Give Us This Day

Primary Scriptures Psalm 104, Matthew 6:7-15

Today we’ll be focused primarily on one sentence of the Lord’s Prayer – Give us this day our daily bread.

Any time we look at any scripture – a single verse or sentence, or a longer passage – it’s important to look at where it is situated.  We start by looking at the verses right before or after.

Last week… as we started our study of the Lord’s Prayer, we looked at Luke’s version.  It was very similar to Matthew’s in terms of the verses just before… Our Father in heaven, Thy Kingdom Come… Forgive us and Lead us not into Temptation come after.  

If we think of the model prayer itself as a little circle around today’s phrase, the next circle outward would help us see where the prayer is situated within Matthew’s gospel, which is actually pretty interesting.  The model prayer sits right in the middle of a long discourse- the Sermon on the Mount.  It serves almost a hinge point, in fact.

In this sermon, Jesus describes what God’s Kingdom looks like… And our part in creating, bringing, being that Kingdom. Right smack in the middle of reminding us that we are God’s people and we are God’s plan for transforming the world, Jesus speaks about prayer. Right smack in the middle of his sermon is this prayer.  

When we back up a little farther, we see how this verse fits into the patterns established in the whole of the gospels – the prayer as shared by Luke, the stories Mark and John captured about prayer and even about bread.  We also need to look at the whole of the Old Testament to understand what Jesus might have been referencing or remembering from the Jewish tradition that he was in the act of reforming and reshaping.  

We can then look at fulness of New Testament scriptures in light of Jesus as Messiah, God with us.  The words of the letters in addition to the gospels were inspired by Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. They were written by those who believed deeply that his teachings were the commands of God and represent the true heart of God.   

Which is why, in addition to the words, we must look at the actions and motives of the one who spoke them. You see, nothing Jesus taught was meant to be plucked completely out of context.   Not any more than we can look at one sentence that any one of us uttered yesterday between 2:45 and 2:50 pm and pretend to make sense of it without understanding where we were, who was with us, what the conversation was about and some sense of who we are and what we care about as people.  

It’s not hard to see why we have so many conflicts in our sound-bite, try to shock people into paying attention world…. It takes a lot of time and energy to do the honest work of understanding what someone really means, what they really stand for.

It’s also not hard to see why the church has so many conflicts in our sound-bite, try to shock people into paying attention world…. We rarely set aside enough time and energy to do  the hard work of honestly trying to understand what Jesus’ teaching means in context, at least not together, in community.

And so, as we look across the teachings of Jesus in the gospels, It becomes clear that Jesus, as son of God, God made flesh, stands for love, mercy, and justice.

He stands with those who have experienced precious little love, mercy or justice from the powers that be… whether we are speaking of the Roman government or the leaders of the church.

Jesus  is literally standing in front of crowds of people, people who are hungry – because they have been oppressed and overburdened financially, many are destitute to the point of hopelessness.  

Jesus is standing over and against the leaders of the temple who have reduced humanity’s relationship with a loving God to the knowledge of and slavish devotion to the laws and the rituals described in the Torah.  

And as he speaks to these crowds, Jesus is reminding the people of God that they are loved. They are the people of God and beloved of God. That they are meant for so much more…

So when we pray, this prayer Jesus taught, we look to God in Heaven and remember that yes, God is Holy.

And we remember that we have seen glimpses of the Kingdom
In the Creation story,
In the stories of our spiritual patriarchs and matriarchs who were faithful
and in God’s forgiveness and faithfulness to our forbears despite their failures

We remember that we have seen glimpses of the Kingdom In the life and teachings of Jesus,  as well as the empowering of the Apostles and the forming of the first churches.

And we remember that we have seen glimpses of the Kingdom in the all too rare miracles we have already experience. That there is a Kingdom to come; that this world is not what is will be – by faith – when the son of God returns in his glory, when death and illness is no more..

When we pray “Give us this day” we move from worshiping and asking on God’s behalf to a request made directly for us.  

Give us this day our daily bread.  

This might seem like a tiny request, especially in comparison to the desire to see God’s Kingdom come in all its glory, or a request for God’s will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. It’s very clear that those are radical, revolutionary petitions… an overthrow of the current political structures, exchanging the throne of the Empire for the throne room of God.  

Perhaps that is part of what Jesus is getting at… that we ought to turn to God in all things, trusting that God’s mercies are new every morning. That we can, like the lillies of the field and the birds of the air, trust that God knows our needs and will meet them. God knows that we need bread, that we need the essentials to survive.  

A prayer asking today for what we need today speaks beyond those basic needs to a desire to be fully awake to the day-to-day, that we are not so focused on the glory or pain of the past… That we are not so worried with the potential joys or suffering of the future that we miss Jesus’ presence with us
Right here.
Right now.
Right here in our prayers.
Right here in our worship
Right here in the proclaiming of Christ’s saving death until he comes.
Right here in the breaking of the bread.  The sharing of the cup.

Give us this day, our daily bread

To pray this prayer with sincerity, we must not separate, indeed we cannot separate the needs of the individual from those of the wider community.  This petition seeks bread not for “me” but for “us”

Every human has the same need for sustenance from God. Our lives –  yours, mine, every single human being you see today, including those whose eyes you choose not to meet…  not one of our lives are self-sustaining.

Our lives are dependent upon what we receive from God the Giver, whether it flows directly to us or through other people. Our lives are dependent on one another and the bread we carry to one another.

Which, of course, isn’t only bread.  

After telling the story of Jesus feeding a crowd of 5000 with the young boy’s barley loaves and fish, John says Jesus withdrew from the crowd.  At night, he and the twelve cross the sea in boats – except the part where Jesus is walking on the water, but that’s a story for another day.

We pick back up when the people come looking for Jesus.  

So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”

Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty…”

This echoes what Jesus said a few chapters earlier, when he meets the woman at the well…

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

And then when the disciples- who had been in the village while Jesus encountered the woman – returned with bread, he spoke about food…

…the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?”

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work…”

Give us this day, our daily bread.

Yes, it’s about making sure that everyone has enough.  That we and those we love do not go hungry. But that “us” also includes those we do not love, those we do not know, those we do not trust.

Give us this day, our daily bread

In America in 2016, for almost every person in this room, this prayer is about recognizing that we have enough. That we have way more than enough.

It’s about realizing that when we have faith in Christ, the bread of life and the living water, we already have all that we need. And that it is time to start giving some of it away.

Give us this day, our daily bread 

So that we might put it on a huge long table with enough chairs for all to have a seat, for all to fill their hearts with the good news that God is with us and for us in Christ Jesus.

So that we might be the evidence of that good news when we offer chicken, and burgers and books, when we open our doors to scouts, when we partner with churches in Cuba and a home for children in South Carolina

Give us this day, our daily bread

So that our worship is lively and singing is full-throated
So that we stop fearing tomorrow and live fully into today,

Give us this day, our daily bread 

So that we might act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with the one who embodied justice, loved the world,  and sends the Spirit to guide our steps.

Give us this day, our daily bread.

Amen.

 

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