Today is Maundy Thursday, when we commemorate Jesus’ Last Supper. Catholics call it “Holy Thursday,” but the Protestants’ name comes from the Old English, meaning “commandment” …because on this night Jesus issued a new commandment, that his disciples love one another.
The disciples– despite danger, even ominous-ness in the air– didn’t realize what was about to occur. But Jesus, by the Gospel accounts already foresaw Judas’ betrayal and its consequences. Knowing he would not be with his disciples much longer, he instructed them to love one another. There’s real pathos in that.
Remembering all this, I am writing today”s E-pistle about hunger. Not spiritual hunger, which is a recipe for a more abundant life. But physical hunger, world hunger– desolate fields, empty cupboards, bare tables, aching stomachs. As we re-enact our Lord’s Last Supper and hear again his promise to feed us so we might never hunger or thirst again, faithfulness demands we remember neighbors who this very night are hungry.
The last 20 years have seen significant progress in the fight against poverty and hunger. A few weeks ago, Stirling and I went to a meeting about Bread for the World’s “An Offering of Letters.” We learned that since 1990, the number of people worldwide living on less than $1.25 a day fell by 400 million. That the rate of chronically hungry people in developing countries fell from 20 to 16%. And that the mortality rate for children under 5 dropped by 40% in the African nations of Ethiopia, Malawi, Niger.
We also learned that a food crisis and the global recession since 2007 has caused a huge setback in the struggle to combat hunger. Today, there are 1.5 billion people eking out an existence on less than $1.25 a day. Today 925 million people feel the ache of chronic hunger, 90 million more than in 2000. Nearly 1000 women will die today from avoidable complications during pregnancy, childbirth or the first six weeks after childbirth. 24,000 children will die today from poverty, hunger and preventable diseases.
I hope to join you at the Communion Table this evening, where we will again experience the wonder, grace and love as Jesus breaks bread and shares the cup so that ALL might eat. I also pray, we partake and share with a prayer of forgiveness, remembering those who, while sit at the table, are still hungry.
Using our faith that God cares for every last human and that God can work wonders through us, we can make a difference. The U.S. alone has the potential to reverse many of these setbacks.
Did you know that poverty-focused development assistance accounts for just 0.6 % of the U.S. federal budget (with estimates for the amount of the budget dedicated to military spending ranging from 20 to 54%)?
Did you know that every 5% drop in income growth in a developing nation increases by 10% the likelihood of conflict or war in that country in the next year?
Did you know Ghana has proven that the number of people living in extreme poverty can be cut: since 1990, committing 10% of its national budget to agriculture, farm production and better coordination with aid donors, that African nation has reduced poverty rates from 37 to 16%.
This is the night when Jesus also reminds us that true life is not about being served, so much as serving. Our upcoming “Offering of Letters” will raise our faith and our voices, bringing this faith to bear and advocating our country’s service against extreme poverty and hunger. But even before then– THIS evening– we can get started remembering and sharing and praying.
See you in church,
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