Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:24-25

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Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord. 

The verdict of Pilate was that their demand should be granted. So he released the man who had been imprisoned for rebellion and murder, for whom they asked, and he handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they wished. (Luke 23:24-25)

Pilate does everything he can to win Jesus’ release, short of releasing him. Three times he says publicly that Jesus is innocent. I see him turning, twisting, squirming as he tries to avoid standing up for what he knows to be true. His final verdict: “He handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they wished.” Pilate leaves the scene, a pathetic figure.

The last phrase in the above passage would be more accurately translated, “he handed Jesus over to their will.” Jesus had wrestled with his will, and the Father’s will (“not my will but yours be done”). Now he faces “their will.”

It doesn’t seem fair.

It’s tough enough to face physical suffering. But to be victimized by malicious people who “get their way” at my expense . . . that’s too much.

A billion years from now such trivialities won’t matter. All that will matter is that I did my best to do what is right, tried to treat others with kindness, and put the rest in the hands of God.

There are a few things I can’t change that I should probably put in the hands of God right now.

World Prayers for March 22-28: China, Hong Kong, and Macau

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Temple of Confucius in Beijing, China. Stephen H. Padre/Bread for the World.

This is a weekly prayer series that appears each Friday on the Bread Blog.

One aspect of Bread for the World’s new Bread Rising campaign is prayer. The campaign is asking Bread members to pray more, act more, and give more. In this blog series, we will provide a prayer for a different group of countries each week and their efforts to end hunger.

This prayer series will follow the Ecumenical Prayer Cycle, a list compiled by the World Council of Churches that enables Christians around the world to journey in prayer through every region of the world, affirming our solidarity with Christians all over the world, brothers and sisters living in diverse situations, experiencing their challenges and sharing their gifts.

We will especially be lifting up in prayer the challenges related to hunger and poverty that the people of each week’s countries face. In prayer, God’s story and our own story connect—and we and the world are transformed. In a prayer common to all of us—the Lord’s Prayer/the Our Father—we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This line from this prayer can also be a prayer for the end of hunger.

We invite you to join Bread in our prayers for the world’s countries to end hunger. And we encourage you to share with us your prayers for the featured countries of the week or for the end of hunger in general.

For the week of March 22-28: China, Hong Kong, and Macau

God Almighty, we gives thanks for the watchful eye you keep over persecuted Christians and Christian churches in China, Hong Kong, and Macau. These are deeply faithful people who continue to struggle for human rights against great odds.

We pray for people who have faced atrocities and indignities such as those forced to work in labor camps, miners who face hazardous working conditions, and those suffering from forced sterilizations, abortions, and infanticide. We ask you to comfort them in their time of need, always knowing that you are not far from them in mind and spirit.

We lift up women and children who do not have equal status or opportunity, marginalized groups such as the aged, disabled, single parent families, and migrant workers, and those who are unemployed in cities and also those who are unable to find housing.

Lord, we in the United States share this earth with China, the world's most populous nation and biggest economy. We lift up to you the struggles China has to care for so many people as it becomes more modern and urban. Help our two nations as enormous consumers of resources and all nations on this same planet find ways to work together so that all in our countries can be fed and live a life of dignity while respecting natural resources and your creation.

We ask all these things in the name of your glorious son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Percentage of the population of these countries living below the national poverty line (2014 figures):

China: 13.4 (2011)
Hong Kong: Not available
Macau: Not available

Source: The CIA World Fact Book

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:20-23

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Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord.

Again Pilate addressed the crowd, still wishing to release Jesus, but they continued their shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate addressed them a third time, “What evil has this man done? I found him guilty of no capital crime. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.” With loud shouts, however, they persisted in calling for his crucifixion, and their voices prevailed. (Luke 23:20-23)

The shouted response of this crowd-become-a-mob is chilling. The word “crucify” comes like a thunderbolt.

This is the first time in Luke’s Gospel that this horrible word appears in any form – and not once, but twice: “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

It was already clear that the crowd wanted to kill him. But does it have to be this way – a tortured, crude, cruel death by crucifixion?

The cross comes into my life in many forms. But the cross, different for each person, is when I say: “Anything but that.” I cry from the depth of my soul, “O Lord, anything but that . . . anything!”

Sometimes I get the same answer Jesus got.

And so I take the Lord’s hand and take what I have to face . . . sometimes with none but the Lord who understands how hard it is. And I just hold on to him.

