Sermon from February 11th, 2018

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“Lord, Teach Us to Pray #6: Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread”

Proverbs 30:2-9; Luke 11:1-3


By Pastor Ralph Boyer



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Sermon Text
Welcome to Christ Lutheran today.  We're glad to have you with us here in person or joining us by way of the radio.  Today we continue with our series on the Lord's Prayer.  The prayer that Jesus taught his 12 disciples--the prayer that Jesus teaches us as his modern day disciples.

On Thursday, Pastor John left for a meeting of the Institute of Lutheran Theology.  He serves on their board.  Last night around 6pm I got a call from Pastor John, saying he was in the airport in Sioux Falls and because of bad weather, he was not going to be here today.  He might have gotten as far as Denver last night, but that’s it!

So next Sunday you’re going to hear Pastor John’s excellent sermon on “Thy Will Be Done, On Earth As It Is In Heaven”.  But today it’s going to be---

“Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread.”

In Israel and everywhere in the Middle East, bread is not an extra that you might or might not have with a meal.  Bread is the heart of every meal.  And so as you travel in Israel, you see bread for sale everywhere!

There are merchants selling bread on every corner.  Lots of bread--many kinds.  In Biblical days, bread was mostly made from barley and wheat.

People there still bake their own bread but many buy it from the professional bakers who often have the whole family involved.

When you sit down to eat in Jerusalem, there are always baskets of flatbread ready to enjoy.

Part of the hospitality is to have plenty of bread to offer those who sit at your table.

Bread is central to the lives and meals of people in the land where Jesus walked.

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread.

So when he taught his disciples to pray-- Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread--he's talking about the most important things that people need to live.

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread.  Max Lucado suggests that this phrase raises some important questions.  For example, where is the “please”?  Dare we saunter into the presence of God and just say—“give us”?  And just “this day”?  What about tomorrow and the next day?  And isn’t “bread” a little too narrow?  What about spaghetti or ice cream?  We need to talk about those questions.  They are important ones to wrestle with, if we’re going to understand what Jesus is asking us to pray for!

“Give us” does seem so abrupt—but we have to remember what we have already prayed—Our Father—we have been reminded of our adoption by God as his beloved children—children who can call on the Lord as “Daddy”,  the one who cares for us with his infinite love.  We are praying to the one who is our heavenly Father, who is the infinite, almighty, creator of the universe.  We pray to the hallowed one, the holy one---Our Lord who is perfect and just and righteous.  And while he knows our imperfection, and sent Jesus to overcome our sin, he still has created us to work toward holiness in our lives.  In this first part of the Lord’s Prayer we have prayed to be a part of God’s kingdom and to commit ourselves to aligning with his will for us and the world.

So the first part of the prayer establishes who God is before we ever consider our own needs.  We see his holiness and our lack of holiness.  We learn that we need to be part of God’s kingdom and to stop building our own.  We need to place our will secondary to the Lord's will.  Once we have done all that, we have a whole new view of our relationship to God and to say, “Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread”, is not a demand.  It is more a simple statement of recognizing our dependence on God.  We should ask for whatever we need.  After all, he has promised to provide for us.

But what about “this day” and “daily” bread?  Is there no tomorrow?  The Greek word translated as “daily” has been a puzzle to Bible scholars for 2000 years.  People like Origen and Jerome in the early centuries debated what this word means.  The problem is that this particular word is used almost nowhere else in Greek literature and so is hard to pin down.  Does it refer to the amount of bread?  Are we talking about just enough to survive or does this mean something more than just survival?  Are we talking about just bread for this one day or does this mean the bread for each day?
 
Kenneth Bailey was a Bible teacher who spent his career in the Middle East suggests that a helpful translation would be, “Give us this day the bread without ceasing”—a phrase that incorporates all those concepts.  Bread that we need to survive, but also bread that allows us to do more than just survive.  The bread for one day that teaches us to trust in the Lord for his providing, but also the assurance that the Lord will provide our needs for every day in the future.
 
“Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread.”  This part of the prayer teaches us that everything we have is a gift from God.  It is not our right, but our privilege.  And we pray for “our" bread to remind us that we are not in this alone.  We pray for all people in their need and accept the responsibility that others often receive their daily bread when we pass on the bounty that God has given us.  And when we trust that God provides, then fears need not overwhelm us.  We don't have to worry about what tomorrow will bring because we know our Father will care for us.
 
When we unpack all that Jesus condensed into these few words, we discover a tremendously healthy perspective on the physical, material side of life.

But what about bread?  What does that really include?  What about things like spaghetti and ice cream?  We all tend to become contract lawyers at this point and want to be sure that our favorites are included in this prayer for daily bread.

Does daily bread include material and spiritual needs?  The Bible refers to Jesus as the bread of life and the true bread from heaven.  Is that spiritual bread included here?  And what about the sacred meal of the Lord's Supper?  Communion is certainly an essential part of our Christian lives.
 
Of course, there is nothing wrong with thinking of daily bread as including those kinds of spiritual bread.  But many Bible scholars note that what comes before and after “daily bread” in the Lord's Prayer is all spiritual--our relationship with our heavenly Father--his holiness, kingdom and will--our requests for forgiveness and strength in dealing with evil and temptation--our recognition of the Lord's power and glory.

With all of that in mind, it seems that Jesus does want to focus on physical needs in this part of the prayer.  After all, God knows that he created us with basic physical requirements to live and be healthy.  And when we bring our physical needs to God, we must admit our dependence on him.

Will you join with me as we read this part of Luther's Catechism together--

“Give us this day our daily bread.”  What does this mean?  To be sure, God provides daily bread, even to the wicked, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that God may make us aware of his gifts and enable us to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.”

Luther gives more detail on daily bread--let’s join together in saying this also--

“What is meant by daily bread?  Everything required to satisfy our bodily needs, such as food and clothing, house and home, fields and flocks, money and property; a pious spouse and good children, trustworthy servants, godly and faithful rulers, good government; seasonable weather, peace and health, order and honor; true friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.”


Luther includes basic physical needs but also emotional ones--the need for family, friends, good neighbors.

But how much daily bread is enough?  From Proverbs we hear that both too little and too much is a major problem.

Proverbs 30:7-9  “Two things I ask of you, LORD; do not refuse me before I die:  Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’  Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”

It’s the age old question of the difference between our needs and our wants---When you find out how to tell the difference, please let me know!

Several years ago in the Daily Bread devotional booklet (Feb 1, 2011)---great name for a devotional booklet don’t you think?---there was mention about a Georgia woman who was arrested after trying to pay for more than $1,500 in purchases with a million-dollar counterfeit bill. When she was questioned, the embarrassed woman claimed to have been misled, saying that the fake money had been given to her by her ex-husband, who was a coin collector.

Now the size of the bill makes me doubt whether anyone could really have been misled into thinking it was real. But maybe that makes it a good illustration of the almost unbelievable human capacity for self-deception that the prophet Jeremiah warns us about.

Jeremiah 17:9-10  “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?  I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind.”

Jeremiah is telling us that we all--we all--have the problem of being dishonest with ourselves.  Thankfully God searches our hearts, forgives us when we admit our deceitful hearts to him and knows what is real and what is counterfeit.  He knows the difference between what we need and what we merely want. 

And so in this prayer for daily bread, we are saying---Lord, we need your help! Please show us whether we are being honest about what we really need.  And when we aren't, show us the difference so that we can be content with the way you provide for our necessities-- especially when you don't provide all the other stuff!  Help us to rely on you Lord and not ourselves!

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread.

Seven small words--none more than 5 letters each and yet Jesus has packed so much meaning into this short phrase.  Every phrase of the Lord's Prayer is filled with the same power.  Sure--most of us know it so well we can say without even thinking, but that is our fault, not the fault of Jesus.

When we say it with our hearts and minds fully in gear--wow!  When I'm really thinking about it, I often get choked up when I say the Lord's Prayer.  It's the very words that Jesus taught his friends.  It's overflowing with meaning.  And it has been part of some of the most significant moments in my life.

We said the Lord's Prayer when Stephanie and I got married.  We said it when our children were baptized.  We said it at the funerals for our parents.  And it has been in saying the Lord's Prayer that I have experienced some of the most powerful moments in my ministry.
That's the power of the Lord's Prayer.  That's the power of the prayer that Jesus taught us!

Amen.

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