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NEW Resource! Housing: A Practical Guide to Learning, Advocating and Building

A New Resource on Housing!

The United States faces a looming crisis in housing, the second in barely more than a decade. The job losses and other economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have many of us facing an increased risk of eviction and foreclosure; at the same time, there is a marked shortage of available housing within reach for most Americans. The problems of homelessness and housing insecurity are ongoing and growing. Solving them means developing sustainable solutions for the long term, rather than temporary fixes for a current crisis. This church has a clear imperative to help those of us experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity. The church also has a big opportunity to make a difference.

This new resource from ELCA World Hunger will help you get started in learning about homelessness and affordable housing, advocating on issues connected to homelessness and affordable housing, and even building affordable housing!

Download “Housing: A Practical Guide for Learning, Advocating and Building” from https://www.elca.org/Resources/ELCA-World-Hunger#New. Check out other resources from ELCA World Hunger on the same page and at https://www.elca.org/Resources/ELCA-World-Hunger#HungerEd!

Who Is This Resource For?

This resource is for congregations concerned about homelessness and affordable housing. For congregations new to this work, this resource will provide step-by-step guidance on how to build awareness and capacity around the root causes of homelessness, how to become an advocate for affordable housing and people experiencing homelessness, and, finally, how to build affordable housing. For congregations already involved in this work, the resources in this guide can help with congregation and community education, training new volunteers, and refining your current project.

About This Resource

This resource contains three sections: “Learn,” “Advocate” and “Build.”

The “Learn” section contains activities and information to educate congregations and groups about the complex issues of housing and homelessness. If your group is just getting started, use the information and activities in this section to learn more about a wide variety of topics: common myths about homelessness, effective responses to housing insecurity, and the historical impact of the discriminatory practice of redlining. This section also introduces common terms used to describe housing insecurity and homelessness.

The “Advocate” section contains information and activities to help participants become effective housing and homelessness advocates. It includes helpful information on the roots of Lutheran advocacy, housing policy, insights from leaders and more.

The “Build” section contains a guide on how to build affordable housing, with helpful information about choosing a team, forming a nonprofit, funding a project and more. There are also checklists of the tasks necessary to create a successful affordable housing project.

Learn More

Interested in learning more about affordable housing, homelessness and learning from some of ELCA World Hunger partners about this important work? Check out the latest Hunger at the Crossroads webinar on Hunger and Housing here: https://vimeo.com/726168452

Get Connected

If you use “Housing: A Practical Guide for Learning, Advocating and Building” or have questions about how to use the guide, get in touch with us at hunger@elca.org.

Note: the housing guide is having some issues with sizing in peoples’ browser windows. If you have this issue, try downloading the resource to your personal device!

Lent Reflection 5: A Way in the Wilderness

ELCA World Hunger’s 40 Days of Giving

Lent 2022

In English and en Espanol

Week 5: A Way in the Wilderness

“Do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19)

Read

  • Isaiah 43:16-21
  • Psalm 126
  • Philippians 3:4b-14
  • John 12:1-8

Reflect

Each of the sessions of this Lenten study has been grounded in a verse from this week’s readings:

I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert (Isaiah 43:19).

From the first-fruits offering of Deuteronomy to the teaching of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke, our reflections have pointed to how God continues to “make a way in the wilderness” and calls us to be part of that journey for ourselves and our neighbors. The Scripture readings this season remind us of the promise of new life in Canaan for our ancestors and new life in Christ for us all.

We have imagined a world without hunger, heard of God’s abundant provision of manna and seen the ways the church has worked tirelessly, in the past and today, to end hunger.

Now we reach the culmination of this movement toward the fulfillment of God’s promise, wherein Jesus announces: “You will always have the poor among you” (John 12:8 NIV).

It’s not the most encouraging verse in the Bible.

How often have people twisted these words into an excuse for passivity or a sneering retort to proclamations of hope that hunger and poverty can, one day, end? Along with its partner in 2 Thessalonians (“Anyone unwilling to work should not eat”), it’s one of the “hard passages” for people of faith eager to inspire others to respond to hunger and poverty. These troublesome verses are often used to support restrictive, counterintuitive policies and practices that inhibit real progress against hunger and poverty. Why try harder to end hunger and poverty if even Jesus says poverty isn’t going away?

The passage yields more when we dig a little deeper. Jesus may actually be referring to an earlier part of the Bible here, and in that earlier verse the words are no statement of fact but a challenge to the people of God. The verse appears in a section of Deuteronomy about the Jubilee Year, a time every seven years when debts were forgiven. That earlier passage sheds new light on the verse from John:

Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land” (Deuteronomy 15:11).

Far from resigning us to poverty in the world, the verse challenges followers of Christ. In his commentary on Deuteronomy, Martin Luther writes, “‘The poor you always have with you,’ just as you will have all other evils. But constant care should be taken that, since these evils are always in evidence, they are always opposed.”

For Luther, to “always have the poor among you” meant to be confronted always by God’s call to respond to human suffering and oppose the evil that creates it. This is not resignation but activation of the people of God in the service of the neighbor.

What’s more, we may find in Jesus’ words a lesson for our identity as church together. “You will always have the poor among you.” If we are truly the
people of God, then we are called to be in community with neighbors who have been marginalized, excluded, oppressed and impoverished by the world’s injustice.

As church, our calling is not merely to minister to our neighbors but to bear witness to the “new thing” God is doing in our world, a new community God is making possible. This is not easy work. Confronting hunger and poverty alongside our neighbors means facing the dangerous realities that impact our neighbors.

In Palestine, Defense of Children International–Palestine (DCIP), supported by ELCA World Hunger, works with children and families to protect their rights and give them the care and support they need. Settlement expansion in the West Bank and increased military presence in daily life put children at risk of negative encounters with Israeli forces. Children detained for
violating the often-discriminatory laws of Israeli occupation risk abuse from both Israeli and Palestinian forces. Despite significant legal reform in recent years, DCIP has found that practices have yet to fully align with domestic or international legal frameworks for juvenile justice and that children are paying the price, navigating a military legal system that fails to meet the minimum international standards, particularly for juveniles.

DCIP provides both legal and social support for children accused of crimes, and it works with their families, many of whom live in poverty, to improve their situations emotionally, socially and financially through vocational training, the support of social workers and more. This support is critical to addressing the root causes of hunger and poverty in Palestine.

Responding to hunger means accompanying neighbors as they confront the systems of injustice that create hunger. It means facing harsh realities with realistic perspectives. This is not the false “realism” that twists Jesus’ words in the Gospel but the realistic acknowledgement that we face our own journey in the wilderness before we reach the fullness of God’s promise. Friends, we have a long way to go.

And yet … and yet …

As we have seen throughout our Lenten journey, we are not going it alone. God is with us along the way, inspiring hope and courage and revealing Godself in the neighbors we encounter along the way. We know that this Lenten journey is not the end. The season’s fasting, praying and selfreflecting spiritual disciplines prepare us for the road ahead, the road that leads to the cross — and beyond, to a new community God makes possible.

This is not an easy road to travel. But we know that, even amid the challenges ahead, the “new thing” God is doing “springs forth,” that God is even now working to “make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19).

Do you not perceive it?

Ask

  1. What does it mean for the church to “always have the poor” with us? How might we rethink Jesus’ words in light of the study session for this week?
  2. In what ways does your congregation act as a neighbor toward people in need in your community?
  3. Why is the church called to work for justice in the world? What might the work of DCI-Palestine teach us about being the people of God?
  4. How can the church inspire hope when the promised future can seem so far away?
  5. Where is God calling you and your congregation to be today? How can or will you be part of the “new thing” God is calling forth?

Pray

God of the poor widow, the lost sheep, and the wandering Aramean,
God of the hungry, the thirsty, and the stranger,
God of the naked, the ill, and the imprisoned,

We confess before you that the church has not always been where
you have called us to be. We have failed to seek your face in our
neighbors in need. We have allowed despair to bind our hands and
feet. Change us, O God. Free us to act with hope and courage.

Open our hearts to perceive your presence in and among our
neighbors. Inflame us with holy passion for the work you invite us
to in the world. Breathe new life into your church, that we may be
the people you call us to be in the world you call into being:

A church of the poor widow, the lost sheep and the wandering Aramean.
A church of the hungry, the thirsty and the stranger.
A church of the naked, the ill and the imprisoned.

Do a “new thing” with us and through us, that we may be a
community of hope, comfort and welcome — a living sign of the
way we are making in the wilderness. Amen.

 

SEMANA 5: Un camino en el desierto

“¿No se dan cuenta?” (Isaías 43:19).
Lecturas: Isaías 43:16-21, Salmo 126, Filipenses 3:4b-14, Juan 12:1-8

Cada una de las sesiones de este estudio de Cuaresma se ha basado en un versículo de las lecturas de esta semana:

¡Voy a hacer algo nuevo! Ya está sucediendo, ¿no se dan cuenta? Estoy abriendo un camino en el desierto, y ríos en lugares desolados (Isaías 43:19).

Desde la ofrenda de primicias de Deuteronomio, hasta la enseñanza de Jesús en el Evangelio de Lucas, nuestras reflexiones han señalado cómo Dios continúa “abriendo un camino en el desierto” y nos llama a ser parte de esa jornada para nosotros y nuestro prójimo. Las lecturas bíblicas de esta temporada nos recuerdan la promesa de una nueva vida en Canaán para nuestros antepasados y una nueva vida en Cristo para todos nosotros.

Hemos imaginado un mundo sin hambre, hemos oído hablar de la abundante provisión que Dios hizo de maná, y hemos visto las formas en que la iglesia ha trabajado incansablemente, en el pasado y en la actualidad, para acabar con el hambre.

Ahora llegamos a la culminación de este movimiento hacia el cumplimiento de la promesa de Dios, en la que Jesús anuncia: “A los pobres siempre los tendrán con ustedes” (Juan 12:8 NVI).

Este no es el versículo más alentador de la Biblia.

¿Cuántas veces la gente ha tergiversado estas palabras en una excusa para la pasividad o una réplica burlona a las proclamas de esperanza de que el hambre y la pobreza pueden, algún día, terminar? Junto con su versículo compañero en 2 Tesalonicenses (“El que no quiera trabajar, que tampoco coma”), es uno de los “pasajes difíciles” para las personas de fe ansiosas por inspirar a otros a responder al hambre y la pobreza. Estos versículos problemáticos a menudo se usan para apoyar políticas y prácticas restrictivas y contraintuitivas que inhiben el progreso real contra el hambre y la pobreza. ¿Por qué esforzarse más para acabar con el hambre y la pobreza si incluso Jesús dice que la pobreza no va a desaparecer?

El pasaje brinda más cuando cavamos un poco más profundo. En realidad, Jesús podría estar refiriéndose aquí a una parte anterior de la Biblia, y en ese versículo anterior las palabras no son una declaración de hechos, sino un desafío al pueblo de Dios. El versículo aparece en una sección de Deuteronomio sobre el año del jubileo, un tiempo cada siete años en que las deudas eran perdonadas. Ese pasaje anterior arroja nueva luz sobre el versículo de Juan:

Gente pobre en esta tierra, siempre la habrá; por eso te ordeno que seas generoso con tus hermanos hebreos y con los pobres y necesitados de tu tierra” (Deuteronomio 15:11).

