SERMONS
Our Daily Bread
Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ:

Do you think it would be easier to teach the petition, "Give us this day our daily bread" to your child 60 years ago, during the great depression or WW 2, when food was in short supply or today, when food is in abundant supply? Stories abound of empty cupboards, long line-ups for soup kitchens, children going to bed hungry or being forced to leave the familiarity of home in order to live with strangers who had some food to eat. Now imagine a family in that situation praying — "give us this day our daily bread". Actually it would not be difficult to imagine — people would almost automatically seek divine help in those circumstances. Then imagine a father being able to make a trade with a surplus bike tire for some meat. The family would gather in great thanksgiving. And even though the meal would be very simple compared to ours today, for them it would have been a feast comparable to one at any royal table.

An indelible mark has been left on those — now our grandfathers and mothers — who lived through those difficult times. Often they are frugal, but most importantly they are deeply grateful for the daily bread which God provides each day, for they know how quickly times can change.

Today we often complain that we're tired of meat and potatoes all the time. We have a craving for pizza, or lasagna. Plopping down on the couch in front of the T.V. we have to make a major decision as to whether we will have a milkshake, popcorn, pop, or nachos for an evening snack. Then again we might decide to go to one of the fast food outlets of which there are a legion.

For whom is this prayer more real? I would dare say the first — for those who grew up during the depression or the war.

Yet, for whom is learning the message of this prayer more urgent and relevant? I would dare say the second person; the one who is living in today's world. Especially in our affluent society, with mounds of food in the market places, (and even in the garbage), understanding this petition ought not simply to be associated with our food, but ought to shape the way we look at life and the way we live our lives.

This morning/afternoon/evening we find the people of Israel in the wilderness between Egypt — the house of bondage, on their way to the promised land flowing with milk and honey. Throughout, God has called his people to be a special people so that they may be a blessing to all the nations of the world. They ought to be focused on the name of their God, concerned about his Kingdom and desirous to do his will. These are precisely the items covered in the first petitions of the Lord's Prayer. Then the peoples of this world will say, "Yes, there is a Holy God. Thus the Israelites were being shaped from being loosely related and competing tribes similar to those throughout the world to becoming a special unified people of God. That was to be their major focus and concern. Those are the concerns covered in the first three petitions of the prayer taught to us by our Lord Jesus Christ.

Of course, men, women, boys and girls need nourishment to do this task. In the wilderness there was not an abundance of food, but God wondrously and miraculously provided them with manna. There is some debate as to exactly what this provision consisted of. Was it a natural phenomenon? Many scholars think it to be a secretion of the tamarisk tree that forms small, yellowish-white balls that are very sweet and melt in the heat of the sun. Yet this secretion occurs only for a few weeks beginning in June. Manna for the Israelites was provided six days per week for forty years. This demands a more-than-natural explanation. This was God's miraculous and special provision. Much could be done with the manna. They ground it, crushed it, and made it into cakes. Thus there was some variety, but the major ingredient was always the same — manna.

Then we read of "the rabble" who incited the people to complain. These were probably non-Israelites who followed them out of Egypt and tagged along for the journey. They were not really aware of God's vision and mission for his people. The concept of being a special people — a kingdom — was foreign to them. All they were concerned about was their life here on earth, how they would get by from day to day and to make that as pleasant as possible. "Always manna," they complained."Manna pie, manna bread, manna boiled, manna baked — and when the kids asked for a snack they were told to go see if any manna chips were left. If only we had meat to eat."

The people of Israel listened to the rabble rousers and remembered the onions, leeks, cucumbers, melons, and garlic in Egypt. Memories can be very selective at times and they only remembered the good things. But do you see what they were doing? They were beginning to major in the minors. Instead of thanking God for his daily provisions, asking to be brought to the land of milk and honey so that they could get on with the real purpose of their existence — they seemed to forget about all of that and began to focus on the immediate.

