Give us this day our daily bread.
As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were filled. https://open.spotify.com/embed/episode/1FSNOJcSP0WDsXCcFoILod
Lord, teach us how to pray.
Okay, when you pray, pray like this:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.
It’s such a peculiar prayer – The Lord’s Prayer.
And, because we’ve prayed it so many times in so many places with so many people, we often no longer think about what we say when we pray.
We begin with talk of heaven and holiness. Then things get all political with calls for God’s kingdom to come and God’s will to be done. And then this already strange prayer gets even stranger – give us this day our daily bread.
What is Christianity? Why are we here doing all of this?
Worthy questions for our consideration. And, frankly, questions we rarely consider at all. We simply do what we do because that’s what we do. Which is actually good, at times. We are habituated by our habits. You do something long enough it becomes part of who you are.
But Christianity, whatever it may be, is not something relegated to creeds and doctrines. It’s not some otherworldly ephemera floating our there some where that one day we will encounter.
Christianity is materialistic.
It is something we can touch and see and hear and smell and taste. If, on the other hand, Christianity is a retreat from the material world, then it’s not a very good retreat. We’re still stuck in a building, in somewhat comfortable pews, listening to old (and sometimes new) music, with the smells of carpet, perfume, and (if we’re lucky) casseroles from the social hall wafting around, and the taste of grape juice and day old bread sticking to the roof of our mouths.
Christianity, therefore, is not about getting away from all of this. Instead, Christianity is all about how God transfigures this.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Why is this what Jesus teaches us to pray for? Perhaps, the act of asking for our bread is a regular reminder that our lives, like our food, are gifts that come to us from God, gifts without which we would perish.
And, thankfully, we worship the Lord who loves to feed.
Have you ever noticed how much food there is in the strange new world of the Bible? It’s all over the place! At the very beginning our first parents eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Abraham entertains strange guests with curds and milk and a roasted calf, the Israelites prepare lamb as their meal for the Passover, on and on.
Here’s a sampling of the foods in scripture: apples, almonds, dates, figs, grapes, melons, cucumbers, leeks, lentils, onions, barley, corn, millet, wheat, fish, quail, goats, lambs, sheep, butter, cheese, honey, coriander, cinnamon, dill, garlic, mint, mustard, salt, and, of course, bread.
Through this prayer, and this petition in particular, it’s as if God is reminding us about the fragility of life, that we are dependent on creation, and that we are caught up in all of it together.
In other words, the essentials to life are part of the essentials of our faith.
Listen – Jesus is doing his Jesus thing, and it garners a crowd. He looks on them with compassion because they are like sheep without a shepherd, so he speaks to them about the kingdom of God. And yet, the sermon goes a little long, and the crowds grow hungry.
“Hey Jesus,” Peter starts, “You might want to wrap it up. It’s getting late. Give them a final ‘Amen’ so they can all swing by Chic Fil A on their way home.”
But Jesus says, “Nah. You should give them something to eat.”
“Lord, we’re done have that kind of cash! Have you seen the size of the crowd today? Not even the Golden Corral could satisfy their hunger!”
“Well,” Jesus says, “What’ve we got to work with? A couple loaves of bread? Some fish? Let’s see what I can do.”
Jesus takes the bread and the fish, blesses it, and starts sharing it without everyone.
And no one leaves hungry.
It’s an amazing story, the feeding of the multitudes. Jesus is the one who has compassion for the hungry, the savior for whom hunger runs counter to the kingdom, the Lord who, oddly enough, experiences hunger and thirst.
It’s important that the God we worship knows what it means to be hungry and thirsty.
The incarnation is the declaration that Jesus is fully God and fully human. There is nothing in the human experience that God is unaware of, which is why the prayer for daily bread is all the more compelling.
Yes, we hallow God’s name, and we pray for the in-breaking of the kingdom, but when it comes to us, we begin by praying for bread.
Bread is old.
