God's peace. Scripture clearly states that the Kingdom of God is joy, peace, and righteousness. As citizens of God's kingdom, let us celebrate this Christmas by emulating the government of the Prince of Peace to change the circumstances provoked by financial despair, wars, social inequalities, crime, drugs, greed, injustice, hunger, disease, corrupt authorities, abuse against children, women, those helpless in society, and many other maladies. Let us reach out with the message of salvation, justice, and hope. Let us preach this message, not only from the pulpit, but from our hearts with acts of compassion, love, and service that exemplifies the life of Christ when he dwelled among us. Let us join the voices of those who are crying out for an opportunity to have and make choices that can deliver them from the strongholds of poverty, hunger, and inequality.

Let us intentionally put off our old self, be made new in the attitude of our minds, and put on the new self. Let us do this so the Holy Spirit can work through us in an endeavor to live a true Christian witness that allows the world to experience the righteousness of the Kingdom of God.

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

Rev. David Beckmann Challenges You to #ShareYourPlate

By Bread Staff

Yes, here’s proof that Rev. David Beckmann can cook – but with the help of two young anti-hunger activists, Elizabeth Quill and Margaret Hudak.

Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, answered a #ShareYourPlate challenge: a Catholic Charities, USA social media campaign to raise awareness about the pervasiveness of hunger. By sharing a cooking video, the #ShareYourPlate campaign reminds us that food is something we all share.

While preparing a taco salad, Quill and Hudak emphasized the need to advocate for programs that help people put food on their table. The girls told Beckmann of a meeting they had with their Virginia members of Congress in which they asked lawmakers to support funding for the SNAP program (formerly food stamps).

Their lobby visit illustrates how sharing a story with your member of Congress is a powerful advocacy tool. It can also help lawmakers understand the reality of hunger in states and districts far removed from their Washington, D.C. offices.

Hudak related her own experience of seeing hunger in the lunchroom at school.  She noticed some students restricted their purchases to only cereal and milk and saw others go without food entirely. “A kid can’t function through the day on milk and cereal,” she said.

Last December, Catholic Charities USA, Bread for the World, and others answered Pope Francis and Caritas Internationalis’ call for a global wave of prayer to end hunger as part of the One Family #FoodForAll campaign.

Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, created his own cooking video as a way to build on the #FoodForAll campaign. He then sent out a challenge to others to do the same before November 27 - including a special invitation to Beckmann.

Beckmann now challenges travel writer Rick Steves, community food systems expert Sharon Thornberry – and you.  Create a cooking video or post a photo at #ShareYourPlate and on your Twitter or Facebook page. Share a virtual meal and help bring awareness to the problem of hunger.

Folllow the challengers on Twitter: @DavidBeckmann, @Fr_Larry_Snyder, @RickSteves, and  @OFB_SharonT and tag @bread4theworld with your cooking video.

We Pray for Justice in Ferguson

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(Bread for the World)

Bread for the World issued the following press release earlier today. 

Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, issued this statement today as the country awaits the grand jury’s decision on the Michael Brown case. Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African-American man, was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, a 28-year-old white police officer, on Aug. 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. The grand jury is expected to render its decision to indict or not to indict Officer Wilson this month.

“Bread for the World holds the community of Ferguson, the City of St. Louis, the State of Missouri, and all in this nation in prayer. We pray for shalom, the peace of God thatconveys health, completeness, wholeness, integrity, soundness, welfare, security, reconciliation, prosperity, harmony, and justice.

We confess that we as a nation have allowed racial injustice and the circumstances like those in Ferguson and elsewhere throughout the country to persist. As we pray for forgiveness for ourselves and peace for Michael Brown’s family, we also pray for Darren Wilson, his family, and police officers.

“We support the young people and faith congregations in St. Louis who have vowed to solve these problems through non-violent means. They have sparked renewed interest in activism for a just society, where all can thrive, be respected, and be safe. Bread member and activist Mary Gene Boteler, pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in St. Louis; Bread board member Dr. Iva Carruthers of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference; the St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy United; the Metropolitan Congregations United; and the Missouri-wide coalition Hands Up; Clergy United; the Don't Shoot Coalition; along with hundreds of courageous young people struggle to create a local resolution to this national problem and to recommend effective responses.

“We look forward to joining them and others during the Faith Table Gathering in Ferguson in early December to seek effective ways to hold public systems accountable and a unified, national, change agenda.

“Amid the soul searching that the death of Michael Brown revived, Bread recognizes that the legacy of slavery must be reconciled if we are to end hunger and poverty in the United States. Bread takes note that Missouri is the sixth-hungriest state in our nation. Nearly one million Missourians cannot adequately feed themselves or their families. This includes more than 308,000 children, many of whom rely on meals they get while at school.

“Bread also notes that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world and incarcerates people of color at alarming rates with an expansion and militarization of police forces. These factors contribute to hunger and poverty in many communities. We are encouraged that members of Congress from both parties have spoken out about injustices in the legal system, and Bread for the World will support legislation to address these issues.

“Bread is committed to ending hunger and poverty by 2030 while addressing these injustices today, and it works with all people of good will to accomplish that goal. We pray that in the end, justice will ’roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream’ (Amos 5:24).”

 

 

God, Grace, and Good Works

Castle Church - door where 95 Theses were nailedBy Stephen Padre

Once there was a man who thought of establishing a public “lock box” in every town and city in his country. The idea was that a community would collect money in a central place, and the funds would be used to care for poor people, among other things. This “community chest” would make caring for poor people an organized activity and a civic obligation in his country.

