- The Washington Times - Monday, May 30, 2005

The following sermon was given May 1 at Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Hyattsville by the Rev. James L. McDonald, vice president of policy and programs for Bread for the World.

The Ascension is when Jesus passed the mantle of ministry to his earthly disciples, left earth to return to heaven and transferred His work in the world to His Spirit-filled disciples.

It says in Ephesians 1:15-23: “God put this power to work in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.”

Now honestly, I don’t know what that means exactly — to be seated at God’s right hand. When we do the work of Christ, His power infuses our action, God is magnified and the world is changed.

The connection between Christians and hunger has always been strong and clear. The Bible is full of stories of hunger and bread and feeding: The story of manna in the wilderness; the prophets’ calls to Israel to remember the orphan, the widow, the alien, the poor and the most vulnerable. Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 is mentioned in all four Gospels and twice in Matthew and Mark. Christians reaffirm the connection between hunger, bread and feeding every time they say the Lord’s Prayer — “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Today there are 840 million people throughout the world who suffer from hunger and malnutrition, and Christians are deeply involved in their feeding. Here in the United States, where hunger and poverty have been on the rise, more than 35 million people — 13 million of them children — live in households that struggle to put food on the table most of the time.

Christians get that faith connection between hunger, bread and feeding. And that’s why more than 90 percent of U.S. congregations report that their members are involved in food pantries, soup kitchens, food banks and the like. It’s an expression of our compassion, our caring, our understanding that Christ has called us to share our bread with the hungry.

But when we talk about Christians and the politics of hunger, that’s where we lose a lot of people. For some, the words “politics” and “religion” don’t mix. Faith is personal, people say. It’s about me and God, my relationship to Jesus. For many, faith is about being holy. And politics is a long way from holy.

But let’s go back to Scripture and take a closer look. Faith is not just about charity and personal behavior. It’s about justice and the character of our society and the priorities of our government. The prophets took their demands to Israel’s kings, the governments of their day, and berated them for their shabby treatment and disregard for the poor and vulnerable. The vision of the future painted by all the prophets was not so much about personal goodness as it was about a kingdom, a country, a world. A vision of social responsibility. A vision of peace and justice. That’s the realm God works in. That’s why the Scriptures speak of Jesus’ Ascension, seated at the right hand of God, “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.” That’s the realm God is asking us to shape.

Ephesians says, “And God has put all things under Christ’s feet and has made Him the head over all things for the church.” “All things” — that’s what it says. Not “some things.” Not “a few key things.” But “all things.” That includes politics, not in the partisan sense, but in the sense of public policy and the common good, and the laws, processes and decisions that help us to live and work together as a society and a global community.

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