As a young girl, I can remember playing a game with neighborhood friends. We would make soup. In order to do, you need as many sticks as you could gather, rocks, leaves – dried and crunchy from the ground, and any nuts and berries you could find. I would mix it in the round aluminum container that my family kept our fresh cut Christmas tree ball in a before it was planted. A broom was my mixing spoon. I wish I could say this was a collaborative effort, and neighborhood kids worked together and pitched in for a combined effort, like in the book, Stone Soup. To the contrary, we raced against one another for the same supplies. Some of us would stockpile rocks or leaves, berries or any nuts that we found, in fear that they would disappear. Only sticks seemed in endless supply -we lived at the edge of a wooded lot. We continued at this effort until someone was called in for dinner or we tired of playing. It is exhausting play to live out a fear of not having enough.
As we continue our series on the Lord’s Prayer this morning, we are in our fifth message unpacking the prayer of Jesus. Today, we look at the petition, “Give us this day, our daily bread.” Jesus called us to pray for our daily sufficiency – to have enough. Many of us have trouble praying for ourselves. We are much more comfortable praying for others, and especially when there is something we can do. But in this part of the Lord’s prayer, we find ourselves face to face with the petition that is personal, but not private. Give us this day our daily bread. As we pray, “give us” we remember that we began the Lord’s prayer as a communal prayer with Our Father. We continue to pray together. This is not the first person singular. I am not praying Give ME TODAY MY daily bread and I do not care what happens to my enemy. I am not praying Give ME Today All that I need, care well for me, Lord, but pay no attention to the troublemaker over there that causes me angst and frustration. Instead, we pray, Give US (all of the group of all humanity together- that is God’s People) this today OUR daily bread.
And yet, as we gather our food – going early to stores between 6 and 7 am for those who are older or immunocompromised, ordering for delivery or pickup service, or practicing social distancing, we find that we too are making stone soup by ourselves. We want all of the nuts and berries, rocks and leaves. We want our comfort items and our security blankets. And we want them in abundance to assuage our fears and concerns.
Some places down south are out of mayonnaise, leading to speculation that there are a lot of casseroles and sandwiches being made.
Other places are out of flour. The bakers among us are hoping to bake their way out of this pandemic. I would be happy to help taste any gluten free delicacies you are experimenting with.
There have been runs on coffee and rice, yeast, and meats. And of course, toilet paper! We have all seen and heard the calls for toilet paper. I even this week, saw a calculator for how much toilet paper you actually need.(1) Hint: it is not as much as you think.
And lastly, our daily bread. And bread is a staple in many of our cultures. In some cultures, it is rice or noodles, potatoes or another grain that is the primary staple. But some of you will be most familiar with daily bread. In preparing for weather emergencies, many of us get milk, eggs, and bread, as if we were preparing to make French toast. In France, French toast is called pain perdu or lost bread, owing the fact that day old fresh bread is always used to make this breakfast item. Stuffing, bread pudding, and breadcrumbs are other ways of extending the shelf life of this staple. I can remember my grandparents telling me that you never throw bread away; there is always something else bread has to give.
Give us this day our daily bread. Why bread? God provided for the Israelites in the wilderness. Manna in the desert. It was a staple in their diet as they wondered from Egypt to the promised land. Manna would appear in the morning after the dew lifted. Exodus 16 tells the full story of God providing for God’s people. It was a small round substance, as fine as frost…. It was like white coriander seed, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.
What is it? The people would ask.
As people do, every time we encounter something we do not know or are unfamiliar with- What is it? Manna means what is it? They could collect enough for one day for each of the persons in their household. And enough for a second day as they approached the Sabbath day. For there was no work on the Sabbath.
Give us this day our daily bread. And God provided sufficiently for the Israelites. What if you could only eat the same thing every day for days and days in a row? Only bread for the next six months? Or only rice for the next six months? No taco Tuesday, Pizza Friday, Salmon on Thursdays or Salad on Saturday afternoon or Pancakes on Sunday evening. You and I would first focus on what we were not having. Jesus reminds us that it is not our independence that is the most important, but our interdependence and sufficiency.
