St John's Church, Harpenden - letter from the Ministry team

We publish a Parish Magazine 4 times a year and in each Magazine there is a letter from the vicar or a member of the Ministry team.

Hunger: A Global Disaster

The Harvest season in the calendar is a time to once again address that pre-eminent global disaster - hunger, which currently accounts for more than 9 million deaths a year. It is no newcomer to the world stage. Malnutrition has been killing - since before recorded history - with astonishing implications. Migration patterns, invasions, wars and weapons have all come about as people were trying to get something to eat. Yet we pay little attention to humanity's reigning adversary. Our elections never really turn on issues of hunger. Our TV heroes fight crime, not hunger.

Sad to say we have become used to millions of our brothers and sisters starving to death. Toleration of global hunger is sinful, but we often miscategorise it. We analyse the seven deadly sins and automatically file world hunger under 'greed'; there might well be a case for arguing that it belongs under 'sloth'. If tackling hunger on a global level seems too elusive an initial goal, what might our Christian response to our own country's increasing gap between the rich and the poor be?

Familiarity is perhaps the greatest stumbling block in the path to serving God. The people of Jesus' hometown were unable to get excited about him when they realised he was just a local boy whom they had known for years prompting Jesus to observe that "'Only in his home town, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honour.'...He was amazed at their lack of faith."(Mark 6:4-6)

Jesus was too well known in Nazareth to be accepted as the Messiah, and the result of that familiarity was his inability to bring the power of God to the people who needed it. Famine may be too familiar to us for us to consider that we can change it and with the same result, that the power of God can't help people who need it. This hungry world does not wait for the abilities of God's people; it waits for the passion of God's people.

The Christian Church can achieve great things - when it is excited and passionate. Faithful parishioners have always been willing to sacrifice and work to give time and money. We look for opportunities to take a stand for right against wrong, but when faced with the enormity of the problem of hunger we become powerless. People respond with incredible generosity when called upon to address a particular crisis. Yet the problem remains. We feel helpless. The black horse of famine seems built for endurance. Our world has always had hunger, and the possibility of hunger continuing to blight our global village paralyses us into inaction.

Feeding the hungry is more than a matter of charity - the occasional response to a global disaster. It is not an option, but an obligation, an obligation in justice - specifically biblical justice, God's own justice. A striking example of this is to be found in the book of the prophet Isaiah: "Is this not the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thong of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked cover them, and hide not yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn... "(58:6-8a)

For we who are believers the model par excellence is, of course, Jesus Christ, who gives us a 'new commandment' that you love one another (John 13:34). We are compelled to love one another as Jesus loved and loves, with no distinction of persons and without reservation, even to the crucifixion. This Christian love demands action from us. In this context, to love the hungry is to feed the hungry.

When we read of Jesus feeding the hungry we have a tendency to view this as simply miraculous multiplications of loaves and fish. We should view it as a mandate to believers to feed the hungry, who are our brothers and sisters. "Lord, to those who are hungry give bread. And to those who have bread, give the hunger for justice."

With every blessing to you,

Nicholas Anderson



Visit the Diocese's web site: Living God's Love.



Read about Lauryn's visit to the Holy Land



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