Sunday, June 15, 2008

Lazarus, Come Out!

Here are some key quotes and points from the presentations yesterday at the first Bread for the World Hunger Justice Leaders training in Washington, DC:
  • The Rev. Art Simon, Founder and President Emeritus of Bread for the World, talked about how, as Lutheran parish pastor in the Lower East Side of New York in the 1960's, he started thinking about combating hunger and systemic change: "It's better to have a fence at the top of the cliff than an ambulance at the bottom. I found I was always driving that ambulance." Rather than respond to the real needs all around him with band-aid solutions, Pastor Simon and his congregation started to explore how they might change the system itself. It was a brainstormed list of ideas on "hunger" that came out of a Lenten discussion group, rooted in connecting current suffering to Christ's suffering, that birthed Bread for the World. Great ideas--and the energy, people and support to make them happen--come from congregations!
  • It's easy to dismiss letter-writing and calling or visiting representatives as a waste of time. The Rev. Simon looked out and said, "What you do has life-changing and life-saving potential." I don't think it is naive to believe him; he's really seen it happen.
  • The Rev. David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World, affirmed that we are grounded in resurrection hope: no matter what the current political climate or outlook for the cause, the knowledge that, in the end, there will be no more hunger gives us hope for the present moment. The fact that it is feasible to end hunger in the US and worldwide "is God moving in our history." It is "our Exodus ... the saving movement of our time, and we are being invited to participate."
  • The Rev. Juan Luis Calderon, Director of the Hispanic Pastoral Institute, gave a sermon on Jesus' reviving command to Lazarus (John 11:43) and the appointing of the 12 apostles (Mark 3:13-15). When Jesus says, "Lazarus, come out!" he is calling us out. He is calling you by name: Come out of your comfort and feed your famine for justice by being more than a witness to horror, rather fighting it as Jesus did, and converting the hearts and mind of the powerful change-makers who can end hunger.
  • Thinking ahead to my sermon August 3 ... Fr. Calderon mentioned that Jesus isn't our leader for ending hunger because of the miracle with loaves and fish. We're not hoping he'll show up and miraculously feed hungry people--our world has all the resources it needs, we have more than enough food. The miracle we need is the convergence of minds and hearts around the issue of ending hunger, and that's why Christ is at the center of the movement.
  • Fr. Calderon outlined four temptations when confronting the issue of hunger:
  1. Us vs. Them. Defining ourselves over and against hungry people, and believing we are outside the problem. Becoming "a witness to horror ... oh look, at those poor hungry people, so far away. Jesus was not called to be a witness, but to fight for justice. Come out, he calls you, out from your comfort."
  2. Run away from it. Looking the other way, closing eyes, heart, borders, etc.
  3. Hunger is an old problem, history repeats itself, it is a part of history and always will be. Lazarus, come out from fatalism! The hope Pastor Beckmann spoke of comes into play, here.
  4. We are the new Justice League: Hunger Justice Leaders of America will destroy evil with our special powers and mow down anyone in our path. Not so much. We are to convert ourselves and others to establish justice, not as dictators, but as followers of Jesus.

There is much more to report, but breakfast time draws near. =) We had a great role-playing exercise on lobbying and met with our covenant groups--the folks in my group are very impressive and I'm excited to learn from them, too! Off to get some cereal and another day of training!

No comments: