65 posts categorized "Faith"
By Minju Zukowski
When I look back on my experience as a volunteer for Bread for the World's 2013 National Gathering, I am invigorated. I feel optimistic and hopeful that we, as a society, are moving toward ending hunger.
Hearing the different preachers at the Gathering speak with power and conviction about ending hunger was truly an inspirational experience. Listening to the wisdom of these individuals helped broaden my perspective of what I can do in this fight.
Rev. Dr. James Forbes taught me that when I say grace before eating, I should not only let God know that I am thankful for the food, but also express concern for those individuals who are hungry. Taking the time to think about those who do not have enough to eat as I am about to receive food is a powerful motivator. It reminds me to keep those who are less fortunate in my heart, and also instills in me a sense of urgency. That urgency compels me to go the extra mile in the fight to end hunger.
The one thing Rev. John McCullough said that really struck me was that “the government is not our enemy, our silence is.” It is easy to place blame on our government for all of our country's problems, but if we don’t use our voices to stand up for what we believe in, we’re just as much at fault.
I was also moved by the powerful speech given by Rev. Luis Cortes Jr. during the Gathering. Rev. Cortes talked about the importance of using the word hunger, and the power that it holds. While terms such as "food insecurity," are important in our work, we must always remember that those words connect to hunger, which is a very real, painful feeling for millions of people around the world.
I challenge everyone to join me in acting on these lessons. Give thanks to God for what you have, and also remember to acknowledge those who are hungry every time you eat. Get the word out about hunger by bringing up this issue with your pastors, co-workers, friends, and family members. If anything is ever going to change, more people need to be informed.And, finally, raise your voice to your lawmakers—they are the people who, with the stroke of a pen, can determine the fate of hungry people in this country and around the world. Don’t ever let your voice be silent and keep hunger on your mind, in your thoughts, and in your prayers.
Minju Zukowski, a senior marketing major at Towson University in Maryland, is Bread for the World’s media relations intern.
"Lord, in this liturgy, a penitential liturgy, we beg forgiveness for our indifference to so many of our brothers and sisters. Father, we ask your pardon for those who are complacent and closed amid comforts which have deadened their hearts; we beg your forgiveness for those who by their decisions on the global level have created situations that lead to these tragedies. Forgive us, Lord!"
Lampedusa is a Mediterranean island and the primary entry point for migrants, mainly from Africa, into Europe. Pope Francis laments the loss of life that can be the result of the dangerous journey many migrants embark on as they flee dire poverty in Africa and elsewhere. His powerful homily also addresses a lack of compassion that is too often shown in regard to the suffering of immigrants.
"In this globalized world, we have fallen into globalized indifference," Pope Francis preaches on the lack of solidarity with the vulnerable. "We have become used to the suffering of others: it doesn’t affect me, it doesn’t concern me, it’s none of my business!"
As the House of Representatives decides how to move forward on an immigration reform bill, Bread for the World urges legislators to include provisions that address the poverty and hunger that drive migration. By creating a path to citizenship, hunger and poverty in the Unites States will be reduced as 11 million undocumented immigrants come out of the shadows.
Poor migrants from North Africa are willing to risk crossing from Tunisia to Lampedusa in small boats that are often overcrowded and unsafe. While visiting the island, the pontiff laid a wreath in the water for those who have perished on the journey—a story similar to that of those who risk border crossing in the southern United States to escape hunger in their home countries. Pope Francis wonders if we have become a society void of compassion. "Has any one of us wept because of this situation and others like it?" he asks. "Has any one of us grieved for the death of these brothers and sisters?"
As Christians, the suffering of others is our business. God's question echoes today: "Where is your brother?" How will you respond?
You can learn more about the root causes of migration and Bread for the World's position on immigration reform here. Take action here and join us and other organizations as we #Pray4reform next Wednesday, July 24, in Washington D.C.
Photo: Simonopetra Monastery, also Monastery of Simonos Petra, is an Eastern Orthodox monastery in the monastic state of Mount Athos in Greece. (Flikie)
By Jon Gromek
Recently, I was blessed with the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to one of the holiest sites in my tradition of Eastern Orthodoxy, and indeed all of Christianity: Mount Athos in Greece. While there, I stayed with the monks at Simonopetra, a breathtaking monastery set atop the cliff of a mountain overlooking the ocean. Mount Athos is set apart from the world as we know it. For the past millennium, monks have lived here in simplicity, perpetual prayer, and worship. It was amazing to observe the monks pray without ceasing and, even in silence or during their work, see their lips move in prayer. Some confided in me that after a while they even pray in their dreams and sleep.
