Lection Connection

November 1, 2020: On the Right Road

From Paul Turley

 

The Beatitudes are a strange collection of blessings. In our culture, we are very keen on “blessing” individuals who have achieved something notable or become well known. The Beatitudes speak of ordinariness. In our culture, we are keen too to make it sound as if those “blessed” individuals have achieved success only as individuals; they have done it all by themselves. These things make the Beatitudes or blessings strange to us.

 

But not to the Norwegian Nobel Committee. They awarded the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), an organization that does the most ordinary and basic of human activities and without needing notable or famous individuals.

 

The WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian organization focused on hunger and food security. In 2019, the WFP provided assistance to close to 100 million people in 88 countries who were victims of acute food insecurity and hunger.

 

The WFP, while it offers a huge range of programs and works in a complex world political environment, has one simple guiding idea, which is encapsulated in the moto of its U.N. sister organization. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO): “Let there be bread.”

 

The FAO was established in 1945 in the aftermath of WW2. The WFP was founded in 1961at the urging of U.S. Senator George McGovern, then director of the U.S. Food for Peace Programs. The aim was to establish an international, multilateral food aid program.

 

The WFP was first put to the test in that year (initially on a three-year experimental basis) when it mobilized in support of the Nubian population of northern Sudan. Also in 1961, the WFP started its first school meals program in Togo. The WFP is now the largest single provider of school meals around the world.

 

The main donors to the WFP’s budget are governments with the U.S. and the European Union being the two largest donors respectively. The WFP also receives donations from corporations and individuals.

 

While the annual budget for the WFP is more than US $7.5 billion, by necessity it gets focused on conflict-driven hunger crises, leaving less to address lower-profile emergencies, or for strategic work.

 

In the Nobel committee’s address when awarding the Peace Prize, they highlighted the coronavirus pandemic saying that it “has contributed to a strong upsurge in the number of victims of hunger in the world. In countries such as Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan, and Burkina Faso, the combination of violent conflict and the pandemic has led to a dramatic rise in the number of people living on the brink of starvation.”

 

Explore… Matthew 5:1–12

  • Each of Jesus statements in this reading begin with the Greek word makarios. This has been translated into English as “blessed,” “happy,” “spiritually prosperous,” “to be admired.” How do each of these words open up different shades of meaning in the text?
  • Jesus uses makarios in a way likely to have been a total surprise to his hearers. Rather than a term to connote the good fortune of the gods or the rich and powerful, Jesus uses it to refer to their direct opposite; the poor and the oppressed. What does that mean for you and your faith community today?

 

Prayer…

God, you turn the world upside down in the life of Jesus. You put the last first; you lift up the poor and give power to the powerless. Teach us constantly to live in your turned-about world that we might be people of faith and the community of God. Amen.

 

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