Lejos de resignarnos a la pobreza en el mundo, el versículo desafía a los seguidores de Cristo. En su comentario sobre Deuteronomio, Martín Lutero escribe: “‘El pobre siempre lo tienen con ustedes’, así como tendrán todos los demás males. Pero se debe tener el cuidado constante de que, dado que estos males siempre son evidentes, siempre se les presente oposición”.

Para Lutero, “a los pobres siempre los tendrán con ustedes” significaba ser siempre confrontado por el llamado de Dios a responder al sufrimiento humano y oponerse al mal que lo causa. Esto no es resignación sino activación del pueblo de Dios al servicio del prójimo.

Lo que es más, en las palabras de Jesús podemos encontrar una lección para nuestra identidad como iglesia juntos. “A los pobres siempre los tendrán con ustedes”. Si realmente somos el pueblo de Dios, entonces estamos llamados a estar en comunidad con los vecinos que han sido marginados, excluidos, oprimidos y empobrecidos por la injusticia del mundo.

Como iglesia, nuestro llamado no es simplemente ministrar a nuestro prójimo, sino dar testimonio de “algo nuevo” que Dios está haciendo en nuestro mundo, una nueva comunidad que Dios está haciendo posible. Este no es un trabajo fácil. Enfrentar el hambre y la pobreza junto a nuestro prójimo significa enfrentar las peligrosas realidades que afectan a nuestros vecinos.

En Palestina, Defense of Children International–Palestine (DCIP) [Defensa Internacional para los Niños de Palestina], con el apoyo de ELCA World Hunger, trabaja con niños y familias para proteger sus derechos y brindarles la atención y el apoyo que necesitan. La expansión de los asentamientos en la Ribera Occidental y el aumento de la presencia militar en la vida cotidiana ponen a los niños en riesgo de encuentros negativos con las fuerzas israelíes. Los niños detenidos por violar las leyes a menudo discriminatorias de la ocupación israelí corren el riesgo de sufrir abusos tanto por parte de las fuerzas israelíes como de las palestinas. A pesar de la importante reforma legal de los últimos años, el DCIP ha descubierto que las prácticas aún no se han alineado plenamente con los marcos jurídicos nacionales o internacionales para la justicia de menores, y que los niños están pagando el precio, navegando por un sistema legal militar que no cumple con las mínimas normas internacionales, particularmente para los menores.

DCIP da apoyo legal y social a los niños acusados de delitos y trabaja con sus familias —muchas de las cuales viven en la pobreza— para mejorar emocional, social y financieramente sus situaciones a través de la capacitación vocacional, el apoyo de los trabajadores sociales y más. Este apoyo es fundamental para atacar las causas profundas del hambre y la pobreza en Palestina.

Responder al hambre significa acompañar a los vecinos mientras enfrentan los sistemas de injusticia que crean hambre. Significa hacer frente a realidades duras con perspectivas realistas. Este no es el falso “realismo” que tergiversa las palabras de Jesús en el Evangelio, sino el reconocimiento realista de que enfrentamos nuestra propia jornada en el desierto antes de alcanzar la plenitud de la promesa de Dios.  Amigos, nos queda un largo camino por recorrer.

Y sin embargo… y sin embargo…

Como hemos visto a lo largo de nuestra jornada cuaresmal, no vamos solos. Dios está con nosotros en el camino, inspirando esperanza y valentía y revelándose a sí mismo en los vecinos que encontramos en el camino. Sabemos que esta jornada cuaresmal no es el fin. Las disciplinas espirituales de ayuno, oración y autorreflexión de la temporada nos preparan para el camino por delante, el camino que conduce a la cruz; y más allá, a una nueva comunidad que Dios hace posible.

No es un camino fácil de recorrer. Pero sabemos que, incluso en medio de los desafíos que tenemos por delante, el “algo nuevo” que Dios está haciendo “brota”, que Dios incluso ahora está trabajando para “abrir un camino en el desierto y ríos en lugares desolados” (Isaías 43:19).

¿No se dan cuenta?

Preguntas para la reflexión

  1. ¿Qué significa para la iglesia que “a los pobres siempre los tendremos con nosotros”? ¿Cómo podríamos replantearnos las palabras de Jesús a la luz de la sesión de estudio de esta semana?
  2. ¿De qué maneras actúa su congregación como el prójimo de las personas necesitadas en su comunidad?
  3. ¿Por qué está llamada la iglesia a trabajar por la justicia en el mundo? ¿Qué podría enseñarnos la obra de DCI-Palestina en lo que respecta a ser el pueblo de Dios?
  4. ¿Cómo puede la iglesia inspirar esperanza cuando el futuro prometido puede parecer tan lejano?
  5. ¿Dónde está llamando Dios a su congregación y a usted a estar hoy? ¿Cómo puede ser o será parte del “algo nuevo” del que Dios está hablando?

Oración

Dios de la viuda pobre, de la oveja perdida y del arameo errante, Dios del hambriento, el sediento y el extranjero, Dios del desnudo, el enfermo y el encarcelado:

Confesamos ante ti que la iglesia no siempre ha estado donde nos has llamado a estar. No hemos podido buscar tu rostro en nuestros vecinos necesitados. Hemos permitido que la desesperación nos ate las manos y los pies. Cámbianos, oh Dios. Libéranos para actuar con esperanza y valentía.

Abre nuestros corazones para percibir tu presencia en nuestros vecinos y entre ellos. Enciéndenos con santa pasión por el trabajo al que nos invitas en el mundo. Sopla nueva vida a tu iglesia, para que podamos ser las personas que nos llamas a ser en el mundo que llamas a ser:

Una iglesia de la viuda pobre, la oveja perdida y el arameo errante. Una iglesia del hambriento, el sediento y el extranjero.

Una iglesia del desnudo, el enfermo y el encarcelado. Haz “algo nuevo” con nosotros y a través de nosotros, para que podamos ser una comunidad de esperanza, consuelo y bienvenida; una señal viva del camino que estás abriendo en el desierto. Amén.

 

Lent Reflection 4: Transformed in the Wilderness

ELCA World Hunger’s 40 Days of Giving

Lent 2022

In English and en Espanol

Week 4: Transformed in the Wilderness

“They ate the crops of the land” (Joshua 5:12)

Read

  • Joshua 5:9-12
  • Psalm 32
  • 2 Corinthians 5:16-21
  • Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

Reflect

The reading from Joshua for this week is brief, but it recounts the time the Hebrews, who left Egypt under God’s care, had so longed to see: the end of their exodus and the beginning of their life in the Promised Land of Canaan. No longer would their food rain down from the heavens; now, they would be fed by their own produce:

The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year (Joshua 5:12).

Certainly, the people’s entrance into the Promised Land is not the end of their dependence on God. Their food may no longer miraculously fall from the sky, but a new miracle springs from the land God created and is nurtured by farmers who embody God’s creative care. Settling in Canaan is just the beginning of the story of God’s people — not the end.

But there is a transformation in the now-settled people, evident in the difference between manna from heaven and “the crops of the land.” In the common language of today’s world, we might call this the difference between charity and self-sufficiency.

The church has been involved in responding to human need, especially hunger, since its very beginning. The sacrament of Holy Communion began as a full meal in the Christian community, particularly for those who otherwise might not have been able to feed themselves. By the second and third centuries, care for people who were hungry or poor was so central to the church’s identity that bishops, whose roles included managing the church’s social ministries, were sometimes called “lovers of the poor.”

Feeding people who hunger is still crucial to the church’s identity. Our latest survey data show that well over 70% of ELCA congregations participate in direct-feeding ministries. Early numbers indicate that over 95% of congregations participate in some form of response to hunger. Feeding ministries can be crucial lifelines for the more than 38 million people in the United States who are uncertain of their next meal. During the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, with sudden job loss and supply chain shortages, feeding ministries such as these swiftly adapted to meet the exploding need. This was critical support, particularly for those neighbors unable to access social safety-net programs such as SNAP or the federal stimulus payments.

Feeding ministries stand at the forefront of hunger work, providing opportunities for neighbors to build relationships and for communities to draw together toward effective solutions. But ending hunger requires more. As theologian Samuel Torvend has written, “In addition to charitable response is discerning why people … are suffering in the first place. And that moves us from charitable giving … into asking the larger question, which is, ‘Why is there injustice? What is it within the larger system in which people live that produces this kind of suffering?’”

Behind the long lines at food pantries and the pallets of goods at food banks lies the reality that ending hunger will require more than food. There are some times when we must focus our efforts together on meeting immediate need. But at all times, the church is called to something more.

The church’s work in hunger responds not only to a problem but to a promise. We know by faith that hunger is not what God intends, that the One who created and sustains us is leading us to a future in which all will be fed, as surely as God led our ancestors through the desert to the Promised Land. The response of the church is rooted in the larger witness of faith holding that the systems and conditions that create scarcity are wrong, and that we can still create a life of security and sufficiency, even on this side of the fullness of God’s reign.

In Pueblo County, Colo., Posada accompanies neighbors who experience homelessness as they work together toward this vision. With support from ELCA World Hunger, Posada aspires to provide for the immediate needs of people who lack stable housing while enabling them to address the problems that have led to their situation. Daniel is one of many people Posada has worked with to secure housing. Assisted by Posada, Daniel was able to transition from a long-term care facility to stable housing that he can call his own. Posada continues to work with him so that he can pay for utilities.

Posada helps neighbors meet their most immediate needs, connecting them to programs that offer funds for food and shelter. But the work doesn’t stop there; Posada works with neighbors to secure the housing, support and stability they will need to thrive in the future.

As Moses and the Hebrews left Egypt, they were sustained by God’s gift of manna. This food from heaven satisfied their hunger and helped them survive their time in the wilderness. But God had more in store for them — not just an end to their hunger but a new life and hope, a future as a people renewed in their relationship to God, to each other and to a land
they could call their own. Eating their fill of manna was not the end but the means, allowing them to reach a place where they would thrive on “the crops of the land.”

Amid our own trial and challenge during a pandemic that stretched our food systems and charitable ministries to near-capacity, we might forget the vision that inspires the church’s hunger ministries in the first place. But during Lent, a season of self-reflection and renewal, the crossing over of the Hebrews from the wilderness to Gilgal, where they would become the nation Israel, reminds us of that vision. We cling to this promise that God will provide not just manna today but “crops of the land” tomorrow, granting us a new opportunity to build community and share in God’s journey toward a just world where all are fed.

This is the vision that inspires, motivates and shapes the many ways this church is active in the world, responding not just to the problem of hunger but to the promise of God for a future in which all who are weary — from journeying, from struggling, from working, from waiting — will find rest.