Faith Leaders: Sign the Letter to Help Feed Our Children

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Christian anti-hunger leaders walking to the White House to meet with President Obama. Bread for the World.

By Zachary Schmidt

This fall, the legislation that funds child nutrition programs will expire. The bill funds five major programs: National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Summer Food Service Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the WIC Program. These programs serve roughly 40 million adults and children nationwide.

Your support is needed to ensure that these important investments in nutrition for all our children are protected. This letter will be hand-delivered to Congress on June 9, 2015. The deadline for signatures is Friday, June 5.

More than one in five children in our country live in households that struggle to put food on the table. Wherever you live, there are children around you who are hungry. As people of faith—called to serve our communities and especially those who are most vulnerable—we need to pay attention. The effects of child malnutrition are profound and well-documented: greater susceptibility to sickness and disease, difficulty concentrating in school, and behavioral problems are among the most damaging. These effects can be lifelong and can affect not only the individual and family, but our society as well. When a child is prevented from reaching his or her potential, we are all impacted.

Thankfully, in our country, child nutrition programs provide healthy meals to millions of children every day, helping them and their families. These programs include school lunch and breakfast, after-school snacks, summer meals and WIC. The Child Nutrition bill authorizing these programs expires at the end of September, and as people of faith, we need to stand together and tell Congress to protect these programs, improve access for children who need them, and make sure other vital programs are not used as funding offsets. Congress will be working on the bill this year, so let’s make sure our voice is counted!

If you live in one of the states listed below and are a faith leader, please click on the highlighted link and add your signature – it only takes a minute! If you are a parishioner, please consider asking leaders in your faith community to sign. For more details, contact the regional organizer listed below each state. We will hand deliver the letters during Bread’s Lobby Day in Washington, D.C., on June 9. If your state is not included, you can also help by leading your congregation in an Offering of Letters this year.

Thank you for standing with us, and stay tuned as this campaign moves forward!

Zachary Schmidt is a regional organizer for Bread for the World.

Illinois
Sign-on letter
Organizer: Zach Schmidt

Indiana
Sign-on letter
Organizer: Jon Gromek

Iowa
Sign-on letter
Organizer: Kristin Ostrom

Kansas
Sign-on letter
Organizer: Kristin Ostrom

Michigan
Sign-on letter
Organizer: Jon Gromek

Minnesota
Sign-on letter
Organizer: Zach Schmidt

Mississippi
Sign-on letter
Organizer: Brittany Gray

Missouri
Sign-on letter
Organizer: Zach Schmidt

Nebraska
Sign-on letter
Organizer: Kristin Ostrom

New York
Sign-on letter
Organizer: Margaret Tran

North Dakota
Sign-on letter
Organizer: Kristin Ostrom

Ohio
Sign-on letter
Organizer: Jon Gromek

Oregon
Sign-on letter
Organizer: Robin Stephenson

South Dakota
Sign-on letter
Organizer: Kristin Ostrom

Wisconsin
Sign-on letter
Organizer: Zach Schmidt

Congress Wants to Cut Food Stamp Benefits by 220 Meals a Year

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SNAP is our nation's largest child nutrition program and provides 21 million children with meals. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Eric Mitchell

The House and Senate Budget Committees just released their budget proposals. Both proposals contain enormous cuts to effective anti-hunger programs. I'm outraged!

The House budget proposes cutting $140 billion from SNAP (formerly called food stamps). The Senate budget proposes cutting Medicaid by $400 billion. Medicaid provides health coverage for 28 million children.

Under these cuts, participants in SNAP would lose 220 meals a year. That’s 10 weeks worth of food!

Congress repeatedly wants to use anti-poverty programs as their piggy bank for deficit reduction. I’m tired of it. I need your voice.

Will you call or email your members of Congress? Tell them to protect SNAP and Medicaid from cuts.

SNAP is our country’s largest child nutrition program. It provides nearly 21 million children with meals when many would have gone without them otherwise. Medicaid provides health coverage for 28 million low-income children. Hungry children can't learn, and unhealthy children won't reach their full potential.

The federal budget is a statement on the priorities of our country. Our children's health and nutrition must be taken seriously. How can Congress propose cutting a program that helps nearly 23 million households, with 21 million children, put food on the table?

Call (800/826-3688) or email your senators and representative today, and urge them to oppose these budgets. Tell your members of Congress to oppose SNAP cuts and  to oppose Medicaid cuts. Congress should be investing in our children—not undermining their health and taking meals away from them.

Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations at Bread for the World.

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:13-18

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Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord. 

Pilate then summoned the chief priests, the rulers, and the people and said to them, “You brought this man to me and accused him of inciting the people to revolt. I have conducted my investigation in your presence and have not found this man guilty of the charges you have brought against him, nor did Herod, for he sent him back to us. So no capital crime has been committed by him. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.”

But all together they shouted out, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us.” (Now Barabbas had been imprisoned for a rebellion that had taken place in the city and for murder.) (Luke 23:13-18)

Pilate says (again) that Jesus is innocent and that Herod agrees. He offers to have Jesus flogged (despite his innocence) and released. “Flogging” was a disciplinary beating. “Scourging” was part of killing a victim slated for crucifixion. That will come later, when Jesus has been condemned to die. The proposed flogging is part of Pilate’s plea bargaining.

Suddenly Barabbas is brought into the act – a prisoner who had been imprisoned for murder. All four Gospels have the crowd choose him to be freed rather than Jesus.

Why is there such a turnaround on this kindly person named Jesus? It happens. Public opinion can be affected by polls, knee-jerk reactions, a certain mob psychology.

There’s a little bit of that “crowd” in all of us.

Transformative Conversations on Faith and Race in Florida

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Clergy at the Symposium on Faith and Race in Orlando, Fla. Blair Hall for Bread for the World.

By Dan DeBevoise

I’ve been in conversation for a while with a friend and community organizer about the possibility of gathering people from our local community to talk about race relations. We talked about having honest, intimate conversations. We talked about sharing in the context of our faith.

I had no idea how important, inspiring, and transformational such an event would be until we actually did it. I thank God that Bread for the World and Faith in Florida provided the opportunity by sponsoring the Symposium on Faith and Race in Orlando, Fla., earlier this month. 

Sometimes it seems that the most significant leap is the one from talking to taking action. Bread and Faith in Florida made it possible for us to take that big, sometimes intimidating step. 

Rev. Alvin Herring, deputy director for Faith and Formation at PICO National Network, opened the event by teaching two Zulu phrases: a greeting, “Sawu Bona,” which means “I see you,” and the response, “Sikhona,” which means, “I am here.”  This set the tone for our work together. We learned anew the power and affirmation of deeply acknowledging the presence of another person’s full humanity – “I see you.”  And we were asked to experience the freedom of being present in the fullness of our humanity – “I am here.”  

We did the risky work of sitting down with another person different from ourselves and asking, “Can I share a story of something important that happened to me that I want you to know?”  And we did the hard work of listening to one another in ways that opened us to the truth of whom they are and whom we are. 

We sought the truth about our communities and society. We listened to panelists describe the circumstances and challenges they face every day: youth, single women, people of color, people who know poverty and have struggled with hunger and feeding their families. 

Throughout the event, we listened to each other, we pushed each other, we embraced each other, we encouraged each other, we challenged each other, and we walked with each other (literally on a march in downtown Orlando,) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Selma march.

Then, to conclude, Rev. Dr. James Forbes led us in worship. Forbes shared the powerful proclamation that God is in the business of erasing the boundaries and barriers that we set up to protect ourselves from each other. We were given in worship the gift of unity that comes by the love of God for all people: praising, praying, singing, proclaiming God’s word of reconciliation and justice. We were in that moment a part of the beloved community.    

In the big picture, it may look like a small step, but for me, it was a big step. And definitely a step in the right direction.   

Dan DeBevoise is a co-pastor at Park Lake Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Fla.

 

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:11-12

LENT2015-Blog-Banner

Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord.

Herod and his soldiers treated Jesus contemptuously and mocked him. And after clothing him in resplendent garb, he sent him back to Pilate. Herod and Pilate became friends that very day, even though they had been enemies formerly. (Luke 23:11-12)

Herod, frustrated by Jesus’ silence, lowers himself to join the troops in mocking this phony king.

But . . . he also had to deal with Pilate who had already said he thought Jesus was innocent. Pilate had made a friendly gesture by asking his opinion on the matter. Herod knew what the chief priests and scribes wanted . . . but what Pilate wanted was more important.

So he dresses Jesus, not in the garb of a condemned prisoner, but as a respectable person, and through this gesture concurs in Pilate’s judgment.

“Herod and Pilate became friends that very day.” Now that’s interesting. Once again Luke teaches me about Jesus the healer. He healed the ear of the servant at the arrest . . . he healed Peter’s soul when Peter denied him . . . and now, of all things, he heals the relationship between Herod and Pilate. His suffering and death are already producing results.

