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Lent Reflection 4: Transformed in the Wilderness

ELCA World Hunger’s 40 Days of Giving

Lent 2022

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Week 4: Transformed in the Wilderness

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


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


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.


  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?


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?


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.

Lenten Reflection 5: What Will It Take to End Hunger?



“They are working together, united, to show the country and the world that this is the way to fight for peace.”

Thus far this Lent, we have heard stories of God working through this church, our companions and our neighbors to end hunger. We have heard stories from India, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C., and heard of the stories that cannot be shared. We have learned that ending hunger means committing ourselves to a more inclusive vision of community, to honesty, to justice and to one another. Here, in this last week, companions from Colombia will help teach us about the final tool: action.

As much progress as the world has made to end hunger, we still have a long way to go. Nearly 690 million people around the world are undernourished, and more than 35 million people in the United States don’t know where their next meal will come from. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate of hunger around the world was on the rise after a decade of decline. With the pandemic, we have seen historic levels of unemployment, and even the most conservative forecasts warn that hunger and poverty could increase with nearly unprecedented rapidity in the coming years as we recover from its effects.

In his response to the plague that reemerged in Wittenberg in 1527, Martin Luther addressed the question of how a Christian is to act in a pandemic. After highlighting the ways God shows concern for good health in Scripture and exhorting his readers to care for their neighbors, Luther writes that prayer, though important, is not enough. Christians, he proclaims, must do more than pray. They must act.

Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others.

Pray. Then act.

These past 40 days of Lent commemorate the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, fasting and facing down temptation. In the first temptation, Satan placed the “famished” Jesus before a pile of stones and demanded that Jesus prove his power by turning the stones to bread that would end his hunger (Matthew 4:1-3). How tempting that must have been! How many parents with not enough food for their children would wish for such a miracle so that their family might be fed? How many of the 690 million undernourished people around the world would welcome the power to turn stones into the bread they need?

Yet the choice Jesus faced was not between stones and bread but between truth and lies. No sudden miracle will end the world’s hunger. Ending hunger is not about wishing or praying for the power to alter reality. Hunger does not end because of a miraculous intervention. It ends because of the persistent work of God with, among and through people striving for change. It is sometimes slow work, accomplished one step at a time. But it will not stop until we realize that vision of a time when we will hunger and thirst no more.

Carolina Camargo, a nurse from Villavicencio, Colombia, knows that this is what it will take. Carolina is part of the work God is doing through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Colombia (IELCO) and the church’s Justicia y vida (Justice and Life) initiative, which is supported by ELCA World Hunger. Together with others, Carolina works toward future reconciliation in Justicia y vida’s “From War to Peace” project, which weaves ties of solidarity between the church and communities in Colombia that have been beset by violence for many years.

Carolina and other volunteers are at work in the area of Urabá, which means “promised land” in the Indigenous Embera Katío language. Since the 1990s, Urabá has witnessed a war involving the Popular Liberation Army (EPL), insurgents, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and paramilitary groups. The conflict led to more than 103 massacres in the region and 32,000 people displaced between 1998 and 2002. Today, social leaders remain at risk from paramilitary units over disputes involving land.

The peace process has been a long road for Colombia, and IELCO has been traveling it for many years. In San José, former combatants and their families are given a chance to start again through the work of the church. In San José de Léon, they are able to build and maintain homes and resume their former lives raising fish, pigs and chickens. It’s a chance to rebuild some of what was lost in the years of conflict.

Addressing conflict and working for peace are central to ending hunger. Conflict is one of the most significant reasons for hunger increasing around the world. When people’s lives are threatened, they do not feel safe going to work or staying home. Many are forced to migrate to protect their families. Land may be stolen or destroyed, and markets are closed or empty. Parents and workers may be injured or killed in the violence. The United Nations estimates that up to 80% of humanitarian needs around the world are caused by conflict.

Building peace is a critical step in ending hunger. But it is a difficult step to take.

Carolina has learned this through her work with IELCO. “There are people who believe that you can close your eyes and yearn for peace without making an effort towards it,” she says. “What God allowed me to know is very different from that idealism, the reality I could observe and live, expressing hope in all the people who are part of this change.” The idealistic belief that peace means simply transforming swords into plowshares ignores “the struggle against negative feelings associated with the traumatic experiences” of the people with whom Carolina works. Yet together they “walk towards the goal of peace and reconciliation.

“They are working together, united, to show the country and the world that this is the way to fight for peace.”

We know that we cannot merely declare or call for “‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14). Building peace and ending hunger take action within community and are fostered by the hope and trust that, with each step, God is moving our world closer to that goal.

In this study, we have read stories of people at work around the world. Their situations may differ, their needs may differ, but what unites them is the commitment to an active hope that refuses to stagnate or stay silent. It is the hope of the vulnerable guests seeking care at clinics and shelters, of women and girls in India, of advocates in Milwaukee and of peacemakers in Colombia.

It is the hope of Lent, which propels us on this arduous journey to — and beyond — the cross. This hope empowers us see a number such as 690 million hungry but to refuse to despair. It can be sustained only by our trust that God is with us in each small step, guiding us toward a promised future. In hope, we expand our vision of what it means to be “we.” In hope, we are honest about the challenges we face. In hope, we invest in our shared future. In hope, we speak up for justice.

And in hope, we act, knowing that a just world where all are fed is not just possible but promised — and knowing, too, that we are called to be part of building that future. This is not the idealistic prayer spoken but a realistic prayer lived in solidarity with one another in cities, towns, shelters, clinics, classrooms, gardens, statehouses — all the places where God is at work.

This is the prayer of an Easter people, and this is our prayer — that God will not merely turn stones into bread but build a new world on that rocky soil, a just world where all are fed.

