By: Nick Bates, ELCA Advocacy State Network, Southern Ohio Synod
Sammie sees things a little bit differently than much of the world. Sammie is a kindergartner, and one morning a friend stole his after-school snack from his book bag. This friend was caught by the teacher and reprimanded. Sammie was understandably upset at first but then realized that some kids in his class just don’t have food at home. His compassion and empathy pushed his anger away. A few weeks ago, Sammie said he wants our next president to make sure every kid has good food to eat.
What a beautiful idea, but it’s not new. Isaiah trumpeted a similar vision to Israel:
Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price (Isaiah 55:1).
The beauty of this vision painted by Isaiah is exemplified through song in order to highlight the beauty that God has for our world today. Through our baptism, we are called to ask new questions and to think differently about our world.
Much of the world says we should just accept and ignore the reality of poverty and hunger. This means we should ignore the more than 15 million children – about 1 in 5 – in our country who are food insecure. We should sacrifice clean water and air because questions remain about how to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. We should blame those struggling to get by. We should fear families fleeing extreme violence and poverty as refugees.
Not only does God offer up a promise to the people to come to the waters, but God is also calling us to a new way of thinking.
But while we are called to invite all those who are hungry to come to the waters to eat without money, we also worry:
If everyone received free food, how would the farmers, truck drivers, grocers and others get paid? If people received free food, would they refuse to work hard? If everyone else received free food, would there be enough left for me and my family? If …
And just like that, questions of fear and scarcity get stuck in our heads.
Our news media likes dichotomies – left vs. right, establishment vs. non-establishment, old vs. young, men vs. women, insider vs. outsider. But as Christians, we know this way of thinking does not fit with God’s way of thinking, creating or being. We have liberals and conservatives praying together for hungry children. We have young and old volunteering together to serve meals to those in need. When we think differently about one another, we also begin to think differently about the world in which we live.
Faith-based advocacy helps bring a new way of thinking to our state legislatures and Congress on a daily basis. Your stories are extremely valuable in helping our elected officials think differently.
Our stories of God’s love for those who are hungry can shift the conversation from who has the largest tax cut plan to who can cut hunger the most. Our stories about God’s beautiful creation can shift the conversation from profitability to sustainability. Our stories about God’s freedom for those held in bondage can shift the conversation from turning a blind eye to envisioning a just economic system.
Regardless of who we are, God is calling us to come to the waters and see a glorious world where all have access to food that will satisfy. From those waters of baptism, we are sent into the world – a messy, complicated world – to draw people toward God’s way of thinking, creating and being.
– Nick Bates, Diaconal Minister Southern Ohio Synod, ELCA
Our ELCA Advocacy initiatives are made possible through support from ELCA World Hunger. As we enter the season of Lent, register yourself or your congregation for ELCA World Hunger’s 40 Days of Giving! to ensure that we can continue to work for systemic change that truly supports our brothers and sisters facing poverty and hunger.