August 21 2016 Sermon
He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.’
And he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.” And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’
Let us pray:
We are in our third week of our worship series ‘God Sized Prayers’ working through the Lord’s Prayer as it is given to us in Luke’s gospel, chapter 11:1-13. In our first week, we explored what it means to call God by name and for God to call us by name. We have a relational God who is known to us, especially through the life of Jesus Christ. Last week, we looked at one of the petitions, ‘bring your kingdom,’ asking what does it mean when we pray and hope for the in-breaking of God’s kingdom? There have been some missteps along the way as the church has sought to make God’s kingdom synonymous with political realities. And there have been holy experiences of God’s reign right here in the life of this community of faith. We live in an already-not yet tension waiting for the fulfillment of God’s kingdom.
This morning’s petition, ‘Give us each day our daily bread,’ is perhaps the most tangible and material of all of the petitions. We can touch it, taste it, and get our hands around it. This church knows the power of those words: give us each day our daily bread.
At each turn in meeting you and your families, Keeli and I have received home made bread from so many of you. As I eat breakfast with a little bit of butter or blackberry jam on this homemade bread, my mind goes to this prayer. To have bread on your table is a sign of life. To give bread is an act of deep love and hospitality. You are literally gifting life to another person. To break bread at a table is to know that you are loved and included in the community. This is why there is such power when we bless the bread that Lynn has baked, give thanks to God for it, and break it and share it in the name and spirit of Jesus Christ.
In the practice of ministry I have traveled abroad to Mexico and Malawi to assist the Methodist churches in those places. While abroad, I gained an appreciation for the ‘daily’ part of this morning’s petition that is simply lost in a life where pantries, refrigerators, and grocery stores almost guarantee the provision of bread and its life giving nourishment. Many of you may also have an appreciation for the daily labor of parents and grandparents who baked bread in the morning filling the house with that unmistakable aroma.
In both locations, corn is the staple crop that is ground and either formed into tortillas or nsima. Think of nsima as a very thick oatmeal. There is a rhythm in the life of the family, almost exclusively in the lives of women, who grind the corn into flour and then begin the process of preparing tortillas or nsima. This work begins early in the morning. Water is gathered from nearby boreholes to boil the flour. Firewood is gathered, sometimes at great distances from the home. The fire is lit and then the tortillas are shaped by hand or the pots are filled with maize flour. This work is not quick. It is not easy. But it is essential and life giving. Without this daily rhythm of preparing one kind of bread or another, life itself in these families would grind to a halt.
When you don’t know where dinner is coming from, this petition of the Lord’s Prayer isn’t fluff. It is an utter dependence on the grace of God alone to provide. A teacher of mine and to many other pastors in this area reminds us: ‘To a hungry person, God is bread.’ As we look back over the sweep of scripture, it is in the element of bread that we find expressions of God’s covenant to protect, multiply, and bless God’s children.
The covenant first established between God and Abraham finds a new expression when Moses flees from Egypt having striking dead an Eyptian overseer. Moses flees out to the land of Midian and there is married and begins caring for the flock of his father in law Jethro. Out in the country with the flock, Moses happens upon a shrub that is burning but not consumed by the fire. In this epiphany, Moses hears the voice of God as God indicates that the cries and suffering of the slaves in Egypt are heard in heaven. God identities God’s self-I AM when Moses asks how he will tell the Israelite people they are about to be delivered from the bonds of oppression in Egypt.
As the narrative progresses, plagues of all sorts come down on the Egyptians but Pharaoh’s heart is mighty hard, even petrified and he will not let the Israelites go free. It is in the 10th plague, the sacrifice of the first born, that Pharaoh is compelled to send the Israelites away from Egypt, encouraging them to take whatever they want. Just leave! The Israelites had been instructed to take lamb’s blood and make a mark on the exterior of their homes so that their families would be passed over in this plague.
The Jewish Passover Seder begins in such a way to remember this experience of deliverance-You shall tell your child you were once slaves in Egypt and brought out by the Lord’s mighty hand.
But it is not after too long in the wilderness that the Israelites begin reminiscing about how good their conditions of slavery in Egypt had been and complaining against the leadership of Aaron and Moses. Wouldn’t it have been better to die in the hands of the Egyptians than die out here in the desert without clean water and food for nourishment? There were accusations that the intention was to starve the entire assembly to death.
Right in the midst of this complaining, the Lord God speaks to Moses promising that there will be bread raining down from heaven so that the Israelites will not starve. There will be enough each day for families to go out and gather but they are instructed not to hoard it for the next day because it will rot. Trust in the provision of daily manna, there is enough for today and God will provide for tomorrow. One special instruction was that families were to gather a second day’s portion only on the day before the Sabbath so that work would be avoided on the Sabbath day.
Until the Israelites entered the land of Canaan under Joshua’s leadership, they fed daily on God’s provision of manna.
It is this episode of God’s provision for the Israelites that is echoed in Jesus’ ministry when he tells the crowds ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’ In the ministry of Jesus Christ there is a promise of spiritual nourishment for those who are hungry and thirsty to experience the transformative grace of God. And there are also marks of God’s reign bringing literal food to hungry masses who have followed him to the countryside but have no provision of bread.
The feeding of the 5000 is so significant in the ministry of Jesus that it is told in all four of the gospels. This is a rare thing indeed as many stories only appear in one gospel or another. You may know it-a crowd has followed Jesus to hear him pronounce the nearness and nature of God’s kingdom while healing the sick. The day is drawing to a close and stomachs are rumbling. Jesus tells his disciples to feed the masses and they object. They packed light for the trip. Five loaves of bread and two fish was all there way to go around. Jesus took bread, looked up to heaven, gave thanks for it, broke it, and gave it to his disciples to share among the crows. No one went home hungry that day.
The pattern of thanksgiving to God in blessing, breaking, and giving bread out of which Jesus creates an abundance is the same manner in which we partake in Holy Communion. We remember the night in which Jesus was at dinner with his disciples; he took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it as a sign of the nearness of God’s kingdom. After we come and feast at this holy meal hosted by Jesus Christ on the table beside me, I promise no one’s spirit is going home hungry today. You may want some Perfect Pig BBQ for lunch but your spirit will be full from the love and grace of God poured into your life this morning.
In the sweep of scripture, from God’s covenant with Moses and the Israelites, to Jesus’ last meal among his disciples, to the fulfillment of God’s reign in the everlasting heavenly banquet, the provision of bread is at the heart of this salvation story.
This is why each week we invite the children to come and gather coins and dollar bills so that neighborhood children will not be hungry at school. Not only is it an expression of this church’s love and care for this community, it is a thoroughly grace-filled act of answering someone’s prayer or longing for daily bread. God’s provision of daily bread shows up in a whole host of ways: school snacks, free and reduced lunch for children who would not otherwise eat, mailbox money that comes unexpectedly to meet a pressing family need, Meals on Wheels, and the food pantry at the ARK.
I can’t imagine being a parent not knowing where my child’s dinner is coming from tonight but many of our neighbors wonder this often. Do I pay rent this month or buy groceries?
Church, we pray this prayer trusting that God’s provision will meet our essential needs. We also pray it as in invitation to colabor for the full reign of God’s kingdom and so that we might help bring God’s provision of daily bread for our neighbors.
Take this question with you: what would it look like if we planted our feet so firmly depending on the grace of God that the churches and nonprofits in 37082 ended childhood hunger?
O God, give us this day our daily bread.