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Sunday March 11, 2012
4:00 pm - Saint Thomas Church
Preacher: Fr Spurlock

"Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread"
"Lord, Teach Us to Pray" Sermon 7

When we talk about Our Daily Bread, first, we must take note that there is a provision made for us in creation. Genesis records that in the Garden of Eden, God gave us all manner of herb and tree and fruit and seed to be food for us. (Gn 1.29) Later, after man is expelled from the garden, our provision isn’t taken away, but we have to work harder to bring it out of the ground, such that in the book of Revelation (18.22), we read that only the total destruction of a city could stop the sound of the grinding millstone. Listen to God speaking to Adam, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return unto the dust of the ground.” (Gn 3.19) Part of the curse of our sin is our consuming concern from birth to death for our daily bread. So, is it any wonder that the heart of our petition to God in our Lord’s prayer is a concern for this provision.

But from those first moments, God has never abandoned us to our own devices. There are many accounts of his intervention when it comes to this basic human need. Think of the manna that fell from heaven and fed the Israelites. (Ex 16) And you might remember the condition upon which that provision was given. Don’t gather more than you can eat in a day. And of course when the Israelites did gather more than they could eat in a day, they awoke to find the surplus spoiled. This was to teach them and us to have a helpless dependence on God alone and to orient our hearts towards trust in his promises.

Think of Elijah, a widow and her son who were miraculously sustained on a bottomless barrel of meal and a small cruse of oil until famine ended in the land. (1 Kgs 17.12-16)

Think of King David and his men who, in dire need, were fed from the store of bread reserved for God alone; (1 Sam 21.3-6) an action Jesus defended in his controversy with priests who often put ritual practice ahead of concern for the sick or hungry.

Here we might also recognize that God’s provision is not just for our belly, but also for our soul. Jesus is the incarnation of a kind of manna. Listen to his words about himself. “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate manna in the wilderness and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread he shall live forever; and the bread that I give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (Jn 6.48-51)

Now, those of you who receive communion know you cannot survive on the Eucharist. There’s just not enough in that wafer to sustain you (bodily.) So there are two kinds of daily bread. One is the bread for today, that’s your meat, and God cares about you getting that. But there is also the bread we need for the day; the day of the Lord; the day when we will meet our God and our judge. We need the bread that has come down from heaven, the mysterious, the glorious; the eternally begotten bread of Jesus’ body broken for our sins. We need this in order to live beyond this life of the belly. Our souls need food for their journey into God’s presence. We need this bread against the day of the resurrection when our souls hope to be reunited with our bodies to live an eternal life in the life of the world to come. Now that’s a great mystery, but it’s also a great reality, and we can’t make it without that God feed us for the journey. So we have a kind of bread for this day and we have a kind of bread for the coming day. And the truth is we can’t live without either one. Fill your belly and not your spirit and you will die, just like our fathers who ate manna in the wilderness. Over spiritualize bread and just feed your soul and your body will die from lack of nourishment.

The deepening of trust and faith in God is to recognize that he cares about all of you, body and soul. Your heavenly Father knows you have need of things like food and clothing. Seek his kingdom first and food and clothing will be added unto you. (Mt 6.31-33) But also remember that your life is more than clothes and food, “man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.” (Deut 8.3 and Mt 4.4) This should add new depth to “The word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” Jesus is the greatest word that ever proceeded out of the mouth of God. (Jn 1.14)

As the Israelites prepared (Deut 10.18) to take possession of the Promised Land, Moses warned them that the day would come when they would look around them and say we possess this land and we have prospered in it because of our righteousness; we have earned it for ourselves. In that day Israel would have forgotten how stiff necked and rebellious they had been from the day of their deliverance until the day of their great pride. They will have forgotten that the land and their prosperity was a gift from God. We commit that same sin of pride when we begin to think that all that we have both our daily bread and the things we have stored up for ourselves have all come from the strength of our own arm. In that day you forget that all things come from God and it is by his grace that you earn or eat. Put your money in the collection plate and it’s akin to my son asking me for money to buy my Father’s Day present. Eat you daily bread and don’t give thanks to God for it and it’s like my daughter slipping money out of my wallet without a by your leave. At Eucharist when the collection is brought to the altar and is blessed by the priest, his words, though unheard by most, remind us that all things come from God and what we give to him was his to begin with. It’s a humbling thought.

More humbling is the notion that when we pray for our daily bread we are made beggars before God. St Paul, asks, what difference is there between any of us, rich or poor? “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not?” (1 Co 4.7) What does the poor man pray? Our Father, who art in heaven, give us this day our daily bread. And do the rich pray any different? The Lord’s prayer is a common prayer so that rich or poor pray to our Father for our bread. What I receive is not my own, but is, in some sense, ours. Those of us who have abundance might well ask if we haven’t come by it thorough the intercessions of someone else with less than we do.

And lest we get tight fisted about the provision we receive from God recall the earthy words of John, whoever has an abundance of this world’s good, and sees his brother in need, “and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him,” how can you say that he has the love of God in him?” (1 Jn 3.17) And this from Proverbs: “remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches: feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full and deny thee and say, who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.” (Pro 30.8-9) So let’s not be proud because we eat today. Gratitude for God’s provision and his mercies is the keynote, for we are all beggars the best of us.

But the Lord’s Prayer makes us more than beggars. To whom do we pray? Our Father: the Lord’s Prayer makes us children of a loving and generous Father in Heaven. Who among you if your child asks you for a fish you would give them a serpent or would ask you for bread and you would give him a stone? If you then, being evil, know how to provide good things for your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (Mt 7.9-11) See what kind of love the Father has given to us; that we should be called his children, through Christ, and out of his loving and open hand receive our daily bread: Bread for the belly and bread for the soul.

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