IN PRISM'S BOOK BAG – HUNGER FOR THE WORD: LECTIONARY REFLECTIONS ON FOOD AND JUSTICE
In his work as a regional organizer for Bread for the World, Larry Hollar has spent a lifetime trying to promote awareness on the issues of justice and hunger. In HUNGER FOR THE WORD: LECTIONARY REFLECTIONS ON FOOD AND JUSTICE he has assembled a wonderful resource for preachers who are seeking to focus on these biblical themes.
Contributors to this volume include David Beckman, president of Bread for the World; Walter Wink, professor of biblical interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City; James M. Dunn, professor of Christianity and public policy at Wake Forest University Divinity School; the Rev. Canon Saundra D. Richardson, priest in charge at St. Matthew's and St. Joseph's Episcopal Church in Detroit; Felipe Salinas, director of college access and support programs at the University of Texas-Pan American; the Rev. Donald DiXon Williams, an ordained Pentecostal minister of the United Way of the Cross Church of Christ in Washington, D.C.; the Rev. Al Krass, a former missionary to Ghana; and Barbara Lunblad, a Lutheran pastor and faculty member at Union Theological Seminary. Digging deeply into the lectionary scriptures for Year A, the writers mine a wealth of insights into God's heart for the poor and the oppressed.
In compiling this volume, Hollar asked his contributors to answer the question: How is God speaking to me in these passages in a way that shapes my concern and stimulates my speaking out with and for people who are hungry and poor in God's world? For the most part, these biblical reflections do a good job of answering that question but some of the biblical interpretation is a bit far-fetched. To say that the parable of the wise and foolish virgins is about the looming world oil shortage is not really fair to the text. To say that Jacob – cheated by his uncle Laban – represents the plight of immigrant workers is a stretch. To portray Lazarus in his grave clothes as a victim of economic bondage is just plain silly.
Another problem with this book is that the poor are viewed always as victims. While this is often the case, it is not always true. The story of the Prodigal Son, starving to death because of his own sin and self-centeredness, reminds us of this. As a pastor, I am deeply aware of the relationship between personal sin and hunger because I see it every day in the lives of the people whom we feed and shelter in our church.
Nevertheless, this book gives voice to some of the biblical themes that are often neglected in the modern church. Hollar reminds us that while we might ignore the issue of hunger, God does not.
Peter Larson is pastor of Lebanon Presbyterian Church in Lebanon, Ohio, and a contributing editor to PRISM. He can be reached at Peter@LebanonPresbyterian.org.