Easter Monday Greetings, All! Occasionally, we feature guest blog entries, and today is one such occasion. Here is a reflection by Pastor Paul Ostrem, Assistant to the Bishop, Southeastern Iowa Synod and ELCA World Hunger leader. During the Lenten season, we read Psalm 107 and Pastor Paul was struck by that reading while worshiping at Gloria Dei in Iowa City. Here is his reflection.
I almost “zoned-out” after hearing verse 2: “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.” I was abruptly though briefly (thankfully) taken back to the Our-Savior’s-Radcliffe-Haugean-piety days of my youth and perhaps to my equally pietistic days at Waldorf College. “Speak up! Tell people you are saved! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!” So people got up and gave their testimonies, sounding more pious than many of us knew they were, and I suppose from time to time I tried to do the same. And when the guitars came out, we sang with great enthusiasm in call and response fashion (at least through the first two lines) “I am redeemed by the blood of the lamb! I am redeemed by the blood of the lamb! I am redeemed by the blood of the lamb, filled with the Holy Ghost I am! All my sins are washed away, I am redeemed!” It was true in its own right, I suppose, but last night I realized that Psalm 107 is about a whole lot more once we get past verse 2.
The Psalm is about God feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, bringing light to gloomy lives, freeing those in bondage, and delivering people from danger and even death. The Psalm speaks, section by section, of all that God does for those wandering in desert wastes, hungry and thirsty, for those sitting in darkness and gloom, for prisoners in misery and in irons, for those on storm tossed seas. Each section ends “Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind.”
I couldn’t help but think about ELCA World Hunger as we moved toward the end of the psalm, verse 35 and following where it speaks of how God “turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water.” The psalm says that God lets the hungry live there and that they establish a town to live in. They plant fields and vineyards and get a harvest. God “does not let their cattle decrease.” (God’s Global Barnyard) Here is a picture of God working with the hungry in a way that provides more than relief. This is a picture of God in the work of development, creating a means of livelihood, even community with towns to live in.
And the Psalm pictures a God who holds those in authority, those in government, accountable to the needs of the poor. Verses 39-41: “When they are diminished and brought low through oppression, trouble, and sorrow, he pours contempt on princes and makes them wander in trackless wastes; but he raises up the needy out of distress, and makes their families like flocks.” This Psalm includes the responsibility of civil leaders in a comprehensive vision of caring for the needs of those who live on the edge and whose very livelihood is threatened. Therefore, the work of advocacy accompanies the ministries of relief and development in being a part of God’s mission to the poor and hungry in the world. “The upright see it and are glad!” (verse 42)
The Psalm ends “Let those who are wise give heed to these things, and consider the steadfast love of the Lord.” Being wise has something to do with another component of ELCA World Hunger, namely education. Part of that wisdom comes from telling stories of how God is at work even through our efforts in relief, development, and advocacy to care for those most vulnerable among us, how God uses human ingenuity, inventiveness and persuasiveness for the good of hungry people. This is how the steadfast love of the Lord becomes visible in the world, and we are wise if we give heed to it and see it.
Psalm 107 illustrates the acronym READ as a description of the comprehensive work of ELCA World Hunger: Relief, Education, Advocacy, and Development. “Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind.”
Thank you to Pastor Paul for this great reflection. Do you want to contribute to Hunger Rumblings? Write and let us know!