Ask

  1. What does “home” mean to you? What do you think it meant for the Israelites to settle in their new home and to eat the crops of their own land?
  2. How might uncertainty about housing impact other aspects of someone’s life?
  3. What might Posada’s ministry say about what it means to be the people of God? How does addressing housing insecurity reflect the church’s calling to be the people of God?
  4. Consider your community. What housing issues do you and your neighbors face? How might your congregation be part of addressing these issues?

Pray

God of our wanderings and our settling, you guided your people through the wilderness with gifts of manna and water to sustain them. Be with us in our own times of uncertainty and fear. Send your Spirit among us, that your church may be a sign of welcome in the world. When we are comfortable, open our hearts to our neighbors’ discomfort. When we are uncomfortable, sustain us with hope and courage. Bless us, that we may be blessings to one another. In your name we pray, amen.

 

SEMANA 4: Transformados en el desierto

“El pueblo se alimentó de los frutos de la tierra” (Josué 5:12).
Lecturas: Josué 5:9-12; Salmo 32; 2 Corintios 5:16-21; Lucas 15:1-3, 11b-32.

La lectura de Josué para esta semana es breve, pero relata el tiempo que los hebreos, que salieron de Egipto bajo el cuidado de Dios, habían anhelado ver: el fin de su éxodo y el comienzo de su vida en la Tierra Prometida de Canaán. Su alimento ya no iba a llover más de los cielos; ahora iban a ser alimentados por sus propios productos:

Desde ese momento dejó de caer maná, y durante todo ese año el pueblo se alimentó de los frutos de la tierra (Josué 5:12).

Ciertamente, la entrada de la gente en la Tierra Prometida no es el fin de su dependencia de Dios. Tal vez su comida ya no cae milagrosamente del cielo, pero un nuevo milagro brota de la tierra que Dios creó y es cultivado por agricultores que encarnan el cuidado creativo de Dios. Establecerse en Canaán es sólo el comienzo de la historia del pueblo de Dios —no el final.

Pero hay una transformación en la gente ahora asentada, evidente en la diferencia entre el maná del cielo y “los frutos de la tierra”. En el lenguaje común del mundo de hoy, podríamos llamar a esto la diferencia entre caridad y autosuficiencia.

Desde sus inicios, la iglesia ha estado involucrada en responder a las necesidades humanas, especialmente al hambre. El sacramento de la Sagrada Comunión comenzó como una comida completa en la comunidad cristiana, particularmente para aquellos que de otra manera no habrían podido alimentarse. En los siglos II y III, el cuidado de las personas que tenían hambre o eran pobres era tan central para la identidad de la iglesia que los obispos, cuyos roles incluían la gestión de los ministerios sociales de la iglesia, a veces se llamaban “amantes de los pobres”.

Alimentar a las personas que tienen hambre sigue siendo crucial para la identidad de la iglesia. Los últimos datos de nuestra encuesta muestran que más del 70% de las congregaciones de la ELCA participan en ministerios de alimentación directa. Las primeras cifras indican que más del 95% de las congregaciones participan en alguna forma de respuesta al hambre. Los ministerios de alimentación pueden ser líneas de vida cruciales para los más de 38 millones de personas en los Estados Unidos que no están seguras de su próxima comida. Durante los primeros meses de la pandemia de COVID-19 en 2020, con la pérdida repentina de empleos y la escasez en la cadena de abastecimiento, los ministerios de alimentación como estos se adaptaron rápidamente para satisfacer la creciente necesidad. Este fue un apoyo crucial, particularmente para aquellos vecinos que no pueden acceder a programas de redes de seguridad social como SNAP o los pagos de estímulo federal.

Los ministerios de alimentación están a la vanguardia del trabajo contra el hambre, brindando oportunidades para que los vecinos construyan relaciones y para que las comunidades se unan a favor de soluciones efectivas. Pero acabar con el hambre requiere más. Como ha escrito el teólogo Samuel Torvend: “Además de la respuesta caritativa, es discernir por qué las personas … están sufriendo en primer lugar. Y eso nos mueve de las donaciones caritativas… a hacer la pregunta más amplia, que es: ‘¿Por qué hay injusticia? ¿Qué cosa dentro del sistema más amplio en el que la gente vive es lo que produce este tipo de sufrimiento?’”

Detrás de las largas filas en las despensas de alimentos y las paletas de mercancías en los bancos de alimentos se encuentra la realidad de que acabar con el hambre requerirá más que alimentos. Hay ocasiones en las que debemos centrar nuestros esfuerzos juntos en satisfacer las necesidades inmediatas. Pero en todo momento, la iglesia está llamada a hacer algo más.

El trabajo de la iglesia en relación con el hambre responde, no sólo a un problema, sino también a una promesa. Sabemos por fe que el hambre no es lo que Dios quiere, que Aquel que nos creó y nos sostiene nos está llevando a un futuro en el que todos serán alimentados, tan seguramente como cuando guiaba a nuestros antepasados a través del desierto hacia la Tierra Prometida. La respuesta de la iglesia está enraizada en el testimonio más amplio de la fe que sostiene que los sistemas y las condiciones que crean escasez son incorrectos, y que todavía podemos crear una vida de seguridad y suficiencia, incluso en este lado de la plenitud del reino de Dios.

En el condado de Pueblo, Colorado, Posada acompaña a los vecinos que experimentan la falta de vivienda mientras trabajan juntos por esta visión. Con el apoyo de ELCA World Hunger, Posada aspira a satisfacer las necesidades inmediatas de las personas que carecen de vivienda estable, al tiempo que les permite abordar los problemas que han causado su situación. Daniel es una de las muchas personas con las que Posada ha trabajado para asegurar una vivienda. Con la ayuda de Posada, Daniel pudo hacer la transición de un centro de atención a largo plazo a una vivienda estable que puede llamar suya. Posada continúa trabajando con él para que pueda pagar los servicios públicos.

Posada ayuda a los vecinos a satisfacer sus necesidades más inmediatas, conectándolos con programas que ofrecen fondos para techo y comida. Pero el trabajo no se detiene ahí; Posada trabaja con los vecinos para asegurar la vivienda, el apoyo y la estabilidad que necesitarán para prosperar en el futuro.

Cuando Moisés y los hebreos salieron de Egipto fueron sustentados por el regalo de Dios llamado maná. Este alimento del cielo satisfizo su hambre y les ayudó a sobrevivir su tiempo en el desierto. Pero Dios tenía más cosas reservadas para ellos —no solo poner fin a su hambre, sino también una nueva vida y esperanza, un futuro como pueblo renovado en su relación con Dios, de los unos con los otros y con una tierra que podrían llamar suya. Comer maná hasta saciarse no era el fin sino el medio, lo que les permitía llegar a un lugar donde florecerían con “los frutos de la tierra”. En medio de nuestra propia prueba y desafío durante una pandemia que estiró a casi su capacidad nuestros sistemas alimentarios y ministerios caritativos, pudiéramos olvidar la visión que inspira los ministerios de hambre de la iglesia en primer lugar.

Pero, durante la Cuaresma, una temporada de autorreflexión y renovación, el paso de los hebreos desde el desierto hasta Gilgal, donde se convertirían en la nación de Israel, nos recuerda esa visión. Nos aferramos a esta promesa de que Dios proveerá no solo maná hoy, sino también “frutos de la tierra” mañana, otorgándonos una nueva oportunidad para construir comunidad y participar en la jornada de Dios hacia un mundo justo donde todos sean alimentados.

Esta es la visión que inspira, motiva y moldea las muchas formas en que esta iglesia está activa en el mundo, respondiendo no solamente al problema del hambre, sino también a la promesa de Dios para un futuro en el que todos los que están cansados —de la jornada, la lucha, el trabajo, la espera— encontrarán descanso.

Preguntas para la reflexión

  1. ¿Qué significa “hogar” para usted? ¿Qué cree que significaba para los israelitas establecerse en su nuevo hogar y comer los frutos de su propia tierra?
  2. ¿Cómo podría la incertidumbre sobre la vivienda afectar otros aspectos de la vida de alguien?
  3. ¿De qué manera abordar la inseguridad de la vivienda refleja el llamado de la iglesia a ser el pueblo de Dios?
  4. Considere su comunidad. ¿Qué problemas de vivienda enfrentan usted y sus vecinos? ¿Cómo podría su congregación ser parte de la solución de estos temas?

Oración

Dios de nuestras andanzas y nuestro asentamiento, guiaste a tu pueblo a través del desierto con regalos de maná y agua para sustentarlos. Quédate con nosotros en nuestros propios tiempos de incertidumbre y temor. Envía tu Espíritu entre nosotros para que tu iglesia sea una señal de bienvenida en el mundo. Cuando estemos cómodos, abre nuestros corazones a la incomodidad de nuestros vecinos. Cuando nos sintamos incómodos, sostennos con esperanza y valor. Bendícenos, para que seamos bendiciones los unos para los otros. En tu nombre oramos, amén.

Lent Reflection 3: Wandering in the Wilderness

ELCA World Hunger’s 40 Days of Giving

Lent 2022

In English and en Espanol

Week 3: Vulnerable in the Wilderness

“O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1)

Read

  • Isaiah 55:1-9
  • Psalm 63:1-8
  • I Corinthians 10:1-13
  • Luke 13:1-9

Reflect

The Gospel reading for the third Sunday of Lent is challenging. Jesus is speaking at a large gathering (of “thousands,” we read in Luke 12) and is covering a lot of theological ground. In Chapter 13, a group from the crowd shares with him news of “the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices” (13:1). The event warrants no further description from Luke, but the picture the Gospel writer paints in just a few words is horrific. While performing a religious ceremony, a group of Galilean Jews have been slaughtered by Pilate’s soldiers.

We have no record of the event in other sources, but we do know that, tragically, it would not have been out of character for Pilate. Indeed, the end of Pilate’s rule in Judea came about from a similar incident, when Pilate ordered his soldiers to massacre a group of Samaritans on Mount Gerizim as they gathered for a religious ceremony.

Perhaps by naming the event to Jesus, the people were trying to trick him, as so many others had tried before. Or perhaps they were feeling him out, seeing if Jesus would say anything rebellious against Pilate or Rome. Either way, Jesus doesn’t take the bait. As we see so often in the Gospels, Jesus instead uses the opportunity to challenge what the people think they know about God and themselves.

At the time, the people believed that tragedies such as the massacre of the Galileans or the deadly collapse of “the tower of Siloam” (v. 4) that killed 18 people were not mere accidents; they were, as one biblical scholar writes, “the wages of sin.” The violence of tyrants, the human cost of disasters, the ravages of disease — all these were viewed as the intentional consequences meted out by God because the victims had sinned. In short, they believed those who died had gotten what they deserved.

That same theological mentality persists today. A 2017 survey of Americans found Christians to be nearly twice as likely to believe that poverty results from the personal moral failings of individuals.

The biblical witness in Luke paints a different perspective. Jesus pointedly asks the crowd if the Galileans killed by Pilate and the people killed by the falling tower were worse sinners or offenders than others. It’s a rhetorical question that Jesus turns to his audience. Of course, they were neither worse sinners nor more egregious offenders. The unjust rule of tyrants is not reserved for the worst of sinners, nor do disasters wait until the most immoral people are at risk.