Prayer and worship play an ever-important role in day-to-day life at Mount Athos. Indeed, their whole lives—their actions, words and deeds—serve as prayers. Their prayers, and mine I was told, are meant to assume the burdens of those “in the world” and to provide a spiritual compass and guidance to all of us who are called to build a world as it ought to be, rather than the way it is now. Patriarch Bartholemew I, the spiritual leader of the World’s Orthodox Christians has noted that “[m]onastacism seeks to change the world with silence and humility rather than power and imposition. It changes the world from within, internally, and not from the outside, externally. Monastacism proposes a revolutionary worldview, especially in a world where so many people are stuck in established ways that have proved destructive.” While the monks maintain a tradition of silence, that silence, and their prayers and actions, speak volumes.
As Christians we are of course called to raise our voices, to speak out against injustice and speak for the most vulnerable. However, our silent actions and prayers to God and on behalf of all can be just as powerful. If you have been following the actions of Congress lately, you will no doubt see that there is a lot to pray for: protection from cuts to vital programs that feed hungry and poor people (including SNAP, international food aid, and WIC) as well as the creation of immigration policy that can end hunger and bring millions out of the shadows.
Together, let us pray in perpetuity for a world as God intended and for the hearts and minds of those who are responsible for shaping that world.
Jon Gromek is a regional organizer in the Central Hub and recently spent time at Mount Athos on a spiritual retreat.
(Left to right) Amanda Wojcinski, Wynn Horton, Moeun Sun, Aminata Kanu, Rebecca Land, and Robert Mauger, students at Houghton College in upstate New York, navigate Capitol Hill during Lobby Day on June 11, 2013. The students met with their senators and representative and urged them to preserve funding for food assistance in the farm bill. (Eric Bond)
Recently, Rev. Noel Castellanos prayed, “God, when you grip our
hearts we are turned toward our brothers and sisters on the margins of
Rev. Castellanos, chief executive officer of the Christian Community Development Association, offered this invocation as we and our colleagues in the Evangelical Immigration Table gathered for a vigil at the Capitol just before the Senate began voting on the comprehensive immigration bill.
Thanks be to God, our prayers—and your advocacy—worked. The Senate passed its version of the comprehensive immigration reform bill on June 28 with a vote of 68-32. Now we turn to the House of Representatives to see what action it will take. We anticipate a more partisan approach in the House. So we pray that God will grip the hearts of our representatives and bring both parties together to pass immigration reform legislation that will benefit struggling families in our nation.
House Farm Bill Fails
We have another major reason to be thankful to God and to you for your faithful advocacy. On June 21, the House version of the farm bill was voted down, 234-195. Had it become law, it would have meant a $20 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). More than 47 million Americans depend on this vital food assistance program.
When the current farm bill was authorized in 2008, we won the largest increase ever for food assistance. Since then, the nutrition portion of the farm bill has been targeted for cuts. We are thankful that God has gripped the hearts of our representatives, until now, and stayed those cuts.
As you read this, Congress is be preparing to recess for the summer. This means that your members of Congress will be back in your district. I encourage you to visit or call them, referring to their voting record on amendments to the new farm bill and other food and nutrition bills (see Bread for the World's 2013 Midyear Congressional Scorecard). If they voted in favor of hungry people, thank them. If they did not, still thank them for being your public servants, but express disappointment for the way they voted and remind them that you are counting on them to vote on behalf of hungry and poor people.
International Coalition Pledges to Fund Maternal and Child Nutrition
We are also thankful that God has gripped the hearts of President
Barack Obama and other world leaders to increase investments in maternal
and child nutrition in developing countries hardest hit by
malnutrition. Since we started our work on this issue four years ago,
much progress has been made. Last month, at a high-level event in
London, world leaders pledged $21.9 billion for maternal and child
nutrition programs between now and 2020. The United States pledged $10
billion through fiscal year 2014 toward eliminating malnutrition in the
1,000 days between pregnancy and age 2—and it promised to continue
funding nutrition programs at this level beyond 2014.
On June 10, during Bread for the World’s 2013 National Gathering in Washington, D.C., Bread for the World Institute and Concern Worldwide hosted an international meeting to mark the progress that has been made over the last 1,000 days and to recognize the important role that civil society has played in building the political will to scale up nutrition. The event marked the official launch of the Civil Society Network of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, which will help coordinate the efforts of the 40 SUN countries.
