First United Methodist Church March 20, 2022
Rev. Dr. Byron Kaiser
Lent 3: Our Daily Bread
Matthew 6:9-11; John 6:30-31, 35; James 2:15-17
Today we start our third week of our Lenten Study of the Lord’s Prayer. Why spend six weeks on these small utterances of Jesus? This is the only time Jesus gives us word for word what to pray. Jesus says, “pray like this.”
Thank you for coming today. If you have been invited to worship this morning, my gratitude goes out to you and the one who invited you.
As we explore the prayer, we shall find that each of the utterances present to us a yearning of our heart and a call to action for our brothers and sisters.
Praying the first utterance of the Lord’s Prayer, we acknowledge the communal nature of our faith. We acknowledge the loving care of God. We unveil ourselves before God as God unveils before us. We strive to live so that we make God’s name holy.
Praying the second utterance of the prayer we bind our will to God’s will so that we may be the doers of the will of God here and now as we wait for the fulfillment of God’s will in the moment to come.
The third utterance of the Lord’s Prayer ties us to the present and ties our fulfillment, physically and spiritually, to our brothers’ and sisters’ welfare. “Give us this day our daily bread.”
Am I praying to be fed today or am I praying to always be fed? I have discussed with you that the main two sources for the Lord’s Prayer are contained in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Though the prayers reflect each other, they are not mirror images. Here is one of the instances where they differ. The cantankerous word in this utterance is “daily”. You may think this a little odd. Doesn’t “daily” just mean “daily”? Yes.
However, Luke makes it a continuing fulfillment: “continue to give us our daily bread day after day.” Luke has us pray for a continuing daily supply of our needs.
Matthew has us pray specifically for today: “Give us our bread for today.” Lynne Forest reflects, “(sic) We are promised bread for only THIS day … because the power of living in the Present Moment where our every need is met is only available to us NOW.”
I need all the help that I can get to remain in the present. So, to pray the prayer for the “now” helps me to let the worries and concerns for tomorrow be tomorrow. Adam Hamilton makes one more distinction relating to the word “daily”. Hamilton likes the reading of this to be, ““our essential bread,” that is, the bread that we need.”
We are invited to turn to God in the small (relative to the coming of the kingdom! Luke 4:4) but urgent matters of our lives and, like the ravens and lilies, learn to trust in the Father’s mercies new every morning because the Father knows already what we need (12:22-24, 29-31).
The prayer recognizes that we do need the essentials of life day by day, but only enough, not dangerous excess. Inherent in the utterance is a hope that we will neither fret nor hoard, but beyond that is a desire to be so fully present in the small day-to-day things of life that we will be able to sense Jesus’ presence even in the breaking of our bread (22:19; 24:30-35).
So, I pray for what I essentially need for a healthy living today.
When is bread more than bread? When bread is more than a party game.
Consider the following two disparate views of “daily bread.”
A church in Frisco, Texas, decided to break the Guinness world record of nacho- eating by serving up almost two tons of chips, salsa, and jalapenos as a promotion to attract teens to a new youth ministry program. Giant heat lamps from local auto-body paint shops were used to melt the heaping mounds of cheese and chips. Thanks to the hungry hordes of teenagers who showed up, they did establish a new world record.
In contrast, a youth retreat center in central Texas established a policy that food could not be used for games unless it was to teach the reality of world hunger. The camp’s director said that food fights in the parking lot and giant banana splits contained by thirty feet of rain gutter resting upon sawhorses on the sidewalk started her thinking about the message they were sending to the youth who participated. Using food wastefully did not reflect Christian stewardship when countless people sharing our planet faced starvation from famine and economic inequity. Thinking of “daily bread” is not only about sustenance but also an opportunity for prayerful reflection about stewardship and compassion.