If this sounds something like a modern-day government program, the idea is actually 500 years old and came from Martin Luther.

On this day in 1517, Luther, then an Augustinian monk, Catholic priest, and professor, nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany. This action of posting his long list of grievances (protests) against the Catholic Church sparked the Protestant Reformation. And because it happened today, on Halloween (a word that is short for All Hallows Eve, the day before All Saints Day, Nov. 1), many Protestant denominations mark today as Reformation Day.

During his lifetime, Luther wrote volumes of works about many issues, and he became one of the greatest Christian theologians of all time. The theological subject he is perhaps best known for is the idea that we as humans cannot earn God’s favor. Luther struggled with constantly trying to please God but knew that he would always come up short because of his imperfections. Finally he realized, through his study of the Bible, that God’s love is truly and only a gift—it is pure grace. God’s love is freely given to us, apart from anything we can do to earn it, not dependent on our works.

So it’s ironic that I am writing about an organization—Bread for the World—that is devoted to doing good works on a day that is dedicated to the radical idea in the Gospel that our good works don’t save us, the idea that Luther wanted the church in his day to focus on.

So why should we do good works if we don’t have to in order to earn God’s favor?

A popular saying goes: God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbor does. God’s unconditional grace frees us to do good works—not to win God’s favor, but for our neighbors’ well-being. Bread for the World is working to end hunger so that everybody shares in the abundance of God’s creation. We come together as Christians of all stripes across the country to do these good works through Bread for neighbors near and far.

And so we can look at Luther’s idea of the community chest as a model for ending hunger. The place where our common resources are assembled—the taxes collected by our government—becomes the community chest. Some of these resources are used to assist people when they are hungry, through domestic nutrition programs or through food aid overseas, for example. This work carried out by our federal government on behalf of Americans makes caring for poor people an organized activity and a civic obligation in our country.

Let us go forth and do good works—for the sake of our neighbor—knowing that God’s grace has already saved us.

Stephen Padre is Bread for the World’s managing editor and a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Photo: re-creation of the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany, where Martin Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses. (Stephen Padre)

November's Bread for the Preacher: Seeking Leaders for Justice

6521600661_3c17cb404f_bDid you know that each 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 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

We are at a unique moment in history that makes ending hunger possible by 2030. In order to do this, however, the U.S. government must do its part to lead here and around the world in the work of making hunger history. Bread for the World has a plan to do our part to make this a reality. We must win a series of advocacy victories, urge our government to take the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals seriously, and, of course, elect officials who will make ending hunger a priority by 2017. Our texts make clear this month that now is the time for justice and that justice is impossible without good leaders.

Bread for the World has launched a campaign called Bread Rising, which will enable this plan, strengthen the organization financially, strengthen our collective Christian voice in every congressional district, and ground our advocacy in prayer and God's love. In the coming months, we will be calling on our partners to pray, to act, and to give as part of the campaign. We hope you will join us. To learn more about the campaign visit www.bread.org/rising.

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

Photo: Pastor Judith VanOsdol leads the noon church service at El Milagro (The Miracle) Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, MN. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

A Mercy Story

SU Church Alter
Silliman University church. (Adlai Amor)

By Adlai Amor

Bread staff are often invited to preach in congregations across the country. For Bread for the World Sunday, Adlai Amor, director of communications, was invited to preach at the Union Church in Waban in Newton, Mass., and to make a presentation on "Advocacy in a time of Hyper-Partisanship." Here is an excerpt of his sermon when he shared an experience of mercy and compassion during one of his family's most difficult times.

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? 

Micah 6:8

Justice. Mercy. Humility.

I often do not share my mercy story in the United States, other than if I am among Filipinos. But since the late Philippine senator Ninoy Aquino, father of current Philippine president Noynoy Aquio, spent the last years of his life here in Newton, I will share it with you.  

I was just a high school student at Silliman University when Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972. Ninoy Aquino, other opposition senators, and hundreds of student activists including many from my alma mater (established by Presbyterian missionaries) were arrested.

The economy tanked amid all the uncertainty. I remember my father, a lawyer, earning only the equivalent of $2 in October, November, and December that year. Two dollars to feed, clothe, and educate a family of 7 children in three months. We made it only because of the compassion of friends who had more than we had and my father’s family pooling all their resources to see us through until better times. 

It was a time when I, driven by a sudden lack of freedom, began to take my faith more seriously. But we were luckier than many. Other students, family and friends who were arrested by the military suffered much more. In our worship services, our pastor often drew on Micah 6:8. He stressed that in those times, mercy, compassion, and kindness were our best weapons in fighting injustice and in ensuring that our imprisoned families and friends were cared for.

Several Silliman Church leaders were models of compassion – being kind not only to those who were imprisoned, but also to their jailers. Young soldiers who did not fully understand what they were doing there and why these people were in a military jail.

Thinking back on it, I realize that many members of the Silliman Church and the university community were actually modern Micahs, but working quietly underground. Their roles were certainly not minor, but huge to those who were in prison and to those who imprisoned them. Our weapon of choice was kindness and mercy. Kindness and mercy not only to our friends and family, but also to our foes, the jailer-soldiers and their military commanders.

Justice. Mercy. Humility.

These are what God requires of us. Not just one of them, but all three. I must confess that advocacy is hard work. Advocating justly, mercifully, and with humility is especially difficult to do. There are times when I doubt that God has called me to be an advocate, but God refuses to give up on me. With such love, I cannot simply give up on God.


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