Here is the hard part: To believe that my suffering can have good effects. Surprising ones. Talk to One who knows.

One More River to Cross

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Thousands march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. Asha G. Smith for Bread for the World.

By Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith

More than 61,000 people made their way to Selma, Ala., to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday on March 8. I was one of them. I wanted to be there to recognize that historic moment in 1965 that resulted in voting rights for all in the United States. It was a moment that I’ll not soon forget.

As I was returning from having crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, I heard a call to make way for a 1965 participant who was in a wheelchair. I flung my arms open and started to make my way through the pressing crowd to usher this elder, this African-American stateswoman, across the bridge. What an amazing honor to serve for a moment this great woman of faith who had already served me and our nation 50 years ago. She soon offered her thanks. I told her that all the thanks go to her and people like her.

People like me and my children to have a better quality of life today because of the bridges crossed by Ms. Ruby Shuttlesworth and 1965 foot soldiers.  The problem: We have more rivers to cross, and therefore more bridges to build. 20150308_215628selma3

Unfortunately, African-American women still struggle to put food on the table and still live in poverty. Hunger and poverty are still putting more and more African-American women and children at risk of poor nutrition. A principle cause of hunger is the inability to buy nutritious food. Economic empowerment still has to be a priority.

Bread's new fact sheet, Hunger by the Numbers in the African-American Community, informs us of the following:

 • More than one in three African-American children live in poverty. One in five children in our country as a whole live in poverty.

• More than one in four African-American households struggled to put food on the table in 2013.

• 32.6 percent of African-American households with children were food-insecure. 19.5 percent of all U.S. households with children were food-insecure.

Your leadership is needed to ensure that our children are fed. Urge Congress to strengthen our child nutrition programs, particularly the summer meals program. Congress must also protect SNAP - our largest child nutrition program - from cuts in the budget. And please pray with Bread to end hunger.

Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith is Bread for the World’s national senior associate for African-American and African church engagement.

Photo: Angelique Walker-Smith, left, and Ruby Shuttlesworth, right, at the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Ala. Ava Bester for Bread for the World.

Letters are the ABCs of Our Power in Ending Hunger

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By Stephen H. Padre

Letters have power.

Take, for example, the last crisis of the week in Washington. A group of 47 Republicans in the Senate signed on to a letter condemning the nuclear negotiations with Iran. The letter had the two parties sparring in a constitutional argument and got the capital all riled up.

The March 15 Parade magazine cover story, “Letters that changed our world,” affirmed the power of letters. “They’ve fueled love affairs and severed friendships, ignited wars and settled them. They can convey the most profound thanks, apology or regret.”

Bread for the World’s signature program, its annual Offering of Letters, harnesses the power of letters. Bread believes the simple act of writing to a member of Congress has the power to bring about change for millions of people who are hungry and poor— especially when written on a large scale. A stack of letters from a group of Christians just might sway a member of Congress to vote a certain way on an important piece of legislation.

 

6521596521_0264dcd35a_oThe idea is simple: A group in a church or faith community writes letters together to their members of Congress on a specific hunger issue. The 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children is about federal child nutrition programs. The letters are collected, and, just as a monetary offering is blessed, the letters are lifted up to God before being mailed to lawmakers in Washington, D.C.

The means of communication have changed over the decades. Now we can communicate with people on other continents instantly via email, and we say less—140 characters or fewer—on Twitter. But we also generate more noise on our electronic channels of communication than we did when ships carried letters across oceans. Letters, although they may seem quaint and old-fashioned, can actually cut through the chatter. So, in a way, everything old can be new again.

A hand-written letter has a way of encapsulating the thoughts and emotions of the writer. A letter on paper records the words in a more permanent and tangible way than an email can. There is almost more of the writer present in a paper letter than in an email on a screen.

A letter to your representatives in Washington, D.C., also carries some of your power as a citizen (or resident) of a state or congressional district. Your voice and power of persuasion is a major expression of your citizenship, and a letter to the people who make decisions on your behalf is exercising that power. A letter is an ideal way for you to connect your power as a voter, citizen, resident, and concerned Christian to the power of our federal government. Through letters, we can persuade our government to lead the way in ending hunger in our time.

Stephen H. Padre is managing editor at Bread for the World.

Photo: A college campus group writes letters to Congress. Bread for the World.

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