Discussion Questions

  1. Think, share or journal about a time when you acted and it created a positive change. What did you do? What happened? What did it feel like?
  2. Where have you seen God turning prayers into action?
  3. Think about the prayers you share during worship. Bring one prayer to mind. How might your community turn this prayer into action? What small or large steps could you take?
  4. Where is there a need for action to end hunger in your community? What will it take to move this action forward?


God of promise, God of hope, God of fullness, God of peace, guide us, your people, to be your hands and feet, to work together as you build on our rocky soil a new, just world where all are fed.

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

Lenten Reflection 4: What Will It Take to End Hunger?


“[The vision is] that we get to invest money in our families and in our community.”

The first reading for this fourth week of Lent is from the book of Numbers. The people have been on their exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land for years, and the goal is nigh. They have received the law from God through Moses at Sinai and are now on the final leg of their journey. Yet, rather than be hopeful and eager, they are tempted by impatience (Numbers 21:4) and dissatisfied with the leadership of Moses and even their “miserable food” (Numbers 21:5). The exodus they thought would bring them to a new land has instead been a seemingly interminable journey in the wilderness. God’s response is swift and harsh: “poisonous serpents” sent by God “bit the people, so that many Israelites died” (21:6). The people repent, Moses prays andGod grants Moses a staff that will provide healing to all who are bitten.

It’s not the kindest of stories. The psalmist gives it a different sort of spin, omitting any mention of the venomous snakes and lifting up the healing of God, who heard the cries of the people and “saved them from their distress” (Psalm 107:19b).

Despite the psalmist’s sanitized take on the story, this pattern can be found throughout the story of the exodus. God rescues the people, they succumb to temptation, they repent, God shows mercy. Over and over and over.

These biblical narratives are often used to extol the merciful nature of God, who repeatedly forgives the people despite their sin. Truly, God does show mercy. But perhaps mercy is not the only lesson to be learned from the story of the people’s walk with God.

The exodus begins in Egypt, where God’s people are enslaved and oppressed. God seeks out Moses to lead the people, lays low the unjust Pharaoh and accompanies the people across the wilderness for generations, providing food, water and safety along the way, even when the going is tough and the relationship between the people and God is complicated.

Simply put, God is invested in this community. God has a vested interest in its future. The covenant inaugurated between them leaves both parties vulnerable to the other. By leading them from Egypt and entering into a covenant with them, God has tied their futures together. God has a plan and has invested much to ensure that the people are part of it. This people, this nation, is God’s future. The provisions God grants are not mere merciful gifts but further investments toward a shared future for God and the people that will become Israel.

Now, of course, the church is not God; we are spiritual descendants of the wandering Hebrews, dependent still on God’s promise of this future. Yet, perhaps there is something we can learn here about what it means to pursue a promise.

People often view the church’s work to end hunger in light of the virtues of mercy and grace. Food, clothing, shelter and donations might be interpreted as mercies showered on suffering people or as gifts given to neighbors in need. But the reality is that our response to hunger goes beyond a desire to meet immediate needs. Our response to hunger is nothing less than an investment in that shared future articulated in the tagline for ELCA World Hunger: a just world where all are fed.

What difference might it make for the hunger ministries of this church to see the work we do together as an investment in this vision?

In Washington, D.C., the Beloved Community Incubator is based on the idea of investing in the people and in the Logan Circle neighborhood. The project began with a listening campaign by Luther Place Memorial Church, with support from ELCA World Hunger. In this campaign, residents of the community expressed their desire for cooperatives that would allow them to use their skills and talents to build wealth and income that would stay in the community.

The first cooperative incubated by Luther Place was Dulce Hogar, a cooperative of women who provide cleaning services for homes and businesses. Together, the women learned how to run a business, pursue just employment and develop their own skills as leaders. As one participant describes it, “The vision of the cooperative is that all eight of us are well-paid and well-trained, and that we get to invest money in our families and in our community.”

The members of the cooperative were even paid for the times they spent in meetings and trainings. They learned together that their time and labor had value far exceeding the wages they had been offered before. And now, with an investment in them, they will be able to invest in others.

Projects such as the Beloved Community Incubator offer a counter witness to the policies and practices of disinvestment that have created communities with high rates of poverty and food insecurity across the United States. These policies and practices are rooted in the misperception that some communities are worth investing in and others are not. But the residents of Logan Circle know that, despite the challenges they face, their community is worth the investment and a better future is worth pursuing.

We know this, too, by faith. Every community is blessed by God with assets and strengths, even as the people face barriers to using or developing those assets. And we know by faith that the future we pursue together is a shared endeavor. The future God has promised is a future for us and our neighbors. We will get there together, or we will not get there at all.

To end hunger is to recognize that responding to need is a matter not of merciful intervention but of investing in a shared future and trusting that the work of God toward that end will be revealed in those very communities that the profit-driven economy so often leaves behind. If we are going to end hunger, we need to invest in one another by sharing resources, listening to each other and building the relationships that will ensure the justice God has promised.

Discussion Questions

  1. Think, share or journal about a time when someone showed you kindness and mercy. What was that like? How did it feel?
  2. Think, share or journal about a time when someone used their time, skills and/or talents to invest in your growth. What was that like? How did it feel?
  3. Now compare and contrast these two experiences — one of kindness and mercy, and one of investment. How are they different? Which experience made a more lasting impact, and why?
  4. Does your community take time to invest in the long-term growth of its neighbors? How so? If not, how might your community begin investing in others? What might that look like?
  5. Where is there a need for the kind of investment that can end hunger in your community?


Covenant God, since ancient times you have led and fed your people through many wilderness journeys. In this time, give us strength to invest your gifts in our neighbors and communities, that all might be fed. Amen.

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

Lenten Reflection 3: What Will It Take to End Hunger?


“The direct service of providing filter pitchers and the organizing work of bringing demands to our alderpersons, health department and mayor all lead us back to the font, where we stand with people at the holy water that makes us God’s children and sends us out to serve God’s justice.”


