The first Super Bowl party I ever attended was back in the late 1980s when our seminary colleague, Brad Smith and his wife, Nancy, invited us to come over and share a bowl of chili and watch the big game.
A couple of years later, Brad was a pastoral intern at Spring Valley Presbyterian Church where he led this simple prayer at the youth group's Super Bowl gathering: "Lord, even as we enjoy the Super Bowl football game, help us be mindful of those who are without a bowl of soup to eat."
This prayer gave birth to an idea in that church's youth group. Why not use Super Bowl weekend to unify the nation for a higher purpose: collecting dollars and canned food for the needy?
Youth could collect donations in schools and faith communities in soup pots, and then send every dollar directly to a local charity of their choice.
The first year, 22 churches in Columbia, S.C., collected $5700 in donations. Since 1990, youth groups across the nation have generated more than $90 million for soup kitchens, food banks and other charities. Go to souperbowl.org to read more and participate!
Our youth did some research to prepare for this offering. They learned one out of six people in this country experiences food insecurity -- not because of food shortage, but because of poverty and waste.
We dispose of 40 percent of our food products -- that's $165 billion worth of food annually.
The average family of four throws away $2,275 annually in food products.
As a country, if we could cut this waste to 15 percent, rather than 40 percent, we could feed 25 million people.
We did a little more research and discovered:
A Super Bowl ticket costs more than $1,000;
A 30-second Super Bowl advertisement is worth $3.8 million; and
Winning team player bonuses will be $92,000 while the losing players earn $46,000.
These bonuses go to people who make a minimum of nearly $400,000 and whose leading players make more than $20 million.
This is in sharp contrast to the 46 million people in the United States who live in poverty.
If you look at numbers for a family of four, the poor exist for an entire year on half of what a losing team member makes in one night at the Super Bowl.
The prophet Micah says: "God has told you, Oh mortal, what is good and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"
Jesus says in Matthew 25 that those who have nourished the hungry and thirsty, welcomed the stranger and offered clothing and health care to the needy, and visited the prisoner will be welcome in the kingdom. In Luke 18 He challenged the rich young ruler who had kept all the commandments to simplify his life if he wanted to have eternal life.
We may not be able to simplify the excessive spending practices of our entertainment-oriented culture, but we can use this weekend's football game to tackle hunger.
This year the youth at Peace have designated the Manatee Food Bank as the recipient our Souper Bowl Offering.
The Rev. Elizabeth Deibert, pastor of Peace Presbyterian, 12705 State Road 64, Lakewood Ranch, FL 34212. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 941-753-777. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday's Herald, written by local clergy members.