Skip to content
ELCA Blogs

ELCA World Hunger

ELCA World Hunger Sermon Starter: World Food Day


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.

The Rev. Carla Christopher Wilson is the writer of this reflection. Pr. Carla serves as Associate Pastor of Faith Formation and Outreach at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Lancaster, PA. She is also co-chair of Lower Susquehanna Synod’s racial justice task force and a member of LAMPa’s (Lutheran Advocacy Ministry of PA) statewide policy task force. A former Poet Laureate of York, PA and professional cultural competency trainer for the secular business world, Carla’s greatest joy is partnering faith and education with great storytelling.

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

Just for fun, try something. Take this short passage and rewrite it as if it was being written about you. Imagine the saints of the church; the missionaries and the fundraisers and the preachers and the public demonstrators who were even willing to go to prison rather than turn their back on the hungry and the poor people that Jesus made a point of eating with and saying the kingdom of heaven was prepared for. Imagine they looked at you and said, “We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, siblings, beloved by God, that he has chosen you.”

How does it feel to be addressed with that much love and gratitude? Do you feel as if you have lived up to those words? Do you feel challenged by them, knowing it was regular neighborhood folks just like you and me who they were written about? One of the glorious things of the early church was how much space was made for everyday people. Regardless of gender, birth, ability, or socioeconomic status, the gifts of salvation and a nurturing earthly community were available without restriction. An image we see repeatedly in scripture that represents what this open and steadfast loving God-family looks like is the table where are all fed. The house with rooms for all. We use that as a frequent ELCA World Hunger tagline as well; a reminder that “until all are fed” isn’t just a fundraising or donation goal-setter, it’s a Biblical call for justice and equity.

On October 16th we celebrated World Food Day. World Food Day remembers the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United States. As far back as 1945, the United Nations recognized that enough food to eat is not a privilege, but a human right, and created World Food Day, to be observed every year, in1979. Why do we need a holiday to celebrate something that should be so simple as that eradicating hunger is a good thing? We should all get that, right? Well, why do we need such a simple and loving passage in the Bible as this reading from 1 Thessalonians? There are no parables, no miracles, no heavy-laden charges, or complex life-guiding wisdom.

We need both World Food Day and 1 Thessalonians for the simple reason they help us remember to stay encouraged because injustice CAN be ended. Success is possible. We ARE making a difference, and we must continue in our efforts. This passage contains a key reminder to us; stay grateful, keep praying, work in faith, remain steadfast. “The word of the Lord has sounded forth from you… in every place, your faith in God has become known.” Around the world, the table of God is being made bigger and seats are being set at the table, one food pantry or one bag of crop seed or one donated farm animal at a time. I think that’s worth celebrating.

Matthew 22:15-22

Oh, how often do we feel the sharp sting of sarcasm when a sly tongue lashes out at us? Whether it is a family member with a backhanded compliment or a co-worker with a sarcastic aside, there are many names to describe this type of gilded assault. “Microaggression” or “passive aggression” are good examples but they both contain a very telling word: aggression. Even when we coat it with padding to make it more intellectual, more palatable, less uncomfortably confrontational, to be deliberately unkind or flat out mean is an attack. To say something meant to entrap or intended to highlight another’s area of struggle or challenge is an attack. In our reading, we see that attacking another is not the way of Jesus.

In today’s passage, Jesus is the intended victim of an aggressive attack wrapped in a charged conversation that was likely harmless in appearance to an uninformed passerby. Pharisees, (“a member of an ancient Jewish sect, distinguished by strict observance of the traditional and written law, and commonly held to have pretensions to superior sanctity,” according to Oxford Dictionary) are joined by Herodians (“a party that favored the dynasty of Herod and stood for the Roman connection who cared little or nothing for religion and normally were bitterly opposed by the Pharisees,” according to Jesus is asked about the payment of taxes knowing that if he decrees that money should be given to God over government he will be called treasonous and if he calls for resources to go to the government over the needs of the people he will be denounced by the priests. The dialogue is rife with sarcasm and meant to set up an impossible situation that will make Jesus look a fool. Ironically, when we hear about microaggressions today it is usually the most marginalized among us who are targeted; sly remarks aimed at those speaking English as a second language, or a poor woman holding up a grocery line to pay for necessities with a food stamp card.

Instead of playing into the aggression or repaying injury with insult, Jesus cleverly avoids the trap by saying that both God and the emperor should be given what belongs to them. I like to think it’s because Jesus has the same high school counselor as I did or at least a mentor who gave similar sage advice. Ms. Fran took me aside when I was tempted to react with anger, respond with insult, or rise-up in aggression, and she told me about ‘results-oriented thinking.’ “You are here for a reason child, don’t let anyone distract you. You have bigger fish to fry.”