If we don’t listen carefully to Jesus’ words, we might think of him as meek and mild-mannered, the patient and perfect willing sacrifice, who admonishes his followers to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile. Some might even think we are called to be docile and, at times, subservient. In many forms of American Christianity, believers are encouraged to acquiesce to their circumstances, to accept their lot in life with, if not good cheer, at least indifference. In fact, for some Christians, protest or rage must be reserved only to chastise “sinners” for their “immoral” ways.

If there is a story from the Gospels that challenges this picture of Jesus and Jesus’ followers, it may be the story from this week’s reading of Jesus clearing the temple in Jerusalem. The man who would stand reserved before Pilate here is described by the author of John’s Gospel as angry, wielding a whip and overturning tables. Clearly, even for the normally peaceful Son of God, there are some things that are too much to bear in silence.

The temple was the center of worship for the community in Jesus’ time. Here, the faithful would gather for holy days, as Jesus did in the story, or to offer the required sacrifices. The temple was also a center of commerce, with merchants selling wares to travelers outside the court. Because Roman money bore the likenesses of Roman leaders, it could not be used in the temple and needed to be exchanged to pay the temple tax, a fee assessed on all who entered.

There is some debate about the fairness of the moneychangers. While some writers claim the moneychangers were greedy or predatory, others note that, in general, the moneychangers at the temple dealt fairly with their customers. In any event, they were a necessary fixture at the temple, as were the merchants selling animals for sacrifice. Wealthy Jews would purchase sheep or cattle whereas working-class or poor Jews would opt for cheaper animals, such as doves. To say that the system was necessary is not to say that it was fair. Even if the moneychangers did not engage in outright exploitation, the temple tax was especially felt by people living in poverty, for whom even a half shekel would have been more than they could afford. When added to the cost of sacrificial animals, the financial burden for people in poverty was high.

What drove Jesus to fashion a whip and erupt in anger was not the mere presence of commerce — after all, both the tax and the animals were necessary — but the unequal burden borne by the very people for whom the temple should have been caring. What inspired Jesus’ rage was not the temple or trade but the way these two systems combined to leave people in need at a disadvantage, day in and day out. This injustice is simply too much for anyone to remain docile. Docility in the face of injustice is complicity.

Still today, an unequal burden continues to be fostered by systems and structures that leave many communities bearing the marks of injustice — sometimes in the very bodies of the people.

We’ve known for decades the dangers associated with lead, a metal that for many years was used in plumbing and paint. This hazardous metal can cause severe, long-term effects, including stunted brain development, anemia and kidney damage. As older pipes corrode, lead can seep into drinking water, and particles from paint in older homes can be inhaled. It can become part of the very water we drink and the air that we breathe, making it hard to keep adults and children safe. Over the last decade, lead contamination has been found in water systems in Flint, Michigan, Newark, Detroit, Baltimore, Chicago and many other cities, both large and small. It has been found in homes, hospitals and schools and has been recognized as a national problem across the United States.

But that is not to say that the burdens of unsafe water are shouldered equally by all communities. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have found, African American children are nearly three times as likely as white children to be exposed to lead. Some studies have found the prevalence of lead poisoning in some Black and Latino neighborhoods to be as high as 90%, which means that as many as nine in 10 children have tested positive. Children living in poverty are also at higher risk, with higher rates of exposure and fewer means to address lead poisoning to prevent long-term consequences. This can create a vicious cycle. Families living in hunger and poverty are more vulnerable to environmental risks that can lead to high health care costs, illnesses that keep adults home from work, and developmental delays that can inhibit children’s education — the very stressors that contribute to long-term, generational hunger down the road.

At Hephatha Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, Wis., a city with high rates of both poverty and lead exposure, leaders are working hard to keep children safe. The church, with support from ELCA World Hunger, provides lead-free kits with water filters, tape and mops. The tape can cover lead paint that is chipping, and the mops clean up dust from the paint so that children don’t inhale it. The church also helps adults learn about the dangers of lead.

But filters, tape and mops can go only so far. The issue of lead — and the crisis of unsafe water, more generally — is an issue of justice. Environmental policies, housing regulations and health care access are all woven together when it comes to keeping people safe from lead poisoning. That’s why Hephatha also worked with neighbors to start an advocacy group to talk with legislators about keeping the community safe. At a deeper level, access to clean water is not just a matter of what comes out of our taps but what goes into our laws. It’s about the community we live in and not just the water we drink.

Pastor Mary Martha of Hephatha links this work to the calling of the church. Advocacy and education “[lead] us back to the font, where we stand with people at the holy water that makes us God’s children and sends us out to serve God’s justice.”

In the Gospel reading, Jesus recognizes the necessity of institutions such as the temple and commerce. But he also believes these same institutions should be held accountable for how people in need experience them. In Milwaukee, God is at work through a community driven by hope that things can change — and guided by the wisdom that what we need is not just clean water but justice.

As we continue in our Lenten journey, learning about the tools we will need to share in God’s work of ending hunger, the story of God at work in Milwaukee reminds us that the future we seek is a world where “justice will roll down like waters” — clean, safe, lead-free and life-giving waters accessible to all.

Reflection Questions

  1. Think, share or journal about a time when you felt that something was unfair or that you were at a disadvantage. How did you react? What did you do to try and change the situation? What powers resisted attempts at change?
  2. Jesus’ display of anger in the temple is often categorized as righteous anger or anger over mistreatment, insult or the malice of another. When can anger or even rage be a productive emotion?
  3. How can you identify anger that is helpful and not harmful? How can you use anger in a productive way, to help your neighbors in need?
  4. Where is there a need for justice in your community? What will a “just world” look like in your neighborhood?


