Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Bread for the World Sunday: A Sermon on Feeding the Thousands, a Showing of 'The Line' Documentary and an Offering of Letters

St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque observed Bread for the World Sunday on Oct. 7 by considering the theme of  hunger and poverty during worship and during the Christian Education classes for children and adults. 

The Missions Committee, led by Bread member Patty Emord, was responsible for much of the planning.  The committee showed the The Line documentary to the Adult Christian Education class.  And According to Patty, the movie evoked some strong reactions, ranging from "disturbing" to "what can we do?"

"Several folks discussed the issue of motivation and how the poor can be depicted as lacking motivation and the film depicted well motivated people who wanted opportunities," said Patty. 

The committee also offered an opportunity for action.  After viewing the movie, class participants were given the opportunity to write letters to Rep. Martin Heinrich, Sen. Tom Udall and Sen. Jeff Bingaman asking them to protect funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and tax credits for working families.  

A highlight of the day was Rev. Frank Yates' sermon, which was based on Mark 6:30-44 and 8: 1-10, the two accounts in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus feeds the crowds of thousands.  Here are excerpts, followed by a link to the full sermon.  

Excerpts from Compassion on the Crowd
By Rev. Frank Yates
Millions in our world simply do not have enough nutritious food and clean water. If we don’t look away, it will break our hearts. Unless we have grown utterly cold and indifferent, our hearts fill with compassion for the nameless crowd. It is to feel what Jesus felt in that desolate place with those “sheep without a shepherd.” Do you feel what he felt? Do you find your heart moved even yet with compassion?

I will never forget a mission trip when I took a group of University of Texas students into Mexico. We came to the border town of Nuevo Laredo to build a church building. It was breath-takingly hot and humid. Our students worked so hard that we had to divide them into shifts lest they pass out in the heat. Some of our students helped prepare a simple meal of rice and beans and tortillas for the children of the neighborhood. When the children came to be fed, we were told in a rather matter of fact way, “This is the only meal they will have all day.”

I asked our Mexican pastor if there was so little food because of some down turn in the economy. I distinctly remember his answer, “No, that is just our life here.” So everyday these children came to the church for their only meal. Their parents had no money, no jobs, and no prospects. They had only the church to provide food. The look in their eyes was unforgettable. They came to church hungry. They left satisfied and grateful and happy.
"We know that 20% of the children of our state-one in five-face food insecurity everyday...Our fellow New Mexicans come to food banks and food kitchens and indeed to our church for food to keep them going. They are coming in unprecedented numbers and they are hungry and they are needy." 
That night I gathered the students together and we read the story of the feeding of the multitude. I asked them if they understood it in a new way. Not one of our UT students had ever gone hungry. And not one of them had seen the face of someone truly, physically hungry and without the means of feeding themselves. Not one! We had all grown up more or less middle class where food scarcity was never an issue. If anything our issue was not eating so much food.

That day we saw the faces of hungry children, not unlike the faces looking to Jesus for help. And that day we saw the church in a broken and inadequate way trying to imitate our Lord. We fed children who would not have eaten otherwise. It was an enormous spiritual blessing for us to share in the on-going ministry of Jesus Christ that hot day on the Mexican border. We caught just a glimpse of the compassion that moved Jesus to provide fish and bread for the hungry.

Today we acknowledge that most of us-but not all of us-know very little about hunger, what it is to ache for something nourishing. We know that 20% of the children of our state-one in five-face food insecurity everyday. Perhaps not exactly like the children of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, but still their prospects for a decent meal remain uncertain. Our fellow New Mexicans come to food banks and food kitchens and indeed to our church for food to keep them going. They are coming in unprecedented numbers and they are hungry and they are needy.

Compassion fatigue may be real for you, but their hunger is even more real. They feel it in the pits of their stomachs. My prayer for all of us is for deeper and broader compassion. Compassion that leads us to feed those who are hungry. Compassion that leads us to advocate policies that bring justice to the poor. Compassion that reminds us that “to whom much is given much is required.” Read Full Sermon
(Photo Courtesy of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church)
Rev. Frank Yates has served as pastor of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church since 1998. He earned a Doctorate of Ministry from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary In addition to his pastoral duties at St. Andrew, Frank Yates teaches New Testament courses in the Religious Studies Program at UNM. He is pictured here (at right)with parishioner Richard Stoops and parish associate, Rev. Karen Cobb.

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