When we pray for our daily bread, we are praying for enough. And of course, praying for our daily bread was never just about food. For Jesus it is never just about food. It is always about just food. Jesus never spoke to the disciples only in one method or taught literally on one place. Instead, Jesus taught in such a way that the disciples found themselves reflecting back on what he had said again and again. There was depth and metaphor, veracity and timelessness. When we pray for enough, we pray not just for enough food, but enough strength, enough hope, enough shelter, enough resources, enough.
In the dark days of World War II, there were many children who struggled to just survive. They were often without family members and housed in refugee camps. The children were understandably so afraid of not having enough food to eat that they couldn’t sleep. One of the adults came up with the idea of giving them bread to hold close to their bodies through the night until they were no longer scared. Children would sleep with loaves of bread. Knowing that they were given their daily bread, relieved some of their anxieties (2). Similar stories are told from the Korean War as well.
In every petition of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught his disciples and us here today, that there is action. If we are bold enough to expect God to provide for our essential, everyday needs, generously, without any conditions, if we depend on God, then we cannot expect any less of ourselves, when it comes to the essential, everyday needs of our fellow human beings, our neighbors here and throughout the world.
Paul writes in a later letter to the church at Corinth, that we have listed as the second letter to the Corinthians. That the generosity of the Corinthians is highlighting who God is for others. When the people at Corinth give their financial gifts, loaves of sandwich bread, toilet paper, and time to Facetime their siblings in Christ, the recipients of that generosity can say: “Your ministry of this service to God’s people isn’t only fully meeting their needs but it is also multiplying in many expressions of thanksgiving to God.” When you place a bag of groceries on your elderly neighbor’s doorstep or call your lonely friend, God is truly glorified. When you care for a friend or family member, God is glorified.
For many of us, we are looking at changes to income and situation with as the days of quarantine continue. There is the ever-changing rhythm of this new normal right, in which you and I ache for a way we once knew. It impacts each us in different ways disrupting and disorientating our dependable routines. Our sleep is impacted, and our ways of being might be just a little tender and touchy with one another. High school and college seniors received notices that they might be graduating virtually. Schools and restaurants, workplaces and theaters are closed.
The lack of normal human touch is hard, but we are not alone! We are together. This week, I have been on Zoom meetings and Facetime with people aged months old through those in their nineties. Groups that varied in size from 5 to 300. Our Sunday School and Youth group will both meet today by Zoom. Other groups are setting up these opportunities in the week to come. Seeing one another’s faces or hearing each other’s voices is incredible balm to our souls, our daily bread.
We will not be satisfied until all of God’s people are fed, all of God’s people are cared for, all of God’s people know the fullness of the kingdom of God. We pray for our own daily bread, while seeking the daily bread of our siblings. Join me in praying Give us this day our daily bread. But be tender to how God might call you to share your pantry of bread and resources with another.
This is the Gospel, the good news of our Lord and Savoir Jesus Christ, Amen.
(2) Dennis Linn, Matthew Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, Making Heart-Bread. Paulist Press, 2006.
Gospel Lesson: 2 Corinthians 9:6-12
The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. As it is written,
“He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.”
He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God.
Gospel Lesson: Matthew 6:11
Give us this day our daily bread.
Meditations For Your Week
Sunday, March 22 ~ Saturday, March 28, 2020
Sunday: “Give us this day our daily bread” Matthew 6:11. Sufficiency is having enough for right now. Pray for our siblings in our community and around the world who do not have enough, and then act! Is God calling you to share your bread?
Monday: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-7. Our attitude in giving to one another and God matters. Pray for openness to cheerfulness. Fast from that which keeps you from giving openly and with joy.
Tuesday: “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.“ 2 Corinthians 9:8. God’s blessings are not limited. If you share your blessings, you will not run out. Pray for God’s sufficient blessings.
Wednesday: “As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” 2 Corinthians 9:9. The early church shared their resources so that all would have enough. The sufficiency of food, shelter, companionship, knowledge, and other resources was key to following the way of Christ.
Thursday: “Now the One who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.” 2 Corinthians 9: 10. Pray for those who are hungry today. Work for just changes to legislative impacts on increasing access to nutrition to all people.
Friday: “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” 2 Corinthians 9:11. Pray for those who are lacking health and immunity, healthcare and resources. May the resources of medicine and care be spread more equitably across those who need them most.
Saturday: “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.” 2 Corinthians 9: 12. How have you thanked God today for God’s goodness? Let your thanksgiving be the answer to someone else’s prayers.