Thus far in this season of Lent, we have been reflecting on what it means to be in the wilderness, journeying toward the promise God has in store. This encounter between Jesus and the crowd, which began in Luke 12 and continues in Luke 13, is a poignant opportunity to continue this reflection.
Jesus’ rhetorical questions about violence and disaster challenge us to consider our own vulnerability and responsibility as we make our way in the world.

Jesus’ question reminds the crowd that tragedy and trauma don’t wait for morally upright people to get out of harm’s way; we are all vulnerable as we traverse a wilderness fraught with injustice, violence, hunger and poverty. The superiority we may feel over others is neither true nor significant. In Luke,
Jesus reminds us that we’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And, importantly, neither Pilate nor the tower of Siloam waited to make sure the most unworthy were at risk before dealing death to the crowd.

We might say the same about hunger and poverty today: no amount of hard work can ultimately overcome an unjust system. As research has shown, even the most qualified candidates for jobs can find themselves locked out by systems rooted in prejudice. Neither moral purity nor a clean conscience can undo the damaging impact of housing discrimination that leaves some communities more vulnerable to flooding or storms than others. Hunger is not the result of personal moral failings but a risk we all
take in a world still yearning for God to fulfill the promise that all will be fed.

Yet research shows clear patterns in the distribution of hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world. The reality is that not all of us are equally vulnerable to hunger or poverty, nor are we vulnerable in the same ways. Employment discrimination makes securing jobs harder for candidates of color, even if they are more qualified than candidates who are white. Gender discrimination makes controlling land and securing loans to start a business harder for women. Public funding is often diverted to communities that are already financially secure and away from communities that are at risk. Each of these inequities deepens a person’s vulnerability, shifting hunger from an incidental situation to an entrenched reality.

As we reflect on our vulnerability in the wilderness, Jesus’ message in the Gospel reading drives us to reflect on our own responsibility, calling us to examine what “fruit,” if any, we are producing. Is the work we do in the world reducing our shared vulnerability or increasing it? How are our laws, policies and practices making the “wilderness” a less dangerous place for ourselves and our neighbors?

The teachings Jesus offers in Luke 12 and 13 are grounded in themes of anticipation and watchfulness. The practices of repentance and reconciliation he encourages (see Luke 12:13-15 and 57-58) are part of the identity of a people looking to the coming reign of God, preparing for a world that is no longer a wilderness but a full expression of God’s promise.

As the church, we are called to anticipate this promised future. In our confession, we confront the distance between where and who we are now and where and who we are called to be. In our commission, we bear witness to what we know by faith: that the death-dealing realities of a violent Pilate, crashing towers and hunger-causing injustices ought not to be. These realities are no more part of God’s plan for us now than they are part of God’s plan for our future.

As we journey together in the wilderness this Lent, Jesus’ words remind us of what it means to be vulnerable, to be responsible and to bear witness to the future we know God has in store.

Ask

  1. What situations or circumstances have left you or your community feeling vulnerable? How does faith in God help you navigate times when you feel powerless or at risk?
  2. Consider some of the observations about hunger and poverty in the study session for this week. What are some of the factors that make us and our neighbors vulnerable to hunger and poverty?
  3. In this week’s readings, what is Jesus saying about what it means to be the people of God?\ As Lutherans, we believe we are saved by grace despite our own sin.
  4. How does the truth of grace change how we relate to our neighbors, especially our neighbors facing hunger or poverty?

Pray

Loving God, you sent your Son to save us when we could not save ourselves. Yet we still strive to save ourselves. Forgive us for the ways we have divided your world of grace according to our own false ideas of worth. Remind us of the gracious love that creates, saves and sustains us. Move us to be witnesses of your grace in the world and to seek new ways of sharing that with our neighbors. In your loving name we pray, amen.

 

SEMANA 3: Vulnerables en el desierto

“Oh Dios, tú eres mi Dios; yo te busco intensamente. Mi alma tiene sed de ti; todo mi ser te anhela, cual tierra seca, extenuada y sedienta” (Salmo 63:1).
Lecturas: Isaías 55:1-9; Salmo 63:1-8; 1 Corintios 10:1-13; Lucas 13:1-9

La lectura del Evangelio para el tercer domingo de Cuaresma es un desafío. Jesús está hablando en una gran reunión (de “miles”, como leemos en Lucas 12) y está abarcando mucho terreno teológico. En el capítulo 13, un grupo de la multitud comparte con él noticias de “cómo Pilato había dado muerte a unos galileos cuando ellos ofrecían sus sacrificios” (13:1). El acontecimiento no merece que Lucas lo describa con más detalle, pero la imagen que el escritor del Evangelio pinta en solo unas pocas palabras es horrible. Mientras realizaban una ceremonia religiosa, un grupo de judíos galileos habían sido masacrados por los soldados de Pilato.

No tenemos registro de este suceso en otras fuentes, pero sí sabemos que, trágicamente, no habría sido extraño al carácter de Pilato. De hecho, el fin del gobierno de Pilato en Judea se produjo a partir de un incidente similar, cuando Pilato ordenó a sus soldados que masacraran a un grupo de samaritanos en el Monte Gerizim mientras se reunían para una ceremonia religiosa.

Tal vez la gente le mencionó a Jesús el acontecimiento para tratar de engañarlo, como muchos otros lo habían intentado antes. O tal vez estaban tratando de averiguar lo que Jesús pensaba, a ver si decía algo rebelde contra Pilato o Roma. De cualquier manera, Jesús no muerde el anzuelo. Como vemos tan a menudo en los Evangelios, Jesús en cambio usa la oportunidad para desafiar lo que la gente cree que sabe acerca de Dios y de sí mismos.

En aquel tiempo, la gente creía que tragedias como la masacre de los galileos o el colapso mortal de “la torre de Siloé” (v. 4) que mató a 18 personas no habían sido meros accidentes; eran, como escribe un erudito bíblico, “la paga del pecado”. La violencia de los tiranos, el costo humano de los desastres, los estragos de las enfermedades —todo esto era visto como las consecuencias intencionales impuestas por Dios porque las víctimas habían pecado. En pocas palabras, ellos creían que los que morían habían recibido lo que merecían.

Esa misma mentalidad teológica persiste hoy. Una encuesta de estadounidenses de 2017 encontró que los cristianos tienen casi el doble de probabilidades de creer que la pobreza es el resultado de las fallas morales personales de los individuos.

El testimonio bíblico en Lucas pinta una perspectiva diferente. Jesús pregunta deliberadamente a la multitud si los galileos asesinados por Pilato y las personas que murieron por el colapso de la torre eran peores pecadores u ofensores que otra gente. Es una pregunta retórica que Jesús dirige a su audiencia. Por supuesto, no eran ni peores pecadores ni ofensores más atroces. El gobierno injusto de los tiranos no está reservado para los peores pecadores, ni los desastres esperan hasta que las personas más inmorales estén en riesgo.

Hasta ahora, en esta temporada de Cuaresma, hemos estado reflexionando sobre lo que significa estar en el desierto, caminando hacia la promesa que Dios tiene reservada. Este encuentro entre Jesús y la multitud, que comenzó en Lucas 12 y continúa en Lucas 13, es una oportunidad conmovedora para continuar esta reflexión. Las preguntas retóricas de Jesús sobre la violencia y el desastre nos desafían a considerar nuestra propia vulnerabilidad y responsabilidad a medida que nos abrimos camino en el mundo.

La pregunta de Jesús le recuerda a la multitud que la tragedia y el trauma no esperan a que las personas moralmente rectas salgan del peligro; todos somos vulnerables mientras atravesamos un desierto plagado de injusticia, violencia, hambre y pobreza. La superioridad que podemos sentir sobre los demás no es ni verdadera ni significativa. En Lucas, Jesús nos recuerda que todos hemos pecado y hemos sido privados de la gloria de Dios. Y, lo que es más importante, ni Pilato ni la torre de Siloé esperaron para asegurarse de que los más indignos estuvieran en riesgo antes de matar a la multitud.

Podríamos decir lo mismo sobre el hambre y la pobreza hoy: ninguna cantidad de trabajo duro puede superar en última instancia un sistema injusto. Como han demostrado los estudios, incluso los candidatos más calificados para puestos de trabajo pueden verse bloqueados por sistemas arraigados en prejuicios. Ni la pureza moral ni una conciencia limpia pueden deshacer el impacto dañino de la discriminación en la vivienda que deja a algunas comunidades más vulnerables a las inundaciones o tormentas que otras. El hambre no es el resultado de fallas morales personales, sino un riesgo que todos corremos en un mundo que todavía anhela que Dios cumpla la promesa de que todos serán alimentados.

Sin embargo, los estudios muestran patrones claros en la distribución del hambre y la pobreza en los Estados Unidos y en todo el mundo. La realidad es que no todos somos igualmente vulnerables al hambre o la pobreza, ni somos vulnerables de la misma manera. La discriminación en el empleo hace que asegurar empleos sea más difícil para los candidatos de color, incluso si están más calificados que los candidatos que son blancos. La discriminación de género hace que controlar la tierra y obtener préstamos para iniciar un negocio sea más difícil para las mujeres. A menudo el financiamiento público es desviado hacia comunidades que ya son financieramente seguras y lejos de las comunidades que están en riesgo. Cada una de estas inequidades aumenta la vulnerabilidad de una persona, y el hambre cambia de una situación incidental a una realidad arraigada.

Mientras reflexionamos en nuestra vulnerabilidad en el desierto, el mensaje de Jesús en la lectura del Evangelio nos impulsa a reflexionar en nuestra propia responsabilidad, llamándonos a examinar qué “fruto”, si es que hay alguno, estamos produciendo. ¿Está el trabajo que hacemos en el mundo reduciendo nuestra vulnerabilidad compartida o aumentándola? ¿Cómo están nuestras leyes, políticas y prácticas haciendo del “desierto” un lugar menos peligroso para nosotros y nuestro prójimo?

Las enseñanzas que Jesús ofrece en Lucas 12 y 13 se basan en temas de anticipación y vigilancia. Las prácticas de arrepentimiento y reconciliación que él promueve (ver Lucas 12:13-15 y 57-58) son parte de la identidad de un pueblo que mira hacia el reino venidero de Dios, preparándose para un mundo que ya no es un desierto, sino una expresión plena de la promesa de Dios.

Como iglesia estamos llamados a anticipar este futuro prometido. En nuestra confesión nos enfrentamos a la distancia que hay entre dónde estamos y quiénes somos ahora, y dónde estamos llamados a estar y quiénes estamos llamados a ser. En nuestra comisión damos testimonio de lo que sabemos por fe: que las realidades mortíferas de un Pilato violento, torres que se caen e injusticias que causan hambre no deben existir. Estas realidades no son más parte del plan de Dios para nosotros ahora de lo que son parte de su plan para nuestro futuro.

Mientras caminamos juntos en el desierto esta Cuaresma, las palabras de Jesús nos recuerdan lo que significa ser vulnerables, ser responsables y dar testimonio del futuro que sabemos que Dios tiene reservado.

