Rise Against Hunger
Psalm 25:1-9 and Philippians 2:1-13
October 1, 2023


Today we have read two beautiful scriptures.  Psalm 25 could be read as a daily prayer, in fact. 

In Lectio Divina at our First Friday Contemplative service, we read scripture, sit with it a moment or two, and then examine and discuss how a particular scripture speaks to us.  We discuss what words or phrases stand out to us.  For instance, let us consider for a moment Psalm 25:4:

                “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.

                Lead me in your truth, and teach me.”

(Pause to consider)

Some thoughts that come up for you may be, “know the ways of the Lord,” and we might ask, “how do we know the ways of the Lord?  And one might respond by saying we know by reading scripture, and through prayer and discernment.  Other phrases or words might be, “teach me,” and “lead me,” and how do we allow ourselves to be led?  And an answer might be again through prayer as we rest in the Spirit of the Lord so that we know the ways he is teaching us and leading us.

Now, let’s consider Philippians 2:1-5a:

“If then, there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.”

(Pause to consider)

So think about what stands out or speaks to you in this scripture.  Maybe some thoughts are, “be of the same mind, having the same love,” or “do nothing from selfish ambition, but in humility,” or “look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”  So when we read these lines of scripture, are they not speaking to us the ways of the Lord?

Today, we are doing another thing that Jesus taught us to do, and that is feeding people.

Jesus, in his journey of life, fed and shared meals with many.  For years, First Valdosta has been doing this through Break Bread Together, feeding students at The Center at VSU, and again today, we do it through Rise Against Hunger, as we having been doing together as a Presbytery in the last several years.

The beautiful thing about Jesus is that he didn’t feed one group, and stop there.  He fed many time and time again.  Perhaps Jesus understood that through the human body being fed, so too can the spiritual body be fed.  Perhaps Jesus understood that you learn to know people when you share a meal with them, when you are in community with them, and sharing meals together can be teaching moments as well.

For many of us, we are familiar with Rise Against Hunger, and all the beautiful mouths that are fed throughout the world.  They are indeed following in the path of Christ, as are we as a church family helping feed others here locally in our community, and helping feed others in a broader community in the world.

For those who need a refresher or maybe have never heard of Rise Against Hunger before, let me give you a few facts.  This year is the 25th Anniversary of Rise Against Hunger, and through providing a meal, they:

  • empower communities through agriculture and microenterprise projects that enable people to increase their own agriculture production.
  • nourish lives by providing nutritious meals to children and families, and encouraging education through school feeding, vocational training, and health clinics.
  • respond to emergencies with food and other assistance to meet immediate needs and support those impacted by crisis on the path to recovery.
  • grow the movement to end hunger by engaging and activating people around the globe through meal packaging, social and digital experiences, and working with volunteers for packaging meals and local volunteers for distribution and projects to nourish and end hunger.

Like Jesus, Rise Against Hunger knows that it starts with a meal.  Early on they went into one of the most impoverished communities in Zimbabwe where they found a 40% school dropout rate.  They then took on 30 local schools in the area to be sure they were fed at least one nutritious meal per day, and over the years of support, they have seen a remarkable improvement in not only nutrition among students, but the impact of hope and motivation as well.  Students and communities now nourished and cared for are engaged in growing their own food and in community building to determine local solutions.  Additionally, school attendance tripled.

“It starts with a meal” is their slogan, and today, you are helping pack those meals, you are sending a message of hope and encouragement, the same as Jesus.  Is there any more complete joy that can be found in helping others?

Verse 13 of our reading from Philippians reminds us, “For it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

God works in us to bring pleasure, pleasure revealed in the joy of a warm smile, a gentle hug, a loving touch.  God uses our hands, our feet, our voice, our resources, and our love so that God is revealed through our actions and our joy.

In Rise Against Hunger, Break Bread Together and students at The Center at VSU, we feed people out of love and compassion.  It is a mission carried on through this church and community for 50 years, and with Rise Against Hunger, we extend that same hospitality throughout the world.

God is relational and works in community to bring his people together to shower blessings and steadfast love among them.  It is complete joy we share in communion together.

Today we celebrate feeding others through Rise Against Hunger with literal food, and in doing so we act in the same mind that was in Christ.  In these acts of feeding, we not only nourish the body, we also nourish the soul.

Next week is our official kickoff for stewardship, which we will be talking more about as we progress through the month of October toward Dedication Sunday on October 29th.  However, we are beginning today with stewardship in Rise Against Hunger.

Let’s look at Galatians 6:10:  “So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.”

1 John 3:17-19a reads, “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help?  Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.   And by this we will know that we are from the truth.”

Giving, helping and love are the truth of God.  Giving gives us the opportunity to experience the joy of giving.

Here’s another scripture to consider from Acts (Acts 20:35)

“In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

As we approach stewardship, let’s be reminded that giving provides the funding for our church mission and ministry.  It is through the giving of our time, talents and money we enable our church to spread the good news of Jesus’ love and saving grace to both the church and the unchurched.

Stewardship is not a word to dread, as many of us have become accustomed to, but rather a time to rejoice and celebrate in all that we have done in the past, and all that we are being called to do in the future.

Over the next few weeks, let us prayerfully consider, what stewardship means for us individually, and as a family of Christ.  Let us prayerfully consider, how we respond to needs in our congregation, our community and beyond as Disciples of Christ.

We will examine how we can live so God can use us for God’s will and work.  Stewardship is not a word we should dread to hear, rather a word that we learn to live into in action.  Its how we learn together to embrace the mission in the church that began in creation by God, and is proclaimed in the life of Jesus.  It is through the Holy Spirit that we are empowered to act responsibly and lovingly.

You will notice beginning next Sunday, we will sing Hymn page 700, “I’m Gonna Live So God Can Use Me,” and I want us to consider as we leave this sanctuary each week, how are we already doing this?  How can we continue and improve on living, working, praying and singing the joy of the good news of Jesus Christ and participate in the ongoing mission of God for our world?

A meal will be provided by the Faith and Nurture Committee next Sunday for our Stewardship Kickoff Luncheon.  Let us remember, it starts with a meal!  We will join together in fellowship and love over a meal, and you will hear from members of our church committees on stewardship ongoing, and ways you might be willing to assist, whether you have been here for a long time, or are fairly new to our church family.  The goal is that we are called into action for God’s mission in the world.  This doesn’t mean you have to work 40 hours a week for the church, or 20 or 10.   I invite you to listen, to discern through prayer, and consider where God is calling you, in whatever way, with your time, talents and offering, to spread the good news of the gospel, and to serve in whatever capacity you are able.

Let us, together, through sharing a meal, a kind word, a special project, or a new vision, share the love that provides hope and encouragement that changes lives and brings joy where there is none.


*Cover Art by Unsplash, used with subscription