This past week the Lutheran World Federation met for their assembly in Stuttgart, Germany. The theme of this year’s assembly is “Give Us Today Our Daily Bread.” At a news conference on July 19th, presiding bishop of the ELCA Rev. Mark Hanson stated, “hunger is not God’s fault, it’s our fault.” In response to lack of food and the global struggle in the face of war, disease and discrimination, Bishop Hanson exclaimed, “If people lack what they need for daily life, it is because we have failed to ensure that the good things of God’s creation are justly and equitably distributed to all.” At assemblies, the LWF representatives make major decisions about the direction of the LWF and share issues that Lutheran churches worldwide are facing. The fact that this year’s assembly is focused on the issue of hunger worldwide shows that this is an issue of utmost importance.
As I read the words that Bishop Hanson spoke during the news conference, I reflected on the words I had repeated countless times in church: “Give us today our daily bread.” Though this is a phrase I am not a stranger to, when put in the context of global hunger, poverty, discrimination and disease, it sounded different to my ears than it had before. In particular I was fixated on the word “us”. We ask God to provide for “us” but who is “us”? Is it ourselves? Our family? Our neighbors? Our country? Or all of creation? I believe that when we speak the world “us” we should be thinking not just about ourselves or those close to us, but about everyone on this planet. Everyone should be provided for.
Next, I thought about the word “give”. We ask God to “give” us what we need, but what does that look like? Does it mean God should provide for us specifically or do we need to take some responsibility to ensure that God’s gifts to the earth reach each and every living thing on the planet? I am no expert on how much of each resource it takes to support each person’s life on this planet, but I do believe that the resources could be shared more equally, relating to Bishop Hanson’s proclamation that people lack basic needs because of unequal distribution worldwide. We should not simply rely on God to solve issues of hunger and poverty, but we should be taking an active role in ensuring that God’s gifts reach all people.
Well, enough of my reflections. I invite you all to reflect for a minute on the common phrase, “Give us today our daily bread.” Repeat it a few times. What sticks out to you? What issues or questions come to mind? For deeper reflection, check out the LWF assembly website and the video on this page from Bishop Hanson titled, “What is ‘Daily Bread’?” I look forward to hearing your thoughts.