Gracious and loving God, at the font you wash us in water and the word, and name us all your beloved children. With that love, inspire our prayer, work and generosity, that all people may have an abundance of clean, safe water. Amen.

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

Lenten Reflection 2: What Will It Take to End Hunger?


“For [God] did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; [God] did not hide [God’s] face from me, but heard when I cried” (Psalm 22:24).


When Kamini Dhurvey was just a child, her mother died and her father remarried. Her stepmother abused Kamini, and her father did not step in to protect her from his new wife. Unprotected and unsafe, Kamini left home when she was older and eventually found a place to rent and a job in a small shop.

Even out on her own, she did not feel safe. Kamini feared that the landlord who owned her residence would hurt her. The security she tried to find in leaving home eluded her. Through a door-to-door survey, Kamini learned about Naari Shakti, a project of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Madhya Pradesh in India supported in part by ELCA World Hunger. Naari Shakti works for gender equality through advocacy for women’s rights, provides training in tailoring and computer skills, and offers emergency medical support to girls and women in vulnerable situations. The project also provides housing assistance and psychosocial support to those who need it.

At the Naari Shakti project office, Kamini found a safe space to tell her story and people who would welcome her. With counseling and support from the project, she was able to leave the place she was renting and move into a hostel for girls. The project later arranged for Kamini to stay in a women’s rehabilitation center, where she is living and pursuing her studies.

Before Kamini moved to the rehabilitation center, project staff tried to contact her father. But her father told the staff that he no longer wanted anything to do with her and that it was up to her to live her life as she wanted. She was no longer welcome in her father’s home. With nowhere else to go, Kamini has found a home at the center. The Naari Shakti program provides her a safe place to live, books and additional support for her education.

Around the world, 690 million people face hunger, and each of them has a story to tell. Hunger is rarely just a matter of lacking food. Rather, it is often a pernicious and persistent symptom of much deeper pain, of much deeper need. Unfortunately, stories like Kamini’s are not uncommon. For women and girls around the world, abuse, violence and inequality lie behind the higher rates of hunger they face. Globally, women are 13% more likely than men to experience food insecurity and almost 27% more likely to be severely food insecure. They are also more likely to be victimized by violence, more likely to do work with little or no pay, and less likely to have access to credit to start a home or business.

If we are going to end hunger, we have to start by being honest about the stories of pain, exploitation, injustice and violence that lie behind it. We must start with honesty about what hunger is and what it is not.

Hunger is not accidental. It is the result of inequality, marginalization and injustice that inhibit one’s ability to access the resources one needs to live.

Hunger is not merely the physical sensation of going without food. It is an insidious reality that affects the whole person — physically, emotionally, psychologically and socially.

Hunger is not merely a calculation of calories. It is a measure of the extent to which a person is constrained in the pursuit of their own well-being.

Ending hunger means being willing to enter into the sometimes painful stories of neighbors in need. It requires that we accompany one another down difficult roads with honesty about what we may find. Lent commemorates Jesus’ journey to the cross and thus demands of us honesty about the death-dealing pervasiveness of sin that would crucify truth in order to silence it. This makes Lent an appropriate season to consider what it will take to arrive at the vision of a just world where all are fed. Lent, after all, is about honesty. In this season, we are called to be honest about the depths of our sin, including the many ways that we, as the church, have fallen short in meeting the needs of our neighbors. Lent is about being honest with ourselves and with others about the depth of need in our world.

And Lent is also a season to be honest about the God who calls to us. In the psalm for this second week in Lent, the psalmist rejoices that God “did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted … [nor] hide [God’s] face from me, but heard when I cried” (Psalm 22:24). In the Gospel story of Jesus’ transfiguration, we hear the voice of God echo over the mountain: “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” (Mark 9:7).

The honesty to which we are called compels us to confront the pain of the world with a vision to transform it. Both the pain of the world and the vision to transform it are clear in the stories of Kamini’s life and the Naari Shakti project. It is the difference between the father who rejects her and the God who welcomes her. To know ourselves as claimed, named and welcomed by God is an act of truth-telling about who we really are — and how much that may differ from who the world thinks we can be. Abuse and rejection are part of Kamini’s story, and accompanying her means being honest about that. But they aren’t the whole of her story, and accompanying her means being honest about that too.

The honesty formed by faith compels us to tell the truth about hunger — and the truth about the God who promises its end. God’s promise of a just world where all are fed pulls us into the world to confront sin in all its forms, refusing to hide from affliction and yet refusing to let affliction be the end of the story for ourselves, our neighbors or our world. It is the honesty of an Easter people, who can deny neither the reality of the cross nor the reality of the empty tomb. To end hunger, we will need to be honest with ourselves about both.

Reflection Questions

  1. How have you experienced or felt God sustaining your strength in challenging circumstances?
  2. What are some things you hunger for other than food (such as companionship, love and acceptance, or justice, clean air and water)? Does your community provide these things? How might you and your community better provide things that feed people in mind, body and spirit?
  3. In the Naari Shakti project, Kamini found the resources she needed to develop her strengths and make meaningful choices for herself and her future. How does your church create opportunities for neighbors to develop their strengths and make meaningful choices for themselves and your community?
  4. What kind of honesty will it take to end hunger in your community? Where is there a need for truth-telling and truth-seeking when it comes to the challenges you and your neighbors face?


Gracious and loving God, through the power of the cross and the glory of the empty tomb, you bring us the truth of your love for us and for all people. Help us to live into that truth and to share it with the world. Amen.

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

Lenten Reflection 1: What Will It Take to End Hunger?


A Bigger “We”

“Your Father who sees in secret will reward you”
(Matthew 6:4).



Almost eight years had passed since Marina set foot inside a church building. A car accident when she was in her late 40s had left her homebound with chronic pain and without use of her legs. One of her favorite visits in her home was on Sunday afternoon, when her pastor would come by to give Marina Holy Communion and pray with her. With a half flight of stairs leading up to the church door and more stairs between the foyer and the sanctuary, worshiping with her congregation was not an option.

