I Was Hungry...: A Litany of Remembrance and Confession

This litany of food and stewardship comes from the 1990 Hunger Packet distributed by the Mennonite Central Committee (www.mcc.org) and is used by permission. It journeys through the Bible, recalling how hunger and poverty are deep concerns for God. Jay Blankespoor, pastor of Boston Square Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, suggests a way to use the litany as the basis for an entire worship service by adding current world hunger and disparity statistics (see box) and interspersing the litany with stanzas from an appropriate song such as “Lord, Whose Love in Humble Service.” “The hunger statistics can be especially powerful if they are not included in the distributed order of worship, but embedded readers in the congregation shout them out during the appropriate silences,” suggests Blankespoor.

Litany of Food and Stewardship

Song: “Lord, Whose Love in Humble Service” (st. 1) PsH 603, PH 427, TWC 426

Reader 1: God created them male and female, blessed them and said, “I am putting you in charge of the fish, the birds and all the wild animals. I have provided all kinds of grain and all kinds of fruit for you to eat; for all the wild animals and all the birds I have provided grass and leafy plants for food”—and it was done. (Gen. 1:27-30)

[Silence]

Reader 2: Lord, we thank you that you gave to all your creatures the right to food, and caused the earth to provide food for us; the earth is filled with your goodness. Help us always to remember and acknowledge that we and all creatures receive our food from you.

People: We praise your name, O Lord, for your love and faithfulness.

Reader 1: The Lord said to Moses: “Now I am going to make food rain from the sky for all of you. The people must go out every day and gather enough for that day.” . . . The people of Israel called the food manna. It was like small white seed and tasted like biscuits made with honey. (Ex. 16:4, 31)

Reader 2: O Lord, you listened to the cry of your people for food and fed them with manna in the wilderness; make us always grateful for the food we have, and to be attentive to the cry of the millions who have no food.

[Silence]

Hunger statistics

Song: “Lord, Whose Love in Humble Service” (st. 2)

People: You give us food to keep us alive; give us this day our daily bread.

Reader 1: You shall sow your fields, prune your vineyard, and gather your crops for six years. But the seventh year is to be a year of complete rest for the land, a year dedicated to the Lord. . . . In this way you shall set the fiftieth year apart and proclaim freedom to all inhabitants of the land. During this year all property that has been sold shall be restored to the original owner or his descendants. . . . (Lev. 25:3-4, 10)

Reader 2: Lord, give us understanding to treat the earth as a common heritage and not to plunder it or claim it for ourselves; to respect the rights of those who till the land and to struggle to ensure that those who produce food have enough to eat.

[Silence]

People: The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; the world, and they who dwell in it. (Ps. 24:1)

Reader 1: And as the day wore on, his disciples came up to him and said, “This is a lonely place and it is getting very late; send the people off to the farms and villages round about to buy themselves something to eat.” “Give them something to eat yourselves,” he answered. (Luke 9:12-13)

[Silence]

Song: “Lord, Whose Love in Humble Service” (st. 3)

Reader 2: Lord, we remember all those who must go hungry today, especially the children who suffer from malnutrition and die of starvation in a world where enough food is produced for all mouths. Forgive us our selfishness, as individuals and as nations, that denies life to many.

People: Out of the depths we cry to you, Lord; hear our cry and listen to our prayer. (Ps. 130:1-2)

Reader 1: And he will say to those on his left, “I was hungry but you would not feed me, thirsty but you would not give me a drink. . . . I tell you, whenever you refused to help one of these least important ones, you refused to help me.” (Matt. 25:41-43)

[Silence]

Reader 2: Lord, we confess with shame the hunger in our world; the unjust systems that allow the poor to cry out to you for bread. Move our hearts not to look away from the poverty that stares at us; teach us to know that we cannot share in your life without sharing our lives with others.

All: Lord, inspire us with your love, challenge us with your truth, empower us with your strength to work for a world in which all persons will have enough to eat. Amen.

Song: “Lord, Whose Love in Humble Service” (st. 4).

 

Excerpt

Using a search engine such as Google with the keywords “world hunger statistics” reveals numerous sites for obtaining current hunger statistics, including the excellent Bread for the World website (www.bread.org).