As I type this, we are heading into certainly the most controversial election season of most of our lifetimes. We are struggling as a country with the most faithful response to a pandemic. I get it. As a pastor and a justice advocate, I’m in the thick of it too. The temptation may be anger or frustration. It may be disengaging and shutting down. As hard as it is, my siblings in Christ, I am asking you to remain focused in this season. As you can read on the ELCA World Hunger website, 821 million people around the world – that’s more than 1 in 10 – can’t access the food they need to live active, healthy lives. We have important work to do my friends. Alongside Jesus, we are called to talk to those willing to listen, to sidestep those who are not, and above all to remain focused on finding creative and dynamic ways to teach and serve the most vulnerable among us. When we refuse the distractions of the devil (and hopefully practice some healthy self-care to strengthen our spirit), like the Pharisees, they often ‘leave us and go away.’

Children’s Sermon

Have a picture of a large sad face or an angry face. Have several smaller cut out hearts. Ask each child to share something they can do that brings them joy or makes them happy. Try to lead them to say something they can do with friends or family or that they can do for others or positive self-care actions such as deep breathing or taking a time-out break. Each time a child offers a suggestion write it on a heart and have the child tape the heart over a part of the sad/angry face. If you are virtual, make the suggestions yourself and let the viewers see the sad/angry face being covered and made to go away by doing kind actions for others. Remind children that the sad or angry face might still be under there and might even come out sometimes and that’s okay, but when it does, God helps up find ways to get through it so we can keep doing the things we love and having fun with our friends and family.

“Big Dreams” on World Food Day


Announcing ELCA World Hunger’s Big Dream Grant Awards

This World Food Day, ELCA World Hunger is pleased to announce four ministries that have been awarded Big Dream Grants. ELCA World Hunger’s Big Dream Grants, one-time gifts of $10,000 to $75,000, support domestic ministries as they pursue innovative and sustainable approaches to ending hunger. As we reflect on the meaning behind World Food Day and our shared commitment to address hunger until all are fed, we celebrate the big dreams of these ministries and their commitment to excellence.

New this year, ELCA World Hunger’s Big Dream Grant recipients were identified in part based on the contributions of their work toward the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. The SDGs are intended to focus sustainable development toward overcoming poverty, inequality and environmental degradation. ELCA World Hunger is pleased to partner with the Lutheran World Federation as part of its “Waking the Giant” initiative. “Waking the Giant” is a global ecumenical effort which aims to build the capacity of churches to contribute effectively to the SDGs. Churches and partners are focusing on five of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – Goals 3, 4, 5, 10 and 16 – and the ELCA has an additional focus on Goal 2.

Ministries receiving ELCA World Hunger Big Dream Grants are:

IntegrArte, a ministry hosted in an ELCA congregation in Dorado, Puerto Rico, works with people of all ages to address mental health in a community where mental health services are otherwise inaccessible to many who need them, particularly in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. IntegrArte is building connections between church and community by expanding mental health services within the greater community. IntegrArte is preparing to realize its long-term dream of expanding into a community center that will host programming for older adults, a Montessori school and an emergency shelter.

Through its McClintock Partners In Education (McPIE) ministry, a partnership with the local middle school and community, Christ Lutheran Church in Charlotte, North Carolina fosters an environment where families have the opportunity to thrive through meals, clubs, camps and courses that open up pathways for both youth and parents. Christ Lutheran is increasing the ministry’s capacity to support the economic success of under-served populations in Charlotte through a commitment to bilingual support and the creation of the McClintock Innovation Lab & Library, which will focus on STEM programming.

The Table: A 1st Century Style Community in the 21st Century is a worshipping community in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, reducing barriers to food. The Table provides a place where families can learn to grow the food that they want to eat and fosters learning and entrepreneurial opportunities for community members. Looking ahead, The Table will further drive economic development and empowerment through expanding programming and a longer growing season made possible by new greenhouses.

End Hunger in Calvert County, based in a rural area in Maryland, is a coalition of local churches and other organizations working together to end hunger in the community. End Hunger Calvert County connects food-insecure communities with hunger relief options and works to reduce systemic poverty through a robust workforce program. Now, the organization is blazing new trails as it develops a mobile app to connect low-income families to comprehensive services.

We celebrate the work of these ministries and thank you for your support of ELCA World Hunger as we work together to fight hunger and poverty in the United States and 60 other countries around the world. To learn more about ELCA World Hunger’s approach, visit

At the global level, the “Waking the Giant” initiative provides churches and church-related actors with tools and training to relate their on-going work to the SDGs. At the national level, churches and ecumenical partners set up implementation mechanisms for taking stock of their existing work in relation to the SDGs and engage in joint planning for direct action and advocacy. “Waking the Giant” is currently focused on four target countries: Colombia, Liberia, Tanzania and the United States. The ELCA is hosting and funding the initiative in the United States. To learn more, watch the video below or visit


World Food Day 2017 – Change the Future of Migration



In its most recent report on food insecurity and nutrition around the world, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) highlighted a troubling fact: after a decade of decline, the rate of hunger in the world increased in 2016. Today, the FAO estimates that there are 815 million people in the world who do not have access to the nutrition they need for healthy lives. That amounts to about 11 percent of the world’s population. It is still lower than it was in 2000, when 900 million people faced hunger, but some experts worry that we may be seeing a trend toward increased hunger after a prolonged decline.

There are many factors driving this increase in hunger, but a few stand out. First, more countries are experiencing violent conflict and fragility, which increases their vulnerability to hunger. Conflicts in South Sudan and Syria, for instance, have driven many people from their homes in search of safety elsewhere. In fact, the FAO estimates that 489 million of the 815 million undernourished people in the world live in countries facing conflict, violence and fragility.

This is related to the second driver of increased hunger—climate change. As droughts worsen and access to food and water gets harder, the risk of conflict increases. This, in turn, leaves communities vulnerable to food crises. Even without conflict, though, the effects of climate change can be dire for communities dependent on agriculture for their lives and livelihoods. As the FAO points out,

Three-quarters of the extreme poor base their livelihoods on agriculture or other rural activities. Creating conditions that allow rural people, especially youth, to stay at home when they feel it is safe to do so, and to have more resilient livelihoods, is a crucial component of any plan to tackle the migration challenge.

Working with rural communities to build resilience through sufficient, sustainable agricultural practices is key in reducing hunger around the world. To bring attention to this, the theme for World Food Day 2017 is:

Change the future of migration. Invest in food security and rural development

You can join people around the world in marking this special occasion. Below are some ideas to get you started.

Accompanying rural communities is a key part of the ministry of ELCA World Hunger. From helping farmers use drought-resistant crops or improved irrigation, to providing access to seeds, tools, and livestock to increase the profitability of farms, our companions and partners are making strides toward ending hunger for good.

ELCA World Hunger’s Lifelines magazine and reproducible stories are great ways to learn about and share the projects supported by your gifts. Reproducible stories provide full-color and B&W bulletin inserts you can use to share stories with your congregation or group. In the latest edition, learn how Zulema Lopez and her neighbors in San Luis, Nicaragua, are leading the way in increasing access to safe water and teaching others sustainable farming practices. Download the stories here:

To dive deeper into the problem of world hunger, you can read the FAO’s The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017 here:

The FAO also has lots of resources on its World Food Day page, including videos, stories from rural communities around the world and an activity book for teachers or parents to use with children. Access all of this at the FAO site:

You can also check out these resources from the ELCA:

  • Hunger and Climate Change Connections Toolkit

ELCA World Hunger’s toolkits are easy-to-use, adaptable for a variety of settings and suitable for intergenerational audiences.  The activities can take as little as 15 minutes, or as much as one hour, depending on your needs.  Learn about climate-related disasters, the effects of climate change on vulnerable populations and actions your congregation can take.  Download this toolkit at

  • Hunger and Climate Change: Agriculture and Food Security in a Changing Climate

From biofuels to gender justice, from political stability to farming in the United States, this fact sheet from the ELCA highlights the wide-ranging effects of climate change.  With ideas for what your congregation can do to support farmers and others impacted by climate change, this fact sheet is perfect for Lutherans concerned about agriculture and hunger.  Download it at

  • Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice

The ELCA’s social statement on care for creation, adopted in 1993, remains an important reflection on our role as stewards in God’s world.  Read it here:



Get Ready for World Food Day – October 16, 2016




World Food Day is a day of action against hunger.

On October 16, people around the world come together to declare their commitment to eradicate hunger in our lifetime. Because when it comes to hunger, the only acceptable number in the world is zero.

Each year, people around the world mark World Food Day as a special occasion to take action, learn more and join together to fight hunger.  World Food Day 2016 falls on a Sunday, giving Christians concerned about hunger a special opportunity to worship, pray and serve together.  Below are some suggestions for actions your congregation can take.


ELCA World Hunger supports projects in nearly 60 countries, including the United States. These projects include job training programs, food pantries, agricultural training, health promotion and care, and much more. Together, our Church accompanies communities around the world toward a world of justice where all will be fed.  Prayerfully consider supporting ELCA World Hunger with your gifts.  Visit to make a gift.