A few years ago, I accompanied a confirmation class to Kokomo, Indiana, to spend 24 hours in a poverty living experiment through Kokomo Urban Outreach, director Jeff Newton. It was five below when we reached the church and assigned to a floor with no sleeping pads for the night. Jeff said that he would return at 7:30 am with breakfast. We woke early, cold, and hungry. We made our way down to the basement where tables were set up. After 8:00 am, Jeff arrives in the room. He throws one bag of Lays Potato chips on the table and announces, “if you live at the poverty line or below, this is what you’re eating for breakfast share it with everyone in the room. Eat up. We have a lot of work to do today.” The group of junior high boys and their adult mentors just looked at each other in dismay as Jeff left room. That was the beginning of a day of hungry eye- opening experiences.
When is bread more than bread? When bread feeds others. James, the Bishop of Jerusalem, writes, (James 2:15-17), “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So, faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
The prayer for daily bread is a communal prayer—our petition is not just for God to provide for our individual needs, but for God to provide for the needs of those around us as well. For many in our world, food insecurity is a harsh reality. The prayer for “our daily bread” is a request for God to provide for everyone the food that they need to survive.
Our focus should rightly be on how God calls us to help answer this prayer for those who do not have enough. God sometimes works through miracles or heavenly angels, but most often God works through other people. In this line of the prayer, we offer ourselves as instruments through which God can provide food for all.
Norman Borlaug knew something about providing daily bread. He lived not far from University Park; an enclave surrounded by the city of Dallas. Norman is credited with saving the lives of 1 billion people from starvation because he developed a type of high-protein, hardy wheat that grows in almost any soil. It was a feat so significant that he received the 1970 Nobel Prize for Peace, the Congressional Gold Medal, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (accomplished by only four other people: Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, and Elie Wiesel). Providing daily bread is a vital task.
When is bread more than bread? John 6:30-31, “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.”’ 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.”
While for many the need for literal food is most urgent, we all have other needs as well, including the need for purpose, meaning, and fulfillment. Indeed, many who are rich in possessions have the greatest need for this kind of spiritual or existential nourishment.
Scripture points multiple times to this idea that we need more than just food to survive. When Jesus is tempted in the wilderness to produce bread from a rock, he responds (quoting Deuteronomy 8:3) that we do not live by bread alone. And in the Scripture passage from John, Jesus shows the crowd that he comes to provide more than literal food, meeting the people’s deepest spiritual needs. Jesus himself is the bread of life, and it is by serving him and following his example that we receive everything we need to live fully.
Dr. Gary G. Kindley, Ministry Matters, writes, “When we gather around the family table or sit in the booth of the local café and prepare to take our meal, prayer becomes an act of claiming the holy. It is a sacred moment, made all the richer by the presence of friends or family with whom to share the meal. God is with us in that moment, and so no one ever dines alone. Daily bread provides nourishment, God’s presence provides comfort, and our gratitude recognizes the blessed gift of both.”
Give thanks for today’s bread. Visiting in people’s homes over the years, I have often seen a simple picture entitled, “Grace.” Taken by Minnesota photographer Eric Enstrom back in the troubled year of 1918, “Grace” is now the state photograph of Minnesota. Enstrom photographed Charles Wilden, an elderly seller of boot-scrapers, in a posed scene portraying gratitude for simple gifts. In the portrait, Wilden is praying with his folded hands supporting his bowed forehead. His serene face, framed by his white hair and beard, conveys both peace and wisdom as he prays before his meal. The large family Bible with reading glasses upon it and the bowl of soup and loaf of bread that adorn the table represent simple but adequate nourishment for both body and soul.
May we be satisfied with the blessings God gives while we work to fulfill the opportunities God provides, and in doing so come to realize that this is sufficient. God gives us enough if only we ask.
John Wesley prayers “Give us today our daily bread”,
O Father, for we claim nothing of right, only of Your free mercy. For we take no [worry] for tomorrow.
[We trust you for] all things needful for our souls and bodies, Not only the meat that perishes, but the sacramental bread, And Your grace, the food which endures to everlasting life.