Preguntas para la reflexión

  1. ¿Qué situaciones o circunstancias han dejado a su comunidad sintiéndose vulnerable? ¿Cómo le ayuda la fe en Dios a navegar los momentos en que se siente impotente o en riesgo?
  2. Considere algunas de las observaciones acerca del hambre y la pobreza de la sesión de estudio de esta semana. ¿Cuáles son algunos de los factores que hacen que nuestro prójimo y nosotros nos volvamos vulnerables al hambre y la pobreza?
  3. En las lecturas de esta semana, ¿qué dice Jesús sobre lo que significa ser el pueblo de Dios?
  4. Como luteranos creemos que somos salvados por gracia a pesar de nuestro propio pecado. ¿Cómo la verdad de la gracia cambia la forma en que nos relacionamos con nuestros vecinos, especialmente los que enfrentan el hambre y la pobreza?

Oración

Amoroso Dios, enviaste a tu Hijo para salvarnos cuando no podíamos salvarnos a nosotros mismos. Sin embargo, todavía luchamos por salvarnos a nosotros mismos. Perdónanos por las maneras en que hemos dividido tu mundo de gracia según nuestras propias falsas ideas de mérito o valor. Recuérdanos el amor misericordioso que nos crea, salva y sustenta. Muévenos a ser testigos de tu gracia en el mundo y a buscar nuevas formas de compartirla con nuestro prójimo. Oramos en tu amoroso nombre, amén.

Lent Reflection 2: Vulnerable in the Wilderness

ELCA World Hunger’s 40 Days of Giving

Lent 2022

In English and en Espanol

Week 2: Wandering in the Wilderness

“I must be on my way” (Luke 13:33).

Read

  • Genesis 15:1-12;17-18
  • Psalm 27
  • Philippians 3:17-4:1
  • Luke 12:31-35

Reflect

As we saw in the reflection for Week 1, Lent is a story of the journey of God’s people. It is our story, or more appropriately the story of “God with us.” During Lent, we remember the ancient Hebrews’ journey from slavery in Egypt and a generation spent wandering in the wilderness, as recounted in the offering of the “first fruits” in Deuteronomy. We also reenact, in our own small ways, Jesus’ journey into the wilderness as it was described in the Gospel of Luke in the first week of Lent. The fast that many Christians commit to during Lent reflects Jesus’ own fast in the wilderness.

In this sacred season, we turn inward, reflecting on our dependence on God’s grace. Marked by ashes at the start, we enter the 40 days of Lent with penitent hearts and awareness of our need for God’s mercy. Repentance and self-reflection are important practices, but it’s easy to stay here, forgetting that the season is about so much more than our own self-examination.

Martin Luther captured this well. Luther defined repentance in two ways: “contrition…and in taking hold of the promise.” Certainly, confession of the many ways we have fallen short is a key part of the spiritual practice of Lent. But the season of Lent also leads us to turn outward, as Luther wrote, “taking hold of the promise” of God as we both yearn for and proclaim Jesus’ words that define his time in the wilderness: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because [the Lord] has anointed me to bring good news to the poor … [and] to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).

The promise of good news is the gift of grace through faith in Jesus Christ, a promise of new life in the fullness of God’s reign. It is the promise of the Gospels and the prophets, the promise clung to by our ancestors in faith and the promise that sustains the people of God today in communities
around the world who accompany one another amid staggering challenges
of poverty, hunger and injustice.

Jesus not only proclaims the promise but lives it. He shows us what it means to live according to the promise — boldly, courageously, and with faith unceasing — from Galilee to Calvary. In the face of religious and political persecution, Jesus lives the daring life of faith in God’s grace.

While his trial before Pilate gets more attention, Jesus’ unrelenting march toward Jerusalem is one of the clearest examples of how to “take hold of the promise.” He travels from town to town, “teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem” (Luke 13:22). At one stop, a group of Pharisees warns him that he
must flee because Herod wants to kill him. Jesus responds: “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work’” (Luke 13:31-32).

Herod is coming for him, and Jesus responds, “I have work to do.” Jesus demonstrates a daring confidence that not even death can stop the work of God in the world. People of faith bring Jesus’ daring, grace-formed confidence to the calling of the church: seeing — even amid the threat of death — that there is work to be done.

In Indonesia, the threat from HIV and AIDS is very real. The island country is currently experiencing one of the fastest-growing HIV epidemics in the world. In 2018 (the most recent year for which data are available), 38,000 people died from an AIDS-related illness, an increase of 60% from 2010. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 640,000 people in the country were living with HIV as of 2018, but WHO estimates that only about half of people infected with HIV are aware that they have it.

The Batak Christian Protestant Church (HKBP), a companion church of the ELCA in Indonesia, is helping people throughout the country confront the deathly disease with courage, hope and the resources they need to survive. Arjen first came to HKBP’s AIDS Ministry (HAM) when he was 12 years old, but he was born with HIV. By the time he came to HAM, he had contracted pulmonary tuberculosis and was malnourished and very sick. His father passed away, and Arjen’s mother couldn’t afford the cost of transportation to the nearest hospital or the expensive treatments for her son. With the help of HKBP, the family was able to have Arjen evaluated at a hospital and to start him on antiretroviral medication to keep him healthy. HAM workers regularly check in on the family, helping Arjen’s mother meet his nutritional and medical needs. Seeing the mother’s financial situation, HAM also provided a revolving fund for business capital that has allowed her to secure a more stable income to support her family.

A year into Arjen’s work with HAM, his health is improving and his mother’s business is growing. Amid poverty, hunger and a deadly epidemic, God is at work through families such as Arjen’s to bring about a future with hope. In Lent, we remember Jesus’ long walk to Jerusalem and to Calvary. And in faith, we know that nothing can stop the work of God. Together we “take hold of the promise” with confidence, knowing that, even out of death, God will bring new life and hope to the world.

Herod wants us dead? “I am casting out demons and performing cures” (Luke 13:32).

The shadow of the cross looms ahead of us? “I must be on my way” (Luke 13:33).

Poverty, hunger and disease threaten our community? Go and tell that fox that God isn’t done with us yet.

Ask

  1. Think of a time when fear impacted your ministry. How does Christ encourage us to venture outside our comfort zone to love and serve our neighbors?
  2. What does it mean for you and your congregation to “take hold of the promise” in your community?
  3. How can programs such as the HKBP AIDS Ministry (HAM) help us learn about what it means to be the people of God in the world? What does Arjen’s story mean for your own ministry and life?
  4. In the face of death, disease and poverty, God continues to bring new life and hope. How do you, your family and your congregation bear witness to courage and hope in an uncertain world?

Pray

Gracious God, amid the challenges our world faces, you remind us of your promise for the future of our world. Draw near to us and draw us near to our neighbors, that we may be inspired with hope, courage and audacious faith to be the people you are calling us to be. Be present with our companions and partners around the world as we work together toward a just world where all are fed. In your holy name, amen.

 

SEMANA 2: Vagando por el desierto

“Tengo que seguir adelante” (Lucas 13:33).
Lecturas: Génesis 15:1-12, 17-18; Salmo 27; Filipenses 3:17-4:1; Lucas 12:31-35

Como vimos en la reflexión de la Semana 1, la Cuaresma es una historia de la jornada del pueblo de Dios. Es nuestra historia o, más apropiadamente, la historia de “Dios con nosotros”. Durante la Cuaresma recordamos la jornada de los antiguos hebreos desde la esclavitud en Egipto y una generación que pasó vagando por el desierto, como se relata en la ofrenda de las “primicias” en Deuteronomio. También recreamos, en nuestra propia y modesta medida, el viaje de Jesús al desierto según fue descrito en el Evangelio de Lucas en la primera semana de Cuaresma. El ayuno al que muchos cristianos se comprometen durante la Cuaresma refleja el propio ayuno de Jesús en el desierto.

En esta temporada sagrada, nos concentramos en nosotros mismos, y reflexionamos en nuestra dependencia de la gracia de Dios. Marcados por las cenizas al inicio, entramos en los 40 días de Cuaresma con corazones penitentes y conciencia de nuestra necesidad de la misericordia de Dios. El arrepentimiento y la autorreflexión son prácticas importantes, pero es fácil quedarse aquí y olvidar que la temporada es mucho más que nuestro propio examen de conciencia.

Martín Lutero registró esto bien. Lutero definió el arrepentimiento de dos maneras: “contrición… y en apoderarse de la promesa”.  Ciertamente, la confesión de las muchas formas en que nos hemos quedado cortos es una parte clave de la práctica espiritual de la Cuaresma. Pero el tiempo de Cuaresma también nos lleva a voltearnos hacia afuera, como escribió Lutero, “apoderándonos de la promesa” de Dios mientras anhelamos y proclamamos las palabras de Jesús que definen su tiempo en el desierto: “El Espíritu del Señor está sobre mí, por cuanto [el Señor] me ha ungido para anunciar buenas nuevas a los pobres… [y] a pregonar el año del favor del Señor” (Lucas 4:18-19).

La promesa de buenas nuevas es el don de la gracia a través de la fe en Jesucristo, una promesa de nueva vida en la plenitud del reino de Dios. Es la promesa de los Evangelios y los profetas, la promesa a la que se aferran nuestros antepasados en la fe y la promesa que sostiene al pueblo de Dios hoy en las comunidades de todo el mundo que se acompañan mutuamente en medio de abrumadores desafíos de pobreza, hambre e injusticia.

Jesús no solamente proclama la promesa, sino que también la vive. Nos muestra lo que significa vivir de acuerdo con la promesa   —con firmeza, valentía y fe incesante— desde Galilea hasta el Calvario. Frente a la persecución religiosa y política, Jesús vive la valiente vida de fe en la gracia de Dios.

Aunque su juicio ante Pilato recibe más atención, la marcha decidida de Jesús hacia Jerusalén es uno de los ejemplos más claros de cómo “apoderarse de la promesa”. “Continuando su viaje a Jerusalén, Jesús enseñaba en los pueblos y aldeas por donde pasaba” (Lucas 13:22). En una de sus paradas, un grupo de fariseos le advierte que debe huir porque Herodes quiere matarlo. Jesús contesta: “—Vayan y díganle a ese zorro: ‘Mira, hoy y mañana seguiré expulsando demonios y sanando a la gente, y al tercer día terminaré lo que debo hacer’” (Lucas 13:31-32).

Herodes viene por él, y Jesús responde: “Tengo trabajo que hacer”. Jesús demuestra una audaz confianza en que ni siquiera la muerte puede detener la obra de Dios en el mundo. Las personas de fe llevan la confianza de Jesús, audaz y producto de la gracia, al llamado de la iglesia: ven — incluso ante la amenaza de muerte— que hay trabajo que hacer.

En Indonesia, la amenaza del VIH y el SIDA es muy real. El país insular experimenta actualmente una de las epidemias de VIH de más rápido crecimiento en el mundo. En 2018 (el año más reciente del que hay datos disponibles), 38,000 personas murieron de una enfermedad relacionada con el SIDA, un aumento del 60% desde 2010. La Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS) estima que para 2018, 640,000 personas en el país vivían con el VIH, pero estima también que solo alrededor de la mitad de las personas infectadas con el VIH saben que lo tienen.