That’s why Marina was so surprised to get a call from her pastor in July 2020 asking her to be part of a conversation about reopening the building for worship during the COVID-19 pandemic. She was quiet in that first Zoom meeting, listening to the other 10 people share their ideas and concerns. Some were scared, some weren’t, but most were exasperated and at a loss. One man seemed to put it best when he said, “This is all new to us. We’ve just never had to think about what it would mean to not be in church together ever.”

Before anyone could murmur agreement, Marina made her sole contribution to the discussion: “Whaddya mean ‘we’?”

This “we” — or, more specifically, this call to reexamine “we” — is at the core of the gospel message for Ash Wednesday this year and, indeed, of the church’s vision of a just world where all are fed.

Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:1-6 and 16-21 is the starting point on the journey through Lent. In this excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus admonishes his audience about public, showy displays of spirituality. Rather than take pleasure or pride in giving alms, we are to hide the deed even from ourselves. Rather than pray in public, we are to retire to private rooms. Rather than display the effects of our fasting, Jesus tells us, “put oil on your head and wash your face” (6:17).

In fact, each of Jesus’ directives seems to contradict the very notion of what we have come to call “being a public church.” The sermon of Jesus appears to favor private spirituality over public displays of faith. He seems to suggest that faith is best lived out in the quiet and private spaces of our hearts rather than in public.

However, reading the sermon in this way misses the fact that the Gospel of Matthew is a call to be this very public church, which will “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). We might believe that the message of Lent is to practice private piety, yet Jesus focuses here not on the mere practices of faith but on the community of faith. In other words, Jesus is talking not about the what but about the who — who we are and who God is.

Michael Joseph Brown hints at this in his commentary on Matthew in True to Our Native Land: An African American New Testament Commentary (Fortress, 2007), noting the subtle assumptions about privilege in Matthew 6. Jesus’ command to the disciples to pray in their “room” (6:6) assumes they have a private room to retreat to, even though Jesus himself “has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). “Almsgiving,” as Brown writes, “assumes that you have something to give.” Even fasting assumes that one has the means to make choices about when to start and stop their own hunger

Jesus’ message is a challenge to a privileged church to think more carefully about who they are. The problem isn’t that they are doing the wrong things. Giving alms to support neighbors is a good thing. Praying in the synagogue is, well, what is supposed to happen when the community is gathered. They are going through the right motions. But they have forgotten why they are doing them, and they have forgotten who they are. Their practices are no longer about the good of the community or the good of the neighbor but are mere performances, focused entirely on themselves.

Almsgiving, praying, fasting — these are practices meant to remind us of each other. But has being faithful become a matter of making sure we are seen rather than of training our hearts and minds to see each other? Marina’s fellow congregant in the Zoom call was more than willing to help the church with what it needed to do. But as her question revealed, he had forgotten who the church is called to be. His “we” was no more than an “I.”

Yet even when the church forgets, God remembers. In each of the dictates to his followers, Jesus reminds them of the “Father who sees in secret.” He reminds us that God’s concern for us is not measured by our conspicuousness, nor is it limited by our narrow imagination.

Accompanying our neighbors in God’s work of building a just world where all are fed means reimagining who we are and who we are called to be. There are so many stories shared across this church about friends and neighbors addressing hunger and poverty together. But perhaps the significance of faith in God, who “sees in secret,” is best exemplified not by the stories we can tell but by the stories we can’t — stories of God at work “in secret” and in hidden ways. These are the stories we don’t hear, of neighbors whose names can’t be shared.

They include the story of the clinic that cannot be named because unjust laws would put its noncitizen clients at risk. They include the story of women in a shelter whose names must be hidden to keep the women safe from their abusers. They include the story of ministries in conflict zones whose details cannot be shared without exposing workers and guests to violence.

These are the stories that cannot be trumpeted but are nevertheless triumphant examples of the work of God, “who sees in secret.”

Ending hunger means seeing what unjust power tries to keep hidden. It means defining “we” in a way that threatens the principalities and powers — including our own privilege — that make everything about “I.” And it means remembering, when we are isolated or marginalized, that “I” am never excluded from God’s “we.”

Jesus’ call in the Gospel reading reminds us that being the church requires a definition of community that is more expansive, more diverse and, thus, more beautiful than the exclusive vision put forth by
those in power.

Reflection Questions

  1. Think, journal or share about a time when you felt left out or unable to speak because of fear. How does that memory impact your reflection on this reading and devotion?
  2. The members of Marina’s church were unable to see that their ability to climb stairs gave them the privilege to gather together in one space. The members of the ancient church to which Jesus was speaking were unable to see that their ability to give alms, fast and pray in private rooms was a privilege. What are some ways that privilege might affect who feels included in your community?
  3. What does your church community look like? In what ways are all neighbors in your community invited to share their experiences and ideas openly and freely with your congregation?


Gracious and loving God, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, you bring light and life for all the world. Help us to listen, learn and love until your light and life fill every community. Amen.

ELCA World Hunger Sermon Starter- Ash Wednesday


These reflections are a part of ELCA World Hunger’s Sermon Starter series which is published via email every Monday. You can sign up for the weekly email here on the right side of the page if on a computer or near the bottom of the page if viewing from a phone. Pastor Tim Brown is the writer of these reflections. Pr. Tim is a Gifts Officer and Mission Ambassador for the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and a pastor and writer out of Raleigh, NC. You are invited to use the message below for personal devotion as well as prompts for sermon writing. 

February 26- Ash Wednesday

Matthew 6:1-6; 16-21

It’s curious how Jesus will use soil to heal things.

Like the man Bartimeaus, who is blind. He gets mud rubbed in his eyes to help him see. That makes no sense.