God gave plants for cultivation that we might bring forth bread to strengthen our bodies. In scripture, Melchizedek the king offers bread to Abraham, the Israelites bake unleavened bread for their exodus out of Egypt, Jesus feeds the multitudes with bread, calls himself the bread of life, and is notably born in Bethlehem which means town of bread.
And, in one of the most wild, and often overlooked, parables, Jesus compares the God to a female baker who puts the yeast of her kingdom into the dough of creation and makes bread of the world.
Bread is everywhere, and without bread we’re dead.
And yet, the bread at either end of our sandwiches, the bread left haphazardly on our restaurant tables, even the bread many of us learned to bake during the pandemic is different than the bread of the Eucharist.
At the Lord’s Supper we are consumed by that which we consume – we are what we eat.
We are made participants in God’s body so that the story of the Gospel might be made manifest in the ways we live and move and have our being.
The bread and cup at God’s table incorporate us into the adventure of God’s salvation of the world.
I’ve been saying this the last few weeks, in fact I said it just a few minutes ago, we’ve said the Lord’s Prayer so many times in so many places with so many people that we often no longer think about what we say when we pray. And I think a similar sentiment is true of the Lord’s Supper. How many times have we come forward with our hands outstretched? How many times have we received the grace of God through food and drink?
Enough that we know what we’re doing when we do so?
The truth of the matter is that we do not know what we are doing. Not even the most theologically sophisticated among us knows what we’re doing. And that’s actually fine. The disciples surely had no idea what they were getting into, and what was getting into them, when Jesus said this is my body and this is my blood.
In the Eucharist we are confronted with a reality that confounds our speech. These things are more real than real. They cannot be contained by our words because they are the grace of God.
Which is another way of saying, our most important business as a church happens at this table.
If someone were to ask you what you believe about God, or what it means to be a Christian, you need not point anywhere except to this group of strangers called church who eat together at a table that transcends everything.
Bread is a familiar thing, common even. Go to Kroger after church and you have more choices of bread than you can handle. The table is also familiar and common. We eat at our tables daily – alone, or with family, or with friends.
But the Lord delights in taking our ordinary things and making them extraordinary. The Lord loves to intrude upon the familiar, claiming it and reimagining it. The Lord rejoices in the everyday occurrences that point to the ways in which time is unleashed in the person of Jesus.
You see, when we are beckoned to God’s table, we feast not only with those in our midst, but we are united and even reunited with those from the past, those in the present, and those who will be here when we no longer are. This table cuts through the fabric of time and becomes something more sacred than we can speak.
As Christians, if we want to meet God, we don’t have to hike to the top of Mill Mountain. We don’t have to fast for forty days in the wilderness. We don’t have to become hermits living in isolated cabins. If we want to meet God, all we have to do is get together and break bread in Jesus’ name.
And, notably, we are commanded to pray for our daily bread. It would’ve been a very different prayer if the Lord called us to pray for my bread. But instead, it’s our bread.
It might not seem like much of a distinction, but words matter. Our words matter. Particularly in a time in which depending on anyone or anything else is considered a failure.
The truth of the matter is that we are all dependent on one another, we either just don’t want to admit it or acknowledge it.
No bread comes to our table without the work, the sacrifice, and the gift of strangers whom we do not know, and cannot properly thank. And that’s true for more than just bread. To be totally and completely self-sufficient is nearly impossible. We, all of us, are products of other people who, in ways big and small, make our lives possible.
Just as we are products of the Lord who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.
None of us ever really know what we’re getting into when the Lord shows up in our lives, and we certainly don’t know what will happen when we pray this prayer. And yet, we do know that the Lord calls us to share this meal, this bread, together.
In a time when sharing is all but gone, it’s all the more important for us to be gathered in, the lost and forsaken, that we might awaken to the truth in bread and cup. For, in eating and feasting with Jesus, we are offered this strange and wondrous community we call church.
Jesus is the bread of life, born in the town of bread, who calls us to pray for our daily bread. Which, of course, means whenever we pray, we are also praying for our daily dose of the Lord.
On Easter, a pair of disciples were making their way toward a town called Emmaus…