La Iglesia Protestante Cristiana de Batak (HKBP), una iglesia compañera de la ELCA en Indonesia, está ayudando a las personas de todo el país a enfrentar la enfermedad mortal con valor, esperanza y los recursos que necesitan para sobrevivir.

Arjen llegó por primera vez al Ministerio de SIDA (HAM) de HKBP cuando tenía 12 años, pero había nacido con VIH. Cuando llegó a HAM había contraído tuberculosis pulmonar y estaba desnutrido y muy enfermo. El padre de Arjen había fallecido, y su madre no podía pagar el costo del transporte al hospital más cercano ni los costosos tratamientos para su hijo. Con la ayuda de HKBP, la familia pudo llevar a Arjen para que lo evaluaran en un hospital y comenzara a tomar medicamentos antirretrovirales para mantenerlo saludable. Los trabajadores de HAM verifican regularmente con la familia el estado de Arjen, y ayudan a su madre a satisfacer las necesidades nutricionales y médicas de él. Al ver la situación financiera de la madre, HAM también proporcionó un fondo rotatorio para capital empresarial que le ha permitido asegurar un ingreso más estable para mantener a su familia.

Un año después del trabajo de Arjen con HAM, su salud está mejorando y el negocio de su madre está creciendo. En medio de la pobreza, el hambre y una epidemia mortal, Dios está trabajando a través de familias como la de Arjen para lograr un futuro con esperanza.

En la Cuaresma recordamos el largo camino de Jesús a Jerusalén y al Calvario. Y en fe sabemos que nada puede detener la obra de Dios. Juntos “nos apoderamos de la promesa” con confianza, sabiendo que Dios traerá nueva vida y esperanza al mundo, incluso de la muerte.

¿Herodes nos quiere muertos? “Estoy expulsando demonios y sanando a la gente” (Lucas 13:32).

¿La sombra de la cruz se cierne sobre nosotros? “Tengo que seguir adelante” (Lucas 13:33).

¿La pobreza, el hambre y las enfermedades amenazan a nuestra comunidad? Ve y dile a ese zorro que Dios aún no ha terminado con nosotros.

Preguntas para la reflexión

  1. Piense en un momento en que el miedo afectó su ministerio. ¿Cómo nos anima Cristo a aventurarnos fuera de nuestra zona de confort para amar y servir a nuestro prójimo?
  2. ¿Qué significa para usted y su congregación “apoderarse de la promesa” en su comunidad?
  3. ¿Cómo ayudan programas como el Ministerio de SIDA de HKBP (HAM) a que aprendamos sobre lo que significa ser el pueblo de Dios en el mundo? ¿Qué significa la historia de Arjen para su propio ministerio y su vida?
  4. Ante la muerte, la enfermedad y la pobreza, Dios sigue trayendo nueva vida y esperanza. ¿Cómo usted, su familia y su congregación dan testimonio de valentía y esperanza en un mundo incierto?

Oración

Dios misericordioso, en medio de los desafíos que enfrenta nuestro mundo, nos recuerdas tu promesa para el futuro de este. Acércate a nosotros y acércanos a nuestro prójimo, para que podamos ser inspirados con esperanza, valor y una fe firme para que seamos las personas que nos estás llamando a ser. Está presente con nuestros compañeros y socios en todo el mundo mientras trabajamos juntos por un mundo justo en el que todos sean alimentados. En tu santo nombre, amén.

Lent Reflection 1: Journey in the Wilderness

ELCA World Hunger’s 40 Days of Giving

Lent 2022

Week 1: Journey in the Wilderness

“A wandering Aramean was my ancestor”
(Deuteronomy 26:5)

Read

  • Deuteronomy 26:1-11
  • Psalm 91:1-2, 9 -16
  • Romans 10:8b-13
  • Luke 4:1-13

Reflect

We have a curious set of readings for this first Sunday of Lent. Biblical scholars believe that Deuteronomy 26:5-10 is a script for someone making an offering of what was called the “first fruits,” a religious practice for farming communities. Following the first harvest that the Israelites reaped in the Promised Land, they were to gather a basket of select produce from the fields and carry it to the priest. When the priest laid the basket at the altar, the person making the offering would then say the following:

A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me (Deuteronomy 26:5-10).

These verses fit well with this somber season. Lent is, if nothing else, a time of looking backward and a time of looking forward. In its 40 days, we remember how far we have fallen short of the glory of God. In it, too, we look ahead with longing to the breaking of the Easter dawn and the unveiling of the promise of God, who by grace offers us a future we could never earn.

With Lenten memory, we recall the journey of our biblical ancestors, the Hebrews led by God from slavery to freedom through generations in the wilderness, and we too reflect on what being descendants of oppressed slaves whom the Lord brought “out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” means for us today. The formulaic verses of Deuteronomy recall this history, reminding the worshiper with their produce just how far God has carried God’s people, from the “wandering Aramean,” Jacob, through Egypt, and to a new life and new covenant with God.

The danger inherent in this journey from Egypt to the Promised Land is difficult for us to capture today. Even without the threat of Pharoah’s army, to wander in the wilderness without permanent shelter, a stable source of fresh water or the means to grow food meant risking death from all sides. The lament of the people is understandable. They cry out to Moses, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt … for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (Exodus 16:3). The Hebrews, led by Moses, were dependent on God’s response to their complaint: manna, a bread-like substance, rained down at night to fill them.

For our ancestors, the wilderness may have seemed like a trial to be endured and, if lucky, survived.

Perhaps that trial isn’t as hard for us to relate to that trial as it might seem. How often do we experience life as having more risks than rewards or more trials than triumphs? With rates of hunger around the world skyrocketing during the COVID-19 pandemic, natural and unnatural disasters wreaking havoc, and conflict uprooting lives, the world can often feel like a wilderness to be endured and, if lucky, survived.

The witness of our biblical ancestors is critical for us during Lent. The history recalled in the ceremony of the offering of the “first fruits” in Deuteronomy reminds us of two important truths as we begin this season. The first truth is that God is not the source of suffering. Even as the wandering Hebrews saw their time in the wilderness, at times, as a grueling test administered by an exacting God, it was God who journeyed with them. God responded to their cries with sustenance and protection that enabled them to survive.

The second truth might best be summed up in the popular quote from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring: “Not all those who wander are lost.” Even when the way seemed uncertain for Jacob, the “wandering Aramean,” he was never alone as he sought a land to call his own. God was leading him somewhere as surely as God had greater things in store for the Hebrews than a mere flight from Egypt.

These truths lie at the foundation of the church’s witness today — even as so many of our neighbors face the uncertainty of survival in a world where as many as 811 million people are undernourished. In the Chiredzi District of Zimbabwe, Emma Mangwende gives voice to this uncertainty when she wonders, in her words, “how to survive as an old lady looking after seven grandchildren.”

What would being grounded in these truths look like for us — a church accompanying neighbors with challenges like Emma’s?

We can start by responding to the realities of hunger and poverty now and working with companions and partners with a vision for the future. In Zimbabwe, Lutheran Development Services (LDS) embodies this vision, working with Emma and other residents of the Chiredzi District to implement new models of farming that conserve water, preserve soil and increase yields. This work reflects the LDS vision of “transformed, robust and resilient communities living a just, peaceful and dignified life manifesting God’s love.” It is a testament to the two truths revealed in the story of God’s journey with God’s people in the readings for this Lent.

As we respond to hunger in the world, we do so knowing that God has provided abundantly to meet our every need, even as inequities and injustice prevent so many of our neighbors from enjoying the fruits of God’s creation. Our response — and our Lenten confession of the ways we have fallen short in responding — bear witness to the truth that inequities ought not to be. Amid risk and uncertainty, the work of neighbors such as Emma and LDS and of congregations in the United States and around the world is a testament that, even now, God is giving life to a promise of “a land flowing with milk and honey,” a world in which hunger and poverty will be no more.

This Lent we look back, remembering the ways God has been with us in our journey, and we look forward, longing for the fulfillment of God’s Easter promise. And we work, trusting that the God of our wandering ancestors is being revealed still today in our neighbors as we find our way through the
wilderness together.

Ask

  1. Think of a time when a situation seemed particularly uncertain or challenging. In what ways was God present with you?
  2. How might the church’s work alongside people facing hunger and poverty bear witness to God’s promise for the future?
  3. Imagine you had to rewrite the offering prayer from Deuteronomy 26:5-10. What would you include? What moments or events from your life or the life of your community would be part of your prayer?
  4. How does (or should) being descendants of “a wandering Aramean” such as Jacob shape the work of the church today?

Pray

God of our yesterdays and tomorrows, you guided our ancestors through the wilderness to freedom, a new home and a future with promise. Turn our hearts toward our neighbors who face uncertainty, insecurity and risk today. Inspire within us compassion for their needs, gratitude for their gifts and a holy yearning for justice, that all may experience safety, security and hope in our world today. In your name, we pray, amen.

Learn more and follow ELCA World Hunger’s 40 Days of giving throughout Lent by visiting ELCA.org/40days.

ELCA World Hunger’s Big Game Challenge 2022!

 

It’s game time! The Big Game Challenge has kicked off, and our church is racing toward the goal of ending hunger!

 

While you are cheering on your team and celebrating with family and friends— let’s help tackle hunger together!

From kickoff to the final whistle, Team Cincinnati and Team Los Angeles will seek to outdo one another for the sake of the gospel. The fans that donate the most through their team page to ELCA World Hunger by midnight Central time on February 13th will help their synod take home the title of ELCA World Hunger Champion — regardless of the outcome on the field. Whether your favorite formation is 3-4, 4-3, or 3:16, you can send your nickels and dimes to support your team!

Check out this video of Bishop Dillahunt of the Southern Ohio Synod of the ELCA encouraging supporters:

And not to be outdone, the Southwest Califonia Synod’s Bishop Bos is ready to prove that Team Los Angeles has the most generous synod:

 

Be sure to send us your game day photos! and may the best team win – so we can all tackle hunger together! #elcabiggamechallenge #untilallarefed

Visit ELCA.org/BigGame to be part of the action!

Advent 2021- Week Four Study Guide and Children’s Sermon

Advent Week 4

“Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?'”

-Luke 1:41b-43

This Advent reflection is part of ELCA World Hunger’s 2021 Advent Study and ELCA World Hunger’s weekly Sermon Starter emails. You can download the full study here. You can also download the corresponding advent calendar here. You can sign up for the weekly Sermon Starter emails here on the right side of the page if on a computer or near the bottom of the page if viewing from a phone.

Reflect

We are nearing the end of Advent and the start of that special holiday, Christmas. In the United States, stores have been filled with seasonal music for six months now (it feels that way, at least), garlands and lights are draped over homes and lampposts, and pine trees are adorned with baubles of all shapes and sizes. In many countries, Christmas markets have taken over city squares. As the old carol says, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”

Doesn’t the season, at times, feel almost too big, perhaps even overwhelming? Shopping for Christmas is such a big affair that, at least in the United States, it has come to dominate stores earlier and to fill social media feeds and websites with ads earlier and more visibly, refusing to be confined to the last weeks of the year or even to the month between late November and Dec. 25. In the life of the church, we often hear voices reclaiming Advent as a season distinct and separate from Christmas. Yet, the liturgical calendar aside, the bigness of Christmas often overshadows the important time of Advent.

