from Deacon Jess Foster, Church Engagement Officer for the Trussell Trust
This set of reflections can be used as sermon notes for volunteer speakers and church leaders. These could also be used by home groups as a starter for discussions throughout the season of Lent and beyond.
The following reflections and prayers are written by people with lived experience of poverty who encountered God in the midst of their struggle and are connected to the Trussell Trust network. Each contribution reflects the individual’s own experiences, story and theology. The Bible Stories are taken from the NRSV version.
Lent is the season of dust, ashes, brokenness, and journeying with Jesus towards the cross. This season of Lent we invite you to share that journey with us, all people for whom the struggle against poverty is etched in our lives on an ongoing basis, but for whom faith in Jesus (and Jesus’ faith in us) helps us to keep going.
Each week, one of us will share a passage of Scripture (or sometimes several passages) which is food and drink for our souls even if, at times, we face the injustice of hunger.
A Latin American theologian once described the Bible as being a bit like the engine of a car. For many we only ever know about the engine from sitting in the car, or behind the steering wheel. But for others, we know the engine as mechanics, often lying underneath it getting covered in muck, trying to repair it or see how it works.
Much of the Bible was written in the context of struggle. It is about people whose lives were oppressed by injustice. When it is read by people who today share that experience, fresh insights and renewed wisdom can emerge.
We invite you to hear our sense of how the Bible comes alive to us; to respond to the questions that we offer you; and to share in the prayers that flow out of our ongoing faith journey.
Week One: Jean’s story
God’s gifts to us and our gifts for one another
Readings – Psalm 34 1-9
1 I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
3 O magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together.
4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me,
and delivered me from all my fears.
5 Look to him, and be radiant;
so your faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor soul cried, and was heard by the LORD,
and was saved from every trouble.
7 The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
8 O taste and see that the LORD is good;
happy are those who take refuge in him.
9 O fear the LORD, you his holy ones,
for those who fear him have no want.
Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?
‘When I was thinking about a Bible verse or story that I wanted to share there was one that kept popping into my mind. It is a verse that was very important to me about five years ago. At that point my marriage had ended traumatically and my husband had left me with nothing. I had lost my job, lost friends, and after many struggles and deeply troubling circumstances reached a place where I found myself with just £2 in my pocket.
I couldn’t work out what to do. Should I buy bread and potatoes or should I buy milk and tea bags? I felt really depressed and I went out for a long walk. While I was out, I saw a woman outside the local Post Office – she looked very thin and pale. She was stopped, while the people passing by were just walking past and ignoring her.
When I got close to her, she stopped me and said: “Excuse me, lady, I am so hungry. Have you got £1 so I could go and buy some chips.”
Without thinking I said: “I have £2, go and get some chips and some curry sauce or something to go with them.” She was so pleased and grateful I thought she was going to hug me at one point. She ran across the road and into the chip shop to get the food straight away.
I had responded automatically when she said she was hungry and carried on walking thinking ‘What a shame, no one should be that hungry.’
But then I suddenly realised that I now had nothing. I had been holding on to that £2, I was annoyed with myself asking ‘Now what am I supposed to do?’
I cried out to the Lord ‘What have I done? Why did I do that when I’m so hungry myself?’ I prayed as I continued to walk along the street feeling helpless and weak, ‘Please help me Lord.’ A sense of peace and calm flowed through me, the scripture that came into my head was Matthew 6 26-27.
But I was so upset and angry that I challenged God, asking ‘but how does this help me Lord, I’m still hungry and have no money’. Then I found myself humbly asking for forgiveness for not trusting God through the storm, I continued walking and crying and reflecting on the Bible passage that was dominating my thoughts, and then I walked past a tree and spotted something underneath it. I glanced at it as walked passed it but then I stopped as I realised ‘That looks like money’. I walked back and picked it up, it was a £10 note.
It didn’t feel right for me to take it when it didn’t belong to me, I actually looked around me to see if there was anyone close who could have dropped it so I could give it back to them, but there was no one to be seen.
Then it struck me, I had asked God for help, and help came. I saw it was a gift from God and I thanked God for providing me with what I very much needed. I prayed under the tree where I found the money. It bought me enough food for four days.
I learnt then that the more we give the more we receive.
I am in a better position now but I will never forget how tough it was and the help that came my way. My benefits were eventually sorted out and I began to receive the help and support I needed to find my feet again, and adapt to doing life on my own but with the Love of Jesus.
It has been through the experience of my own trials that I have learned the biggest lessons, I live comfortably now, and I am able to reach out and help other people based on the experiences I’ve had myself and the understanding of what it’s really like. I make sure I listen to people and ask how they are and if I can help I will. I meet with people from time to time who are in need of a hot meal and I offer to take them out. I can give to charities and put food in the trolley at the supermarket for the food bank.
I enjoy giving back what I can. Picasso said: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” That quote reminds me how much I have been given and now I can pass those gifts on to other people.
My gift is listening to God and knowing that the Holy Spirit will guide me. It helps me understand what I need to let go of and what I need to do that will make a difference. I pray the Serenity prayer often which is a powerful prayer and one I like to encourage others to pray also:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference Amen.
What are your gifts and how do you pass these on to other people?
Are there things God is calling you to let go of?
Are there things that you are called to step into?
How do you discern these things?
Based on Psalm 34
Abba Father, You gave us promises in your Bible and in our lives we see you answer our prayers. Today I remember ‘I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.’
Abba Father, You know that sometimes we feel we have failed but you never turn us away. Today I remember ‘Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.’
Abba Father You understand our needs before we even ask you and you hear our prayers. Today I remember ‘This poor person called, and the LORD heard him; he saved them out of all their troubles.’
Abba Father You see the concerns of our heart and the worries that threaten to overwhelm us. Today I remember ‘Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.’
Abba Father You are with us and bring us what we need whatever our circumstances. Today I remember ‘Fear the LORD, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.’
Abba Father Help us by the power of your Holy Spirit and with your amazing grace,
to walk lovingly forward with you in friendship and fellowship
Knowing the freedom Jesus brings us through his death on the cross.
Guide and strengthen us as we grow to be more like you, reflecting your light In all we think, do and say.
We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen
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