Or, how Jesus will draw in the sand as the woman about to be stoned is held on silent trial. Why would he turn to the dust to draw as charges are being brought up?

Or, consider the resurrection itself. How could the ground, the earth, the grave, bring about eternal life?

And yet soil is how Jesus seems to choose to heal.

If you want further thought on the healing properties of soil, consider this Irish idea about the healing properties of dirt. I’ve felt something like this, actually. Every time I put my hands in the earth of my yard, as I toil away growing and pruning and planting, I find my soul as improved as the soil.

What is it, Beloved, about dirt that helps to heal things?

We embrace this notion on Ash Wednesday. As we pull the dust of our lives and have it placed on our brows; as those burned Alleluias of praise become marks of humility (as, ultimately, all words of praise, should), we hold tightly to the belief that this dirt will, by God, heal us.

Matthew’s Gospel warns against practicing our piety in public. But on this day we hold that advice loosely as, though our piety is marked on our brow, the reasons themselves stay mute inside of us.

Because, honestly, we all come to Ash Wednesday with different, specific reasons: those moments we thrust needles into our veins to feel something; those moments we lashed out in rage, cursed out of fear, or judged out of prejudice; those times we cheated to get ahead, or because we are born ahead and denied someone their God-given dignity with impunity.

We all come to Ash Wednesday with a personal confession on our lips.

And yet we all, no matter our confession, receive the same sign of redemption: a dirt cross that intends to heal.

And note that the symbol on our brows is not just any sign. It is not a money sign, as if that can save and redeem us. And it is not the sign of this political party or that political party, as if our politics can save us.

All these things we rely on in life to save us: money, status, politics…they all blow away, like dust, as that dirt cross is smudged into our brows as an act of redemption.

On this day, though our piety is public, we don’t wear it with any sort of pride, Beloved. Because we all know, deep in the recesses of our hearts, that those things we bring to the altar on Ash Wednesday are not a moment of pride, but implicit acknowledgments that we cannot do this thing called life without the kind of redemption that our God in Christ gives.

Soil heals.  Perhaps it does every day, if you believe the websites. But even if you don’t, you know it does on Ash Wednesday, by God.


Fair Housing and Everyday Jericho Roads- ELCA Advocacy Action Alert!


Brooke De Jong is the Program Assistant for Hunger Education with ELCA World Hunger. Previous to this position she worked managing grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for a housing agency in Chicago, IL. 

When it comes to responding to homelessness in our congregations, often there is a will but not a way. We would help if we only knew how to do it safely, if we could guarantee that our money was not going to support an addiction, if we had more time to understand best practices and so on. Fear causes us to freeze and walk or drive past the neighbor in need on our everyday Jericho roads. We all have been the Priest and the Levite when we wanted to be the Good Samaritan. And sometimes we have been the person victimized on the hazardous road, waiting for our Good Samaritan.

However, many congregations do great work. They support shelters, make kits with important items such as clean socks and personal care products, act as warming shelters in the winter and more. Some even actively advocate for fair housing and oppose laws that criminalize poverty. Some of us have even made personal care kits or stood on a picket line – but still drive past the person with the cardboard sign standing on the median.

We all walk different Jericho roads every day seeing or not seeing and responding to or not responding to our neighbors without homes. Sometimes we are the Priest and the Levite and the Good Samaritan all in one day or even in a span of a few hours. This is what it means to be human and in need of God’s grace.

But just because we are afraid and in daily need of God’s grace, we should not forget our baptismal calling and duty as citizens. The ELCA social statement on Church and Society says we are daily called to be “[. . .] wise and active citizens. [. . .] Along with all citizens, Christians have the responsibility to defend human rights and to work for freedom, justice, peace, environmental well-being, and good order in public life. They are to recognize the vital role of law in protecting life and liberty and in upholding the common good.”

Our neighbors without homes are in need of our actions as wise and active citizens.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in January proposed a new rule that would weaken oversight and national data collection on fair housing projects. This rule change would disproportionately affect low-income communities of color. Under the proposed rule change the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule (AFFH) that was first designed to help communities promote diversity and inclusivity under the 1968 Fair Housing Act and take proactive steps to reverse the effects of housing segregation would be rendered almost completely ineffectual.

Read more about the AFFH Rule here.

To join with others in opposing this rule change, check out the ELCA Advocacy Action Alert here.


HUD’s Rule Change Ends Proactive Anti-Housing Segregation Measures


Brooke De Jong is the author of this post and the Program Assistant for Hunger Education with ELCA World Hunger. Previous to this position she worked managing grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for a housing agency in Chicago, IL. 


The work towards economic and racial justice has never been easy. Making long-term sustainable and transformative changes is even harder. This is especially true in the areas of housing and homelessness. According to the latest Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) data collected in January 2019, Chicago alone had 5,290 people without homes. But what is more concerning is that 1,026 or 19% of persons without homes in Chicago were white but 4,674 or 88% persons without homes in Chicago were people of color.

As we emerged from the holidays and rolled into the new year, news broke that HUD is proposing to repeal a 2015 fair housing rule, or the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule, that could make this disparity worse.

What is the proposed change and why does it matter?

The proposal to repeal of the 2015 AFFH rule repeals a definition of fair housing that actively sought to reverse the effects of housing segregation and changes the definition of fair housing to “advancing fair housing choice within the program participant’s control or influence.” Under Secretary Ben Carson, HUD would now define fair housing as the ability to choose one’s housing and end proactive measures that sought to reverse the effects of housing segregation. Without the proper tools, training and financial support, many communities will not be able to continue the hard but important work towards ending housing segregation.