Christmas is a big deal, and rightfully so. On Christmas Day, we celebrate the birth of the Christ, who will transform the world. Everything changes on that Christmas morning. The Gospel reading for this final Sunday of Advent tells us that even John the Baptist, though still in the womb, “leaped for joy” (Luke 1:44) when the pregnant Mary drew near.

Clearly, something huge is happening. But the story in Luke is a little curious, given what we know now about the importance

of that first Christmas. Sure, there are angels, but in the Gospel story, they appear in quiet moments of solitude –  to Zechariah as he attends to the incense in the temple, to Mary at home and to a small group of shepherds. There are no magi in Luke’s Gospel, either. Instead, there are Mary, Zechariah, Elizabeth and, later on, Simeon and Anna – by all accounts, relatively unremarkable people. Yet Luke’s story begins here: with Zechariah at work, in a

private conversation between cousins Mary and Elizabeth, and in a manger.

Amid the ordinariness of daily life, work and conversation, great miracles are afoot. And in a manger in a stable, the Savior of the world lies wrapped in bits of cloth. Later, there will be talk of kings and rulers, high priests and other important figures, but for now, in these opening chapters of Luke, the sacred breaks in among the ordinary and, as Mary sings, among “the lowly” (Luke 1:52). Even Elizabeth is surprised. “Why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?” she asks.

Luke powerfully reminds us what it means to work for a just world where all are fed. This is hard work. It takes time, energy and prayerful patience. It can be frustrating work too. Watching the number of hungry people around the world climb again after decades of work to reduce it is discouraging. Hearing political leaders speak blithely about cutting funds for much­

needed programs can be infuriating. Along the way, we hope and yearn for that promised day when “[we] will hunger no more” (Revelation 7:16), when our cupboards will be full, when we won’t have to visit the food pantry every week or stretch insufficient public assistance to the end of the month.

We yearn, we long, we wait …

Isn’t that the meaning of Advent? Advent is a time of longing and anticipating the coming of Christ. Perhaps that is why Christmas can feel so huge next to Advent. We’re tired of waiting, and the problems we face are so large – hunger, poverty, injustice, inequity

– that we need the bigness of Christmas. Monumental problems require monumental solutions.

The Gospel story for this week, though, reminds us that Advent is about learning to look for signs of God at work even as we await the fulfillment of God’s promise to us. In her pregnancy, Mary, with

the help of an angelic messenger, sees the “great things” God has done for her and for the people. Elizabeth, too, sees in her pregnant cousin “a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord”

(Luke 1:45). Later, Simeon and Anna will recognize the seemingly ordinary couple entering the temple as an extraordinary sign of God’s presence.

The Advent story teaches us not just about learning to be patient but learning how to wait. It reminds us to look for the miraculous in the mundane, for the ever-present work of God in the everyday.

That’s an important lesson as we and our neighbors face intractable, even overwhelming challenges. We may long for the “big things” that make a difference, but as we saw during the C0VID-19 pandemic, God was at work in countless local ways – at food pantries that met increased needs, in schools that reached out to families needing support, at clinics and hospitals, and through rental assistance programs.

In Belgrade, Serbia, 15-year-old Leyla, whose family fled Iran as asylum-seekers, was one of millions of students around the

world impacted by the pandemic. The transition to online learning meant she and her peers faced additional obstacles to taking the final exams that would allow them to continue their education.

With support from ELCA World Hunger, the (APC) in Belgrade worked with the school to make sure Leyla and other students had the support they needed to take their exams and keep working toward their goals. Leyla did well on the exams, far better than she expected, given the language barrier and the significant gaps in her education as she and her family settled into a new land. With support from APC and the school, Leyla went from dreading the exams to celebrating her results and anticipating the next step in her education.

Through the ministry of ELCA World Hunger, we accompany neighbors such as Leyla in Serbia, Carlos in North Carolina, Hala in Egypt and Charity in South Sudan. A student in a new city, worried about her exams; a family in a small town, worried about paying their bills; a mother, working hard to pay rent; a woman in labor, walking into a clinic. In Advent, we are reminded that this accompaniment of our neighbors is, in the end, about the

active anticipation that seeks and finds God at work, transforming ordinary situations into extraordinary signs of the coming fullness

of God’s reign, when all will be fed, when “justice [will] roll down like waters,” when “God will wipe away every tear from [our] eye” (Revelation 7:17), and when “Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety” (Jeremiah 33:16).

That is the promise of Advent and the joy of Christmas, that in ways both big and small, in the local and the global, amid huge crowds and with a single neighbor, God is at work, weaving “the promise [God] made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever” (Luke 1:55). Ending hunger doesn’t always mean seeking miracles

of impressive scale. The gospel message invites us to see the miraculous ways God is already at work among our neighbors when we come together to work for a just world where all are fed.

Ask

  1. Where have you seen God at work through ordinary events or people?
  2. In what ways might neighbors see God working through you and your congregation?
  3. Why do you think the church is called to accompany neighbors such as Charity, Hala, Carlos and Leyla?
  4. What does it mean to find God at work with and among our neighbors?

Pray

Loving God, even when the challenges we face seem too great to handle, you remind us that we are never alone. Inspire us to seek your presence within each other and within the work of your church. Guide us, that we may be open to seeing the miraculous within the everyday, that we may recognize your image in our neighbors, your work through their hands and our own. Inflame us with a holy yearning for a just world where all are fed, that we may participate in the promise you are fulfilling in our midst. In your holy name, we pray. Amen.

Children’s Sermon

By Pr. Tim Brown for ELCA World Hunger Sermon Starters

Riffing off the Micah text for today and the literal meaning of the name Bethlehem, surprise youth with a lesson on the sacraments.

Have a large manger of some sort, perhaps from your Christmas decorations, and have it empty except for a loaf of bread (maybe even the loaf that you use for communion) wrapped in a corporal or similar cloth. If it is not safe in this pandemic to share from one large loaf, have pieces of the loaf individually wrapped along with the larger loaf to use for the sacrament, and place them all in the manger.

“Hi all!  I’m so glad you’re here today.” Have the manger and bread hidden somewhere in the church. “In our first reading for today a town was mentioned, a town some of you may have heard of before. Does anyone remember what town?”

Allow time to field responses.

“Yes! Bethlehem. What special happens in Bethlehem?” Invite the youth to answer “Exactly. In Matthew and Luke we’re told that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  Want to hear something cool?  The name “Bethlehem,” it means something in Hebrew.  Does anyone happen to know what it means?  Probably not. It means ‘House of Bread.’ So that means Jesus was born in the ‘House of Bread.’  Which is also kind of cool, because Jesus will call himself the ‘Bread of Life.’”

Pretend to think for a minute

“You know what?  You know how people always put a baby in the manger in their Christmas decorations?  Well, I think maybe we should put something different in there.  In fact, I hid a manger in the sanctuary today.  Did anyone see it? Do you know where it is?”

Allow time for them to answer. Go over to it and have one of the youth pull out the bread.

“Jesus, the Bread of Life, born in the House of Bread, invites us every Sunday to share in God’s amazing communion feast of bread and wine, special ways that God blesses us.  I think maybe instead of a baby doll we should start putting the communion bread in the manger.  What do you think?”

Allow the youth to answer, most will probably say no.

“Well, even if we don’t do that every Sunday, we’ve done it today to remind ourselves that God in Christ is the Bread of Life giving us the gift of communion, and the gift of community, so that we can live together in love.  I have a surprise for you. Come closer. <whisper> Those people out there?  They need reminding that Jesus is God’s surprise gift for us at Christmas. Can you remind them? Go up to someone and say, ‘Jesus is God’s gift to us,’ and I’ll remind them again right before communion where we’ll use pieces of this bread. Ready? Go!”

Advent 2021- Week Three Study Guide and Children’s Sermon

 

Advent week 3

“In reply [John the Baptist] said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.'”

-Luke 3:11

This Advent reflection is part of ELCA World Hunger’s 2021 Advent Study and ELCA World Hunger’s weekly Sermon Starter emails. You can download the full study here. You can also download the corresponding advent calendar here. You can sign up for the weekly Sermon Starter emails here on the right side of the page if on a computer or near the bottom of the page if viewing from a phone.

Reflect

In December 2019, then-Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that would have increased restrictions on eligibility and caused the loss of benefits for many Americans. In doing so, he told reporters that the changes would help move “more able-bodied recipients off of SNAP benefits toward self­

sufficiency.” His argument, like so many arguments against SNAP and other public assistance programs, was that these programs make people dependent rather than self-sufficient.

There’s nothing new in this (though one might wonder how “sufficient” the average SNAP award of $121 per month was at the time). For decades, self-sufficiency has been celebrated as the ideal marker of success. In 2019, Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, famously altered the words of Emma Lazarus enshrined on the Statue of Liberty when he defended new restrictive immigration policies: “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge,” he opined. His message was clear: self-sufficiency is not just an ideal but a prerequisite for being part of American society.

By contrast, our faith is rooted in the idea that we are not self­ sufficient but dependent and interdependent. Advent is the story of a dependent people being saved by God for the very reason that we could not save ourselves. We were and have always been dependent. From the first humans in Eden, relying on the gifts of the Creator, to our ancestors, wandering in the wilderness totally dependent on the protection and provision of God, Scripture is the story of God with us – because we can’t do it alone.

In the Gospel reading for the third Sunday in Advent, John the Baptist chastises the crowd, calling them a “brood of vipers” and comparing them to chaff – the waste from processing wheat – that would be left on the threshing floor. When they ask what they ought to do, John’s response is intriguing. He doesn’t advise them to pray harder or attend synagogue more frequently. Rather, he urges them to restore their relationships with one another. In short: share and be fair. Share with one another (Luke 3:11) and be fair in your business dealings (Luke 3:13-14). John’s response is to recognize and respect our dependence on one another. When we are in need, we depend on the generosity of others. And in daily life, our well­ being depends on trusting others to act justly.

The early church took this to heart. In the book of Acts, we learn that the first Christian communities “had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:44-45). This kind of sharing distinguished Christian communities for centuries afterward.

For early Christians, dependence on one another went beyond just being nice. It was deeply rooted in the common understanding of property, human nature and God. Charles Avila, in his masterful book Ownership: Early Christian Teaching, describes how, for the early writer Clement of Alexandria, the purpose of property was twofold: autarkeia, or the ability to care for ourselves, and koinonia, the obligation to care for others in the community. Ultimately, Clement says, we are created for koinonia, for community.

Autarkeia, the “self-sufficiency” provided by property, finds its truest meaning in the freedom it provides us to care for each other. No one can live, let alone thrive, without help from others.

