Tuesday, March 23, 2010

More Lent Thoughts

Give Us Today Our Daily Bread

Thought: Jesus chose his words deliberately: “Give us today our daily bread.” (Mat 6.9-13) This is not the prayer of the individual. It is the prayer of the group. Whoever prays this prayer does so as part of a community. When we pray this prayer, who exactly are we thinking of? Who is there with us at the table?

In Matthew’s Gospel the Lord’s Prayer is seen as an integral part of the Sermon on the Mount and throughout Jesus’ teaching the crowd is never far away and Matthew presents us with two feeding stories in quick succession, one is generally seen to be a feeding of Jews and the other of Gentiles.

Now when Jesus heard this he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it they followed him there on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion on them……… (Mat 14. 13-21)

• In v 15, what is the Disciples response?
• How does Jesus reply in v 16?
• Is there a lesson for us here?

Prayer is risky: it commits the one who prays to follow through with corresponding action.

• In v 17, what do the Disciples complain of?

But the key thing here is that the Disciples’ meagre resources become a means of Grace at the hands of Jesus.

• Is there a learning point here?

• Note too in v 21 that the women and children are included. Why is this significant?

The story moves on: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit………

• Is this just a ministry of preaching and teaching or does it include more?

We could argue that by the end of Matthew’s Gospel the Lord’s Prayer is offered to all people everywhere and will become for them a means of expressing their need as well as a reminder to give thanks for God’s continuing care.

Give us this day our daily bread. What does this mean?

God gives daily bread, even without our prayer, to all wicked men; 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 meat, drink, clothing, shoes, house, homestead, field, cattle, money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children, pious servants, pious and faithful magistrates, good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honour, good friends, faithful neighbours, and the like. (Martin Luther: The Small Catechism)

• Is it enough that we give thanks to God for our Daily Bread?

In Luke’s Gospel Jesus tells a story: There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores……… (Luke 16.19-31)

There is no particular evidence in the story that the rich man was a wicked man. He was merely preoccupied with his own affairs and indifferent to the needs of those around him.

• Does that speak to us today?

The community that calls upon God for daily sustenance is made up of all sorts of people, including those who have enough to eat – and to waste, and those who, for lack of even the most basic food, can just barely survive.

• How is it possible for such a discrepancy not only to exist, but to increase in severity as time passes?

Like the gulf between the rich man and Lazarus in Jesus’ story, the gulf between rich and poor today is for many unbridgeable. This can be the frightening result of our overlooking the little words “Give us today our doily bread”

Points for consideration

Prayer is risky: it commits the one who prays to follow through with corresponding action.

What does it mean for us in quite concrete terms to pray “Give us today our daily bread”?

Problems of world hunger are so overwhelming that we are tempted to think like the disciples “Send them away” (out of sight, out of mind) or like the Rich Man: “Send Lazarus from beyond the grave to warn my brothers” (God, you fix it.)

How do we cope with the knowledge that millions are starving?

How do we reconcile this with the biblical concept that God provides for everyone?