Housing segregation is a serious problem in the United States. In short, where someone lives is important. Where someone lives determines the quality of education, jobs, medical care, access to supportive services, food quality and more. Ultimately where some lives can impact a person’s ability to thrive. In segregated communities, like that of Chicago, often what happens is a concentration of the above items in more white and affluent areas and a decreased density of these crucial services in areas that have higher rates of poverty and large populations of people of color. Housing segregation has many devastating effects but the most sinister is the ability of housing segregation to create a never-ending cycle of poverty. If we  are serious about our mission to create a just world where all are fed, ending housing segregation is an important piece of the puzzle.

What is the “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” Rule?

Let’s start first with what a rule is, why we have them and how they come about. Rules are created and used by United States government agencies, like HUD, to help staff and related programs effectively interpret and implement laws passed by congress. Often, laws passed by Congress leave a lot of room for the agency to determine how to put a law into practice. So, rules are created to guide the work of the agency, evaluate its grant programs and to prioritize spending.

In the case of the AFFH rule, the US Congress has passed several laws that govern how HUD does its work and spends its money. All of these major laws contain language directing HUD to prevent discrimination in its housing programs and create programs that actively implement fair housing practices. While the laws are clear that housing discrimination is illegal, it is not clear from these laws how HUD is supposed to go about developing fair housing programs. Therefore, it is up to every administration and HUD secretary to define what these affirmative sections of our housing laws look like in practice.

In the case of the 2015 AFFH rule implemented by then-HUD Secretary Julian Castro and the Obama administration, this looked like taking proactive steps to reverse the effects of decades of housing segregation created by redlining, discriminatory and predatory mortgage lending practices, and community disinvestment. This involved defining fair housing as:

taking meaningful actions that, taken together, address significant disparities in housing needs and in access to opportunity, replacing segregated living patterns with truly integrated and balanced living patterns, transforming racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty into areas of opportunity, and fostering and maintaining compliance with civil rights and fair housing laws creating new sophisticated mapping and data tools for communities requiring extensive reporting on systemic housing segregation.

When this definition went into effect in 2015 as part of the AFFH rule, HUD had a new mandate: create new mapping tools and training programs to help communities understand the effects of systemic segregation and begin evaluating grant programs based on how effective they were at reversing systemic segregation. Communities and housing authorities that did well were awarded more money and others who failed to meet the new standards would see their funding cut or the program would find themselves under HUD monitoring.

Why would HUD propose this change?

HUD is proposing this change because it says, among other things, the 2015 rule is too burdensome on communities and programs.

As a former HUD grants administrator, I can see why HUD might be choosing to repeal such a complex rule. Because the thought of a regulation change still makes me feel a deep sense of dread. It is difficult to convey the amount of work and stress that comes with managing HUD grants. But I think it is important to try in order to better grasp and evaluate HUD’s stated reasoning for this rule change.

Many housing agencies administering HUD programs and funding, including the one worked at, are greatly understaffed and underfunded. As the grants manager, it is your responsibility to know HUD rules and regulations inside and out and make sure staff are following them. The bills and regulations that govern a single type of HUD funding can number into the thousands of pages. A violation of those regulations can result in loss of funding and mass eviction of those your agency serves.

Changes in how data is collected and how HUD defines different terms, both of which are part of this proposed rule change, can affect your ability to house people. In short, working on HUD grants and implementing rule changes means the lives of the most vulnerable depend on you doing your job well. That is a heavy burden that many grant administrators and other HUD program administrators carry.

Nevertheless, this burden is one I often carried with pride. The work my agency did to provide housing and supportive services to the most vulnerable populations in Chicago, was a direct result of the funding I was able to secure and manage. HUD rules like the AFFH rule, which it is proposing to repeal, made sure we were making long-term transformative and sustainable changes in the communities we served. That made a difference to me when I was up until 2 am trying to make grant submission deadlines.

In Summary

It is true the 2015 rule did place a heavy burden on HUD programs and administrators. Many programs reported to HUD that the current AFFH process required lengthy report submissions ranging from 200 to 800 pages. Many communities also had to hire outside contractors and spend vital funds on the completion of these reports. It is important and right that HUD should listen to their feedback.

However, HUD also needs to take a look at themselves. HUD never completed the mapping tools and training it promised these communities. These mapping tools and training would have been vital to the success of the 2015 AFFH rule.

So, if something is not working or is difficult and you have not made the proper investment, you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. In other words, despite some of the failures and difficulties of this 2015 AFFH rule, HUD should not ignore or give up on its mandate to make a positive impact on communities in the realm of fair housing and housing segregation. And HUD certainly should not give up on this mandate because it failed to provide the adequate funding and support these communities and programs needed.


Forgiveness: A Lifestyle for Renewed Community

This post comes from ELCA World Hunger’s weekly email list, “Sermon Starters.” For this week, Rev. Angela Khabeb of Holy Trinity Church in Minneapolis, shares with us her reflections on forgiveness and how we are called to make this gift more than an act, but a lifestyle as followers in Christ.

If you’d like to receive posts like these ahead of the liturgical calendar, please subscribe to ELCA World Hunger Sermon Starters by clicking on the link, or email us at

Here is a recent review of the resource from Vernita Kennan of the Saint Paul Area Synod:

“I receive the ELCA World Hunger Sermon Starters each week from the ELCA and find it is a helpful way for me to look ahead and “preach my own sermon” in preparation of what I will hear next Sunday at my home church, Incarnation Lutheran…You needn’t be a rostered person in the ELCA to find them inspirational.”


February 24, 2019 – Seventh Sunday after Epiphany

Luke 6:35

Luke 6:27-38

We continue this week with the Sermon on the Plain. We hear Jesus proclaiming a new way. “Turn the other cheek, go the second mile, love your enemies.” Unfortunately, this passage has been misused in some religious circles.