The COVID-19 pandemic reminded us of this interconnectedness. Even as we kept physical distance, the deep needs that stemmed from the pandemic couldn’t be ignored. Hunger around the world increased dramatically. In the United States, food insecurity and economic insecurity led to massive spikes in the numbers of people using food pantries and other community assistance resources.

Ellie Puente saw this firsthand in her community in Fuquay­ Varina, N.C. When the pandemic hit, she worried about her son’s friend, Carlos, and his family. She knew Carlos’ family had trouble

making ends meet, and the pandemic only made the situation more challenging. Ellie met with a friend and a few teachers from the school where she volunteers. Together, they identified 20 families, including Carlos’, that were in need. They rounded up donations and started making daily deliveries of lunches and other food supplies to their neighbors. Every time they thought they would run out of money to pay for food, local supporters stepped in.

Abiding Presence Lutheran Church became a partner in the school’s program and provided food for the families with the help of a Daily Bread Matching Grant from ELCA World Hunger.

Their relationship with the families has been crucial during the pandemic. “Our food delivery program has been instrumental in meeting a physical need by providing food to our families,” says Ellie. “More importantly, our food delivery program has helped us create a deeper connection with families……………… [The] families know we

love them, and they know they belong.”

The sharing that John the Baptist called his early followers to practice, and that Ellie, Abiding Presence and the school practiced, is about more than the things we distribute. It’s about who we are created and called to be. As this Advent season reminds us, God promises not that we will be fine on our own but that we will be made whole in reconciled and transformed relationships with God and one another. From the joy of Zechariah in the second week

of Advent to the proclamations of John the Baptist this week, the message of Christ’s coming is that we can’t do it on our own – nor do we have to.

The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the ways we depend on one another and showed us just how effective we can be when we recognize that interdependence and respond to it in love.

Ask

  1. How are the terms “self-sufficiency” and “interdependence” related? How are they different?
  2. In your own life, how has the support, care or presence of others helped you? Thinking about it another way: in the story of your life, who else might play an important part?
  3. How might the work of Ellie’s school and Abiding Presence Lutheran Church have helped the families “know they belong”? How is your congregation helping your neighbors feel welcomed and supported in your community?
  4. In what ways has the COVID-19 pandemic reminded you of our dependence on God and one another?

Pray

Gracious God, you have brought your people together into one community, reconciling us in Christ one to the other. Forgive us for the times when we have isolated ourselves or others, and inspire us with the love that binds us together. When we feel alone, remind us that we are loved. When we are estranged, remind us of your love for others. Bless us with the memory of our dependence on you and each other this Advent, that we may be part of the community you have created in our midst. In your name, we pray. Amen.

Children’s Sermon

By Pr. Tim Brown for ELCA World Hunger Sermon Starters

In response to this coaxing work that God in Christ does upon us, follow the suggestion that ELCA World Hunger’s Advent Action Guide suggests on page 6 and debut one of the posters that gives testimony to what your gifts to ELCA World Hunger does in the world. 

Pre-order one of the posters ELCA World Hunger provides, and have it on hand, rolled up behind your back.

“Hi all!  I’m so glad you’re here today.” Hold the poster out of sight. “Today we are introduced to someone very wild, very interesting, does anyone know who it is?”

Allow time to field responses.

“Yes! John the Baptizer. He was loud and proud and was baptizing people in the River Jordan. Come here, let me show you something…” Invite the youth to the baptismal font, keeping the poster behind your back. “John the Baptizer was baptizing people, just like we do right here at this font. He was baptizing them into a new way of life, reminding them that God loved them and invited them to live like they are loved.”

“And you know what loved people do?  They love other people!  Loved people love people.  How do you show your love to someone?”

Allow time for them to answer.

“Right, they do all those things.  Want to know one of the ways our congregation, all together, loves people?  We give part of our offering to ELCA World Hunger <unveil poster> and we help feed others around the world, or help them get jobs, or help them afford homes.  Being baptized reminds us that we’re loved by God, and loved people love people, and so we love people all around the world through giving support to ELCA World Hunger. I’m going to hang this poster out there <point to the narthex> so that we can remember how loved people love people the rest of the month, but I want to tell you a surprise. Ready?  Come close”

<whispered> “You are all loved, and loved people love people. And those people out there?  They need to remember that they are loved. Dip one finger in the font, and go up to them and draw a cross on their forehead, saying, ‘Loved people love people.’ Can you do that?  Ready? Go!”

Advent 2021- Week Two Study Guide and Children’s Sermon

Advent Week 2

“By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us.”

-Luke 1:78

This advent reflection is part of ELCA World Hunger’s 2021 Advent Study and ELCA World Hunger’s weekly Sermon Starter emails. You can download the full study here. You can also download the corresponding advent calendar here. You can sign up for the weekly Sermon Starter emails here on the right side of the page if on a computer or near the bottom of the page if viewing from a phone.

Reflect

Zechariah’s prophecy in the first chapter of Luke, our reading for this second Sunday in Advent, is sometimes overlooked in favor of the  Magnificat of  Mary in the same chapter. Mary’s song, which we will read later in Advent, is a theological ode to God, who “lift[s] up the lowly” (Luke 1:52). Zechariah’s prophecy, however, is a cry of joy for the God who fulfills God’s promise. Both Mary and Zechariah have longed with their people for this moment, have yearned for

the fulfillment of the promise that we heard on the first Sunday of Advent, when “Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety” (Jeremiah 33:16). Now, as Zechariah proclaims, “the dawn from on high [has broken] upon us” (Luke 1:78).

What does it mean for this new day to “dawn”? All too often, the church has tended to conflate metaphors of light and darkness with good and evil. The darkness of night is tied to fear, uncertainty and even despair, whereas the brightness of day symbolizes hope, joy and, in some cases, wisdom. But Zechariah’s proclamation of the coming dawn reveals more than the difference between light and darkness . Indeed, in much of Scripture the dawning of the day of

the Lord is far from a happy occasion. The prophets Micah and Joel both refer to it as “terrible,” and Amos chastises the people who long for it to arrive.

In the Bible and in life, metaphors of light and darkness are more complex than we sometimes assume. In life, the darkness of night can bring risk and uncertainty, as we heard in Charity’s story in the first session of this Advent study. Yet night can also be a time of rest, a symbol for the end of our labors. For the people of the Bible, living in hot, arid climes, the sun was necessary for growing food but its setting would bring a cool, restorative break.

For many of our neighbors who face housing insecurity, night and day each carry their own risks. As the sky dims, the need to find safe, suitable shelter intensifies. As the day dawns, the threat of eviction or displacement looms.

St. Andrew’s Refugee Services (StARS) in Cairo, Egypt, a ministry supported by ELCA World Hunger, accompanies vulnerable neighbors through these risks. The community­ based organizations supported by StARS are key partners in this work. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced many governmental agencies to close down or scale back their support of refugees

in Cairo, these community-based organizations remained open, providing critical support.

Hala, a 37-year-old Sudanese mother, was one of these neighbors. Her husband passed away during the first wave of COVID-19 in Egypt, leaving Hala to care for their four children. Forced to support them on her own amid the widespread economic uncertainty of the pandemic, Hala soon fell behind in her rent payments.

Knowing she needed some support, Hala turned to Amal School, an organization supported by StARS. Amal School provided her and her family with an emergency grant so that they no longer had to fear eviction. The school also provided Hala with a caseworker who helped her find a job. Now, her family has stable housing, her job provides much-needed income and Hala has the resources she needs to care for her family. She no longer worries about what they will eat during the day or where they will lay their heads at night.

The season of Advent invites us to journey with our historical forebears, such as Mary and Zechariah, and with our neighbors today, such as Hala. This journey is no metaphorical shift between night and day, darkness and light, but a real, lived transformation from the vulnerability we know surrounds us to the promise we know includes us. For Mary, this meant seeing the proud brought low and “the lowly” exalted by God. For Zechariah, it meant seeing the dawn break from on high. For Charity Toksang, in our first session of this study, it meant seeing the sunrise over a health care clinic in Juba, South Sudan. And for Hala and her family, it means sleeping in a home they won’t be forced to leave the next day.

God meets us where we are with a promise – that we will be reconciled, that the world is being transformed, that we

will live safely, securely and abundantly. God also meets us with an invitation – to participate in this reconciliation and transformation in the world.

Where is God meeting you this Advent? And where is God calling you to be in the new year?

Ask

  1. What does it mean to be vulnerable? What are some ways Hala and her family may have felt vulnerable? What are some ways you feel vulnerable in this Advent season?
  2. What does God’s promise of salvation mean for us today? What will “the dawn [breaking] from on high” look like in our lives?
  3. The term “housing insecurity,” used in the reflection above, includes not just homelessness but a variety of obstacles people face in finding a safe, stable and affordable place to live. Consider the terms “housing-insecure” and “homeless.” What’s the difference? What does it mean to have a “home”? What challenges does your community face in ensuring that everyone is “housing secure”?
  4. Where is God calling the church to be this Advent? How does our faith call us to accompany neighbors such as Hala as they work toward a better future for their families?

Pray

God of promise, we thank you for the darkness of night and the brightness of day, for the change of seasons, the passing of time and the promised future toward which you lead your world. Be present with us and with our neighbors around the world, especially those left vulnerable by rising costs and declining opportunities. Inspire your church to be part of your work in the world, ensuring that all can enjoy the blessings of safety, security, peace and hope that you provide. In your holy name, we pray. Amen.

Children’s Sermon

By Pr. Tim Brown for ELCA World Hunger Sermon Starters

Today the theme of “names” is noticeable by the Gospel writer. 

Bring in a bunch of, “hello, my name is” name tags and a sharpie marker.  You’ll need enough for each child plus enough for each child to take with them, with a few that are blank, and the rest filled in with “Lovely,” or “Beloved,” or “God’s Child,” or “Wonderfully Made.”

“Hi all!  I’m so glad you’re here today.” Hold the name tags tightly in your hand out of sight. “Does anyone want to guess what I have here?” Give appropriate time for guesses “They are nametags!  Tell me look at one youth What would you like me to write on your name tag? It can be your name, or it can be any name that you really, really like.”

Allow time for them to answer and write it on the tag.

“Anyone else?” Call on another youth “What name would you like?”

Allow time for them to answer and write it on the tag. Now, look out at the adult congregation.

“How about anyone in the seats?  Anyone want a name tag? What would you like on your tag?”

Call on an adult. Allow time for them to answer and write it on the tag.

“In today’s Gospel lesson the writer names all these names: Pontius Pilate. Tiberius. Herod. John the Baptist. Zechariah. They name all these names because they want us to know what was going on in the world and who these people are.  Names are important.  You all have names.  And God knows all of your names!  But you know what?  You also have other names given by God in your baptism, names you might forget.  I want to show them to you, but they’re a surprise, so come in close.”

Invite the youth in close and show them the name tags.

<whispered> “You are all Beloved.  You are all Lovely. You are all Children of God. And you know what?  They are, too. <point to the assembly>  “Each of you take a nametag to wear, and then take a name tag to give to someone out there, so that they can know what they are named by God, too.  Ready? Go!”