catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 7, Num 4 :: 2008.02.22 — 2008.03.07


Give me my daily bread?

I have always loved the day after Thanksgiving, not for the great sales at the mall, but because this was the day when my cousins and I would help my grandma sort and organize the food from our church’s Thanksgiving food drive.  As I sat there carefully stacking and organizing cans of tuna, and boxes of macaroni and Jell-O, I would listen to my grandma’s exclamations of God’s goodness and His people’s generosity.  Throughout the year, this food—a symbol of Thanksgiving—would go to feed those in our community who did not have enough to eat.  Food is a basic and essential piece of our understanding of community.  Often when we are at a loss of what to do for others who are experiencing pain, loss or difficulties, we make food.  The making and bringing of food is as much about offering our brothers and sisters comfort as it is about us assuaging our feelings of helplessness.  We love, therefore we offer one of humankind’s most basic expressions of comfort and community: food.

According to the Bread for the World Institute, food insecurity is increasing in the United States.  Simply put, over 36 million people within a given month can’t say for sure where their next meal is going to come from. For these families, finding enough to eat is a tiresome juggle of government programs and food banks.  Church and nonprofit food banks throughout the country pick up where good government nutrition programs like school lunch programs, Food Stamps and WIC leave off, distributing groceries—the cans of tuna, the boxes of macaroni and cheese and Jell-O—to those who are hungry.  I like the idea of food banks; they are a real and active response to a real and active need within any given community.  People generously giving food to others who need it; a basic expression of love in community.  However, I also can’t help but be bothered by one nagging question: “Is this doing justice?”

Rev. Art Simon, in his book Rediscovering the Lord’s Prayer, says “To pray that others receive daily bread is to desire justice.”  Presently food banks and food drives are important ways in which our community redistributes food, but giving to food drives should not be the extent of our efforts to alleviate hunger.  Rev. Simon also notes:

Because it is not my bread but our bread for which we pray, we ask that others too may receive what they need.  This points us towards the common good and away from lonely acquisition.  What we wish for ourselves—daily bread and the bread of life—we also wish for others.

When I prayer the Lord’s Prayer, am I praying that the appropriate patchwork of programs and services are available for those who need it, or am I praying for something much more prophetic?  In my heart, I want to be praying the more prophetic prayer—the one that sees people free from hunger and free from the monthly juggle of programs and pantries, free to devote their energy to developing and flourishing as God intended us to do in community and with Him.

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