World Food Day 2016 is on Sunday October 16.  Use the occasion to host a special offering for ELCA World Hunger in your congregation.  Order posters and envelopes at You can also use a blessing like the one below to dedicate your offerings to the work God is doing through the ELCA.

Blessing of Offering

Abundant God, all creation displays your goodness.  For the hungry, you provide food.  For the thirsty, you give water.  To the wandering, you promise a home.  You have blessed us with your gifts that we may be your hands and feet to share these gifts with our neighbors.  Bless these offerings, that they may be signs of your grace in our world.  As we share with others, keep us mindful of our own need – for food, water, shelter, and community.  May our gifts be an invitation to deeper relationship with each other and with you. In the name of Jesus Christ, your gift to the world, Amen.


Last year, ELCA Advocacy, Lutherans across the Church and ecumenical and interfaith partners across the US joined together to advocate for the Global Food Security Act. After long months of advocacy and policy negotiations, the Global Food Security Act is now a law. Together with partners, ELCA Advocacy worked tirelessly on this legislation for nearly two years, and we are grateful to see that all our prayerful efforts have led to this moment. The Global Food Security Act means the U.S. will be better equipped to combat food insecurity around the world. THANK YOU FOR YOUR ADVOCACY!

But our work is far from over. Sign up for e-advocacy alerts at to learn more about the important work of ELCA Advocacy and to be part of a voice for justice for all.


This year’s message for World Food Day is “Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must, too.”  Host an education event at your church to help others learn more about climate change’s effect on hunger.  You can download a communication toolkit, posters and other resources from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations here: .

To learn more about projects supported by ELCA World Hunger that are responding to a changing climate, read “Three Ways ‘The Poor’ and Communities of Faith Are Leading the Way on Climate Change” on Huffington

Also, check out these resources from ELCA World Hunger and our partners:

Rooted in God’s Word and Lands: A Celebration of the Earth That Nourishes Us

This resource from Creation Justice Ministries encourages Christians to treat land as the special gift that it is.  It has ideas for sermons, Sunday School activities, and adult study and contemplation exercises. Download it for free at

Sustainable Food in a Changing Climate

This 2015 resource from Creation Justice Ministries offers prayers and liturgies for worship, ideas for educational programs, and suggestions for personal food choices that raise awareness about and encourage action toward sustainable choices about the foods we eat.  Download it for free at

Just Climate: Study Guide for Adult Christian Education

Creation Justice Ministries’ popular 2008 resource is as relevant today as it was when it was first released.  This three-session study guide is perfect for audiences new to studying climate change.  It has discussion and reflection questions, a leader’s guide to the issues, and fact sheets on several countries to help your group see the concrete effects of climate change around the world and in the United States. Download it for free at

Care of Creation Lectionary Reflections

Lutherans Restoring Creation offers an online archive of commentaries on the Revised Common Lectionary that is perfect for developing a sermon, a children’s sermon, or an educational forum.  The archive can be found at

Hunger and Climate Change Connections Toolkit

ELCA World Hunger’s toolkits are easy-to-use, adaptable for a variety of settings and suitable for intergenerational audiences.  The activities can take as little as 15 minutes, or as much as one hour, depending on your needs.  Learn about climate-related disasters, the effects of climate change on vulnerable populations and actions your congregation can take.  Download this toolkit at

Hunger and Climate Change: Agriculture and Food Security in a Changing Climate

From biofuels to gender justice, from political stability to farming in the United States, this fact sheet from the ELCA highlights the wide-ranging effects of climate change.  With ideas for what your congregation can do to support farmers and others impacted by climate change, this fact sheet is perfect for Lutherans concerned about agriculture and hunger.  Download it at

Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice

The ELCA’s social statement on care for creation, adopted in 1993, remains an important reflection on our role as stewards in God’s world.  Read it here:


Host a Hunger potluck or banquet after worship services to highlight the challenge of hunger in our world. Read how congregations in Ohio used “Potlucks to End World Hunger” to  support ELCA World Hunger and projects around the world –

The Oxfam America Hunger Banquet is a memorable, interactive event that brings hunger and poverty issues to life. Hunger Banquets have been going strong for nearly 40 years and can be a meaningful way to learn more about the challenges we and our neighbors face in a world of hunger – and what we can all do to change it.  Learn more at


When Lutherans pray for “daily bread,” Martin Luther reminds us that we are asking God for all of the needs we have each and every day, from food to shelter, from healthy families to good government.  This Fall, help your family remember these good gifts of God with free table blessing magnets from ELCA World Hunger.  Order for your family or congregation by emailing