Sunday, November 02, 2014

Bread Rising in New Mexico: Pray

Our Bread Rising in New Mexico celebration on October 25 included reflections from four local Bread for the World members on three actions related to the Bread Rising campaign: Pray, Act and Give, as well as the theme of looking forward and working to End Hunger in the U.S. by 2030. Since we do not have a video on the reflection on Pray, in Part 1, we will reprint the reflection by Rev. Anne Morawski, Lutheran Campus Pastor at the University of New Mexico and Central New Mexico. For part 2, we pulled some excerpts to go with videos, which we will publish in a separate post that will follow this one.

Isaiah 55:6-11
I’m grateful to Bread for the World for teaching me to be a citizen advocate, working to change the things that contribute to hunger and poverty in our nation and world. I’ve said many times that the most radical thing that Bread ever did was to teach church ladies how to write letters to Congress – on hunger and poverty and many other issues facing our nation. Those letters have never stopped. I’m glad I too have been one of those persistent women who pestered Congress with letters.

Our theme for this Anniversary is “Pray, Act, and Give.” There is a close connection between all three. Without prayer, our actions can be misguided, or we become discouraged and fail to act. How can we give if we do not also pray that our gifts will make a difference and support the work we do together? Prayer has sustained the movement among people of faith to end hunger for decades. Our many legislative successes have always been undergirded with prayer. While some of us may have more time or money that we can give, or even a greater ability to act or encourage others to take action, all of us can pray. We pray for the earth, and for people in need. We pray for leaders and decision-makers whose actions affect the needs of others in so many ways.

The reading from Isaiah calls us to prayer. “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near.” There is the call to repentance for those who have become comfortable in the land of exile. God’s mercy is abundant – even for those in every generation who live well at the expense of others – even for those of us who benefit most from the systems that keep others in place – even for us who have enough in a world where so many go hungry. Let us return to the Lord who will have mercy, and to God who will abundantly pardon.
This part of Isaiah addresses the children of the exile – the grandchildren of those who were taken to Babylon when Judah was captured and the city of Jerusalem was destroyed.

They have never seen Jerusalem. They will decide whether or not to return to rebuild the Temple and the walls. They will choose which gods to serve and where. They have settled in Babylon, bought land, created businesses, married and raised children, but the prophet comes to call them out of themselves, to leave business as usual, and to begin again. This part of Isaiah is filled with hope and promise. God’s ways are not our ways. A new way is always possible, even when we don’t or can’t see it. God’s Word will not return empty.

A relationship
It is interesting to me that the call to prayer is really an imperative – “Seek the Lord . . . Call upon him.” It is like the instruction from St. Paul in Thessalonians: “Pray without ceasing.” It is not simply an invitation to prayer, but an imperative – a mandate – a command. God wants us to be in a relationship of prayer, in constant conversation, talking with God, resting and reflecting in the presence of God, listening in prayer for guidance and comfort, for wisdom and healing.

I don’t know how long folks prayed before they started Bread for the World. I suspect that there have been lots of prayers throughout the years – prayers that support the ministry of action, prayers that change hearts and minds and votes.

Today God calls us again to prayer – to enter the next 40 years of working for change in an attitude of humility, listening, waiting for guidance, relying on God for courage and strength, sustaining the work, persisting in prayer.

The promises of God through Isaiah are there for us as they were for them: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

God is faithful. There will be seed times and harvests, and bread enough for all. Amen.

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