Please allow me this commercial break…

If someone is in an abusive situation, they are not required to stay and risk their life and/or the lives of their children. There are times when it is best to forgive from a distance. We can continue to love the person but if the relationship is physically, verbally, emotionally, or economically abusive, the most loving and faith-filled response we can have is to practice self-care. When we try to enforce forgiveness like it is a law and not an act of God’s love and grace, all of humanity is in jeopardy.

We’ve heard these passages many times before. But for the original hearers, these words were earth-shattering. Jesus’ words were radical. More to the point, his life was radical. After all, Jesus constantly challenged the status quo. He repeatedly broadened the center so that those on the margins of society would be included.  He challenged the religious leaders of the day and caused so much political upheaval that he received the death penalty.

Jesus was revolutionary in ways that people never expected. Even today, Jesus enters our lives in unexpected ways and I love it. After all, Christianity should not be comfortable for us. The Gospel should not be like our favorite pair of jeans or a pair of old shoes or a worn-out sweater that we drag out this time of year. Certainly, we find comfort in God’s word. But we don’t need to have a hold on the Gospel because Jesus does not belong to us. Rather, the Gospel needs to have a hold on us because we belong to Jesus. Otherwise we are just nominal Christians playing church. We create our own brand of Jesus that suits our needs and pets our egos. We manipulate Jesus into whatever makes us feel safe, or superior, or righteous. So, what is the earth-shattering news we need to hear?

You see, the life changing power of the Gospel message has the greatest impact on our lives when it is destabilizing. Whenever we are challenged to redefine or examine who we understand Jesus to be, we grow. Whenever we challenge what it means to be a Christian in our world today, we grow.

In the Sermon on the Plain, Jesus is encouraging his followers to abandon business as usual. Through his sermon, Jesus turns the accepted societal norms inside-out. This is Good News because even when we dishonor God by our actions or inactions, God still seeks after us. Now, for the life of me I cannot figure out why. But Jesus chooses to use us as the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Jesus chooses us even though we are broken, selfish, and woefully imperfect. Jesus chooses us to broaden the center in our own communities so that all God’s people have a seat at the table. Jesus uses us to increase God’s healing and hope in the world. Is this the earth-shattering news for us?

Genesis 45:3-11, 15

It’s hard to ignore the theme of forgiveness in this week’s lessons—and believe me, I tried. Yes, the story of Joseph is a powerful illustration of love and forgiveness overcoming hatred and bitterness. But even as I encounter this undeniable witness to the hidden hand of God, I find myself distracted by many questions.

Firstly, what does true forgiveness look like for us? What happens to trust? Is it wise for me to trust this person again if they had deliberately betrayed me? What if the best I can do is just be cordial to them? Isn’t that enough? Isn’t it enough for me to simply not hate the sight of them? Let’s face it, forgiveness is hard. There’s no “forgiveness switch” on our hearts that we can simply click on or off when we need more or less of it. I’ve been wondering if forgiveness is like love. You know, when you give away love it multiplies and comes back to you.

Sometimes it seems, in our country, we are more concerned with punishment than we are with peace. We seem more concerned with revenge than reconciliation. We find it easier to fight than to forgive. No wonder some of us find it difficult to accept God’s extravagant gift of love. Even when we are receptive to God’s mercy and forgiveness, we may yet be reluctant to give mercy and forgiveness to others. Maybe we feel that we are giving away our power when we forgive. Maybe we are simply afraid of being hurt again and use our grudges to keep us safe. But, at the end of the day, ministry involves risk.

It can feel like a risk to forgive. But what exactly are we risking? Our power, position, politics, morals, self-constructed ideas of who we are and how others should perceive us seem to be potential risk-factors to forgiveness. But on the other side of forgiveness, on the other side of the tension and resistance we often experience when confronted with someone who has “wronged” us, we find relationship. We find a leveling and sharing of power, we find mutual respect and dignity, and we find the Holy ground that lives between us all. If hunger and poverty are symptoms of deeply broken relationships around the world, forgiveness could be our first-step on the path to living lives of abundance and sharing.

Forgiveness is not necessarily an event, but rather a lifestyle. God doesn’t expect us to forgive perfectly every time. But God is encouraging us to live our lives with forgiveness as our North Star. In doing so, we honor God and we help heal the body of Christ. C.S. Lewis illustrates forgiveness as part of our baptismal identity as Christians:

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

This is both gift and challenge.

To be clear, forgiveness cannot erase pain or eliminate the need for justice. But forgiveness is God’s gift to us. The Holy Spirit empowers us to share that gift with others. Fortunately, forgiveness, like most things, gets easier with practice. The more we remain open to the Spirit, the more able we are to forgive. Forgiveness can be extremely difficult, but it is possible. In fact, God makes all things possible for us. This is good news.

Children Sermon

Forgiveness seems to be an overarching theme in this week’s lessons. Forgiveness is an important concept that might be difficult for children to grasp. We learn to say we’re sorry but that does not always lead to forgiveness. Have you ever heard a child offer an angry “sorry!” because her mother told her she had to apologize?  It happens with my kids on occasion.

So, it might be a good idea to ask the children to help you describe forgiveness. This way you can gauge the understanding of the group. Invite the children to share examples of times when they needed to receive forgiveness or times when they needed to forgive someone (be prepared to share your own examples if need be).

For an object lesson, bring two items–something rather heavy and something rather light. A brick and a feather would work well and pretty easy to get. Grudges are heavy like this brick (or rock or concrete paver–probably less than $1 at your local hardware store). Forgiveness is light like this feather (or cotton ball or stuffing from a pillow). You could get a sturdy backpack and put several heavy objects in it and invite a child or two to try and carry it. Ask who would rather carry the heavy bag or the cotton ball all day.

Remind them of the words about forgiveness in the Lord’s Prayer. Say it out loud, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Encourage the children (and adults) to listen for those words later in worship. Remind them that Jesus helps us forgive and forgiveness brings joy.