Dr. Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, recognized the role that activists— like the Women of Faith for the 1,000 Days Movement— have played in elevating the voices of poor and hungry people as policy makers set priorities. In addition, Bread for the World and partners hosted a congressional briefing on maternal and child nutrition to raise awareness on Capitol Hill about the critical role of U.S. leadership.
After the briefing, Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) introduced a bipartisan resolution to draw attention to the scourge of malnutrition during the critical 1,000-day window.
This will be a busy autumn and winter for Bread, with important advocacy work around sequestration and other budget issues. We will also be finalizing our plans for the next three years—the first triennial plan within the framework of our long-term vision to end hunger. We will be planning our campaigns for 2014 and launching the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America.
As we enjoy the summer, I give thanks to God for your faithful support and for gripping all our hearts to advocate with those whom Jesus calls “the least among us.”
[This piece originally appeared in Bread for the World’s July-August newsletter.]
The morning of June 27 was a hot one in our Nation’s Capital, but that did not stop a dedicated and passionate group of individuals from coming together to pray for just immigration reform.
The #pray4reform campaign, a weeklong event held June 24-28, was planned to coincide with the Senate's vote on a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Why gather to pray for immigration reform? The hope was that congressional leaders would vote “yes” on a the bill (S.744), which includes a path to citizenship for the roughly 11 million immigrants working in the United States without authorization. On June 28, the Senate passed that bill, but there is still much work to be done. Members of the House will now take up the issue, and we must continue to urge congressional leaders to create a more just immigration system.
The #pray4reform campaign brought together evangelical leaders for daily prayer at the Peace Circle in front of the Capitol. During our small worship ceremony, a mobile billboard drove around the city with the message “Praying for immigrants. Praying for Congress.” Gathering around the Peace Circle to connect with God as Congress voted on such crucial legislation nearby was an amazing experience.
As the issue moves to the House, we continue to #pray4reform, and we hope you will do the same and continue to urge your members of Congress to support just immigration reform. Together, we can help push the issues of immigration and hunger to the forefront, so that no individual has to live with hunger.
Kiara Ortiz and Minju Zukowski are media relations interns in Bread for the World's communications departmentPhoto: Rev. Noel Castellanos, chief executive officer of the Christian Community Development Association, at the June 27 #pray4reform event at the U.S. Capitol. (Minju Zukowski)
Rev. Dr. James Forbes speaking at Bread for the World's 2013 National Gathering (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).
When the Rev. Dr. James Forbes was a child, his family’s Raleigh, N.C., dinner table was a place not only where meals were shared, but where accomplishments were celebrated and compassion encouraged. After saying grace, the family members ate and talked about how they could best extend kindness and love to each other and the members of their community. “If we had been faithful in caring and sharing then we had the sense that justice and peace had a chance in the world,” Rev. Forbes, senior minister emeritus of the Riverside Church in New York City and president of the Healing of the Nations Foundation, said in a recent sermon.
During Bread for the World’s 2013 National Gathering, “A Place at the Table,” Rev. Forbes offered words to fortify advocates working to ensure that all families can gather around dinner tables filled with compassion, love, and nutritious food. Now, Rev. Forbes, who is often called "the preacher’s preacher," is traveling the country, conveying God’s message that we can end hunger.
In the coming months, he will be preaching in churches across the nation and leading homiletics workshops for ministers, pastors, and others who also preach to end hunger. Click here to see if Rev. Forbes is coming to a church near you and to obtain registration information.
Lazarus is an original Bread for the World musical about hunger and poverty, created by Rev. Joel Underwood in the 1980s. Last night, a new version, with music and arangements by noted musical director Bill Cummings, debuted. The words and the story, however, were unchanged: the musical was based on the parable, found in Luke 16:19-31, featuring the story of a rich man (Dives) and a beggar (Lazarus) and their relationship in life and in the afterlife.
We'll be uploading a few video and music clips in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, here are a few photos from last night's performance to tide you over. (We are accepting pre-orders for a DVD of the performance, available early 2014. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details.)
By Robin StephensonHe is called the "preacher’s preacher" and today’s homiletics workshop during Bread for the World’s National Gathering made that clear: Rev. Dr. James Forbes, speaking to a roomful of preachers and participants, said preaching must engage people in scripture and show a truth that will impact and transform behavior. He also had a message for Bread members responding to hunger.
