Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Our daily bread

Mid-week Lent #5
9 March 2016
Matthew 6:11

“Give us this day our daily bread”

Τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον

Give us today…our bread.

Friends in Christ, I urge you all to life up your hearts to God and pray with me as Christ our Lord has taught us and freely promised to hear us…Grant us our daily bread, preserve us from greed and selfish cares, and help us trust in You to provide for all our needs. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.[1]

This petition includes everything that belongs to our entire life in this world. When the necessaries of life are impede, life cannot be maintained.

In this petition, we pray for everything that is necessary to have and enjoy daily and against everything which interferes with it. The Lord’s Prayer teaches us to live with just enough.  It teaches us not to want more.  It teaches contentment, the most subversive virtue of them all. Thus, we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread”.  This is not a prayer for more.  This is a prayer only for what we need.   The world encourages us to spend money in pursuit of happiness.  This petition restrains our greed.

I’ve seen it on the table at my grandparent’s house. I’ve seen it in the kitchens of so many homes here at Friedheim. A wooden bowl, with the words inscribed, “Give us this day our daily bread”

What are we talking about when we pray these words?  Luther, as he wrote the Catechism helps us understand what it means to pray these words.  What does this mean? “God gives daily bread indeed without our prayer, also to all the wicked; but we pray in this petition that He would lead us to know it, and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.

What is meant by “daily bread”?  “Everything that belongs to the support and wants of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home field, cattle money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children, pious servants, pious and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.” Three questions pertain to this particular petition.

I.                    Question One: Why does Christ our Lord tell us to ask for daily bread, even though God gives it also to those who do not ask for it?

A.            Jesus, our Lord and Savior, tells us to ask for daily bread in order to teach us that our daily bread is a gracious gift of God. Our Savior has showered down upon us so many great and wonderful blessings. Every blessing, each gift has been touched by God.  We are called by this petition to recognize this as such.

B.    We are thus encouraged to receive these blessings with joy and thanksgiving.  David writes in Psalm 145:15-16:  “The eyes of all look to Thee, and Thou dost give them their food in due time. Thou dost open Thy hand, and dost satisfy the desire of every living thing.” And then in Matthew 5:45 we read, “for He causes His sun to rise on {the} evil and {the} good, and sends rain on {the} righteous and {the} unrighteous.”

II.                 Question Two: Why do we say “our” bread?

A.            We say “our” bread, because we should ask for only that bread which is honestly ours.  Dishonest goods acquired dishonestly are ill-gotten gain. We pray that the Lord would bless that which is acquired honestly and we work for it honestly. If we acquire bread and good dishonestly we cannot expect God to bless our efforts.  Luther, commenting on this petition said in his Large Catechism, “If God did not give us permanent and peaceful government…For where there is dissension, strife and war; there, the daily bread is already taken away, or, at least checked. How much trouble there is now in the world only on account of bad coin, yea on account of daily oppression and raising of prices in common trade, bargaining and labor on the part of those who wantonly oppress the poor and deprive them of daily bread.”  

B.            As we pray for “our” bread, we must always remember that we are connected one to another. As we give “our” bread, we pray for our neighbor and share with him when he has need. The writer to the Hebrews reminds us with these words: “But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is will pleased.” (13:16)

C.            Giving is sometimes a sacrifice. That’s what the writer to the Hebrews tells us.  “What a tremendous example you have been –giving above and beyond what you are required.” As we support those who are in need especially with those who are in need – we have this promise that God is well pleased with our giving and our sacrifice.  In short, we support others with "our" bread so that they might have theirs.

III.               Question three: Why are we to say “daily,” and “this day,”?

A.      We are to say, “daily,” and “this day,” because we should be satisfied with what we need each day.  Each day has its own challenge. Each day has its own needs. Yet, we are encouraged to be satisfied with what we need each day.  You are Easter people. You live under the shadow of the cross and by the power of the empty tomb. If God in Christ has in fact forgiven  your sins and granted salvation and life we know that we can be satisfied with what we need each day for He will provide.

B.      We pray “daily,” and “this day,” because it is foolish and sinful to worry about the future.  We can cut it any way we want.  We can call it concern – but when we obsess about the future this can become troublesome.  Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6, “And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” (v.8) God wants us to be satisfied and content with what we have. A question: Are you content with what you have?  

Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount explains to us what it means to be content as He begins with our first priorities: “Now your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about it’s own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

The Father has promised to provide.  All we need to support our body and life. He will provide. We can be content all things come by the gracious hand of God.

Father, You provide generously for Your children. Give us today all the material blessings we need to serve You in the manner You desire, and make us grateful for all we receive. I pray this especially for Christians distressed by need, wherever they may be.

[1] Lutheran Service Book, Divine Service Setting Five, © 2006 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis

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