Homily “Bread for the World” Taryn
So we have a sound mathematical principle, and we have a story of one leaving water in the desert.
I’m not sure how to talk about feeding the hungry without starting with prayer. There’s a global organization called Bread for the World.
It’s a Christian organization, and they do geopolitical lobbying, they partner with NGO’s, and they address world hunger as a multi-faceted problem with a sophisticated solution. Then again, perhaps it’s not so sophisticated after all. One major part of their website is devoted to prayer. Praying to end hunger is a major part of their advocacy work. Everything they do begins and ends with prayer.
It is because of prayer that my four-year-old children know about hunger. That and the Woody Guthrie song, “This Land is Your Land.” There’s a subversive and depressing verse in that song that is not often played that goes,
In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?
Not to brag, but I believe my children were around 2.5 years old when they began deconstructing those lyrics.
“Why are our people standing there hungry?”
This is the central question of our world. Why is anyone hungry? Even with our global population soaring, the simple truth is that there exists enough money and resources for everyone to be fed. It’s kind of like what John and Yoko said: hunger is over, if you want it.
This is true globally, but especially nationally. We need not accept our current reality that people must always go hungry.
Now let’s consider the rest of those lyrics. In the shadow of the steeple, I saw my people. My children asked about this too. They became deeply distraught, and anxious. What will happen to our people who are hungry? Who will feed them?
Our answer to our children has always been, you and I. You and I will feed them. This has felt like the most honest response. What if I had told them, someone else will take care of them? My children would grow up trusting in an untrustworthy system, assuming that it is someone else’s responsibility to feed their people.
Each night, we pray over our dinner. I cannot always speak for the integrity of our prayers with two four year-olds, even earnest prayers can devolve quickly, but each night we include in our prayers people who are going without food, and without family or friends, people who are not warm and cozy. Just this simple, daily practice of enfolding people who are hungry- for food or companionship or warmth, this practice expands our empathy and clarifies our life’s commitment to feed our people.
My faith does not tell me that praying for people is the same as feeding them. But it is a critical step towards the work. Because of my prayer, hunger, and people dealing with hunger of all kinds, are never far from my mind or heart. I return to them, each evening, and so do my children.
Prayer may not change someone’s situation, but it changes me.
It is the prayer that changes “people, standing there hungry” to “our people.”
Some of you may have plans of abundance and bounty this coming week.
Some of you may be facing a holiday of scarcity, either facing financial challenges, health struggles, loss or loneliness. Some of you may be struggling with extended family, anxious and isolated by the deep political and social divisions in American life today.
There are no easy answers to any of it.
But with prayer, I can take what is overwhelming, and make a simple, daily practice of connecting with my core commitment to love the whole world, and myself as part of that.
Spirit of Life, God of Many Names, Help me to love the whole world. Help me to love my family with a dose of acceptance for who they are along with hope for who they could become if they are loved into expansive understanding. Help me find the fortitude to reach out and ask for help if I am lonely, anxious or overwhelmed. Help me feed my people, and help me trust that I will be fed in return.
In community, I believe, all things are possible. We can feed our every need. May it be so.