Food is not a minor detail, Rev. Forbes reminded us, but is essential to the fulfillment of God’s creation–before even creating us, in Genesis, God creates food. “If God in creation provides food,” Rev. Forbes said, "it is an anomalous situation to have a world where some people can’t eat.” Thus, starvation and hunger are a distortion of creation and our call is to heal the world–even when faced with the obstacle of disbelief.
Robin Stephenson is national social media lead and senior regional organizer, western hub, at Bread for the World.
The ongoing farm bill negotiations in both the Senate and the House, like so many issues in American public life, involve complicated calculations—especially for Christians. Those who claim to follow Jesus Christ are faced with the problem of translating his perfect love into an imperfect public sphere, one with diverse textures, concerns, and challenges. What exactly does Jesus Christ’s love look like in terms of the poor, the hungry, and the marginalized? Was Jesus for these people or against them? In looking to what Jesus did and said in the scripture, Christians can find direction for more modern political decisions.
Those who wish to do nothing about the poor or the hungry often go to Matthew: “For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me” (Matthew 26:11, NRSV). On a superficial reading, this seems to be a blanket endorsement – from Jesus, no less! – of the plight of the poor in human society. Yet a deeper reading reveals quite the opposite. The preceding verses in Matthew tell of a woman who had applied an alabaster jar of ointment – quite a costly gift – to Jesus’ head, and how the disciples criticized her. These pre-Resurrection disciples did not yet fully understand the significance of Jesus Christ. They certainly did not understand the second half of that verse: “You will not always have me.” This is not a call to inaction: it is a call to value Jesus Christ more highly, in that very moment, than any social cause. This does not mean that Jesus trumps engagement for the poor, however. Who is this Christ if not one who stands entirely with the poor?
The key to reading this passage comes just a chapter earlier in Matthew 25:40: “[J]ust as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (NRSV). With these words, Jesus reveals that he shares a mystical union with those people who, quite arbitrarily, occupy society’s lowest classes. He speaks not just about individuals, although the least of these certainly are individual people with their own integrity, hopes, dreams, and worth. Jesus speaks about a class of people – one that is worthy of kindness in very abstract and very concrete terms. Not only do the least of these deserve the same respect that richer and more powerful people enjoy, they also deserve to have their very immediate human needs satisfied: their shelter, their hunger, and their thirst. Anyone who gives to the least of these in this way gives also to Jesus Christ.
Perhaps the most-cited verse against feeding the hungry comes from Paul or one of his followers: “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10, NRSV). This seems to be an early Christian endorsement of the modern pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps mentality. In Paul’s time, this might well have been a pressing problem: people using the Christian community as a way of avoiding work while still claiming social benefits. In our time, however, the problem has shifted drastically. Not only are we faced with the problem of unemployment versus employment; we also face the issue of underemployment. Even those who can find jobs don’t always make enough money to feed their families. This is not an issue of rich versus poor; it is an issue of hard-working Americans not being paid enough for their honest labor in a national system that falls tragically short of Jesus Christ’s ideals for a loving society.
Time and time again, Jesus reveals himself as a prophet in the Old Testament sense, one whose concerns center on the widow and the orphan, the most marginalized people of his time, those without the social support systems enjoyed by wives who had husbands and children who had fathers. Jesus represents a God who feeds people regardless of who they are. Jesus gives food to all, without asking whether they have jobs, believe in what he’s saying, or go to church. Jesus represents the God whose love comes to each of us, regardless of our social station.
Dan Rohrer is a doctoral student at Union Theological Seminary.
Photo: A woman praying during Bread for the World's 2011 National Gathering at American University.(Laura Elizabeth Pohl)
Did 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 Rev. Gary Cook
June’s lectionary readings are filled with stories that recount powerful and miraculous acts. Often, however, a significant aspect of the story is the radical nature of who was included in the miracles: not just the starving widow, but also a man possessed by demons and a despised foreigner. While our own beneficence tends to have limits, God’s doesn’t.
On Capitol Hill, we see efforts to limit access to programs to the “deserving” poor, reduce funding for services available to those who struggle with their own demons, and narrowly define who is worthy of living in our country. Some members of Congress use scripture to bolster their arguments for restricting eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). Join us in praying for a miracle that moves our nation closer to embracing God’s gracious and expansive love for all people.Rev. Gary Cook is director of church relations at Bread for the World.
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