Congregation, we need to be careful of who our "friends" are. We need to be vigilant as to whom we listen to. As Christians we too are to be a special people of God — people who hallow the Lord's name, who seek the coming and seek to represent the Kingdom of God, and a people who are desirous to have a bit of heaven on earth as we do his will. That is to be our focus in life — that is the mission and calling of the church. That is why Jesus Christ came to this earth. We too have been released from the house of bondage, by one greater than Moses. We have been redeemed from sin, we have been set free by the blood of Jesus and are on the way to the new heavens and the new earth.

But, let's be honest. Sometimes we lose sight of that vision; Christianity seems like tough slogging. Then our "friends" pipe up, "you mean you call that fun." "You live a chaste life, whether single or married; you are to be faithful to your spouse, you don't swear, you are not supposed to ever get drunk. You are supposed to tithe, precisely the discretionary part of your income with which you can have some fun. Whatever you do, whether eating or drinking you are to do it to the glory of God." "What a boring existence", your "friends" say. "You've got to have some real pleasure. You mean you're still driving that old car; You're paying all the money to Christian causes — have some fun in life."

Who are these "friends". Some of the worst are found right in our living rooms through the television and through the magazines which grace our coffee tables. The media comes at us with the constant refrain that we need this or deserve that. We view how the rich and famous live. We conclude that the promiscuous young folk on "Friends" are basically nice people and it does not take much for us to believe that we too deserve a little spice in our lives.

What do we read about the people of Israel? They complained bitterly to the point that Moses was ready to give up — "just let me die here." Hear clearly what they said, "If only we had stayed in Egypt, there we would have had all those good things." Talk about selective memory. They forgot the slavery, the bondage, the death, the fact that they were not a people. They will give up their future, their heritage — all for some variety, for some spice in life. Talk about majoring in the minors. It reminds us of Esau who sold his birthright for a bowl of soup.

Congregation, are we really that much different? What are we living for? If only I had a newer car, a bigger house, a better camera — and we forget that we have become slaves to our possessions, slaves to our credit cards. We lose sight of who we are in Jesus Christ — a special people of God. We lose our sense of calling, we lose our vision and hence, an enthusiasm for the mission of God in our world.

Worst of all, we have lost a sense of all these things coming from God, who richly provides for us, so that we may hallow his name, seek his kingdom and do his will. God is not a spoil sport. He has blessed us with an abundance — but for a reason. Do you see the connection between this, the fourth petition of the Lord's prayer, and the first three? The focus of our lives is to be the "name of God", the "kingdom of God" and the " will of God". "Seek first his righteousness and all these other things will be provided for." And that is why the petition reads "give us our daily bread — not a silo full. We need to take stock each day again as to what the Lord has given us and the opportunities all this brings.

We often lose sight of this sequence — first of all, the righteousness of God (his name, kingdom and will) to be followed by our physical and material needs he then graciously provides. Think of the following illustration: You are part of the executive of World Com. Your purpose: to provide good phone service, good communication opportunities for your customers. But somewhere down the line, things change — the corporation seems to be there to provide lucrative and lavish salaries and benefits for chief executive officers. Some creative accounting measures are instituted resulting in lucrative salaries and incentives but soon — there is no company left. They lost sight of the purpose for their existence, focused solely on their "bread", their desires and now many shareholders suffer the consequences. People no longer trust the financial statements. They wanted meat, they wanted wealth — here it is — coming out of their ears. One executive apparently needed a $6000 shower curtain. This is what happens when people lose sight of their real mission whether that be in the corporate world, or in the church.

The Catechism reminds us that all the bread of this world, all the material things of this world can do us no good without the blessing of God. Wow, these Israelites certainly found that out. You want meat — you got it. Even Moses had problems believing that promise (vss 21,22). Then God asks him the question that only faith can answer in the negative — "Is the arm of the Lord too short?" God sent a wind and drove quail in from the sea. All they had to do was raise their hands and grab them — almost as simple as catching chickens in a dimly lit barn. Bushels of quail were gathered. The people were ready to rejoice. Life got so much better. But then a plague entered the camp and many died. All the material things of this world do us no good without the blessing of God.

What a lesson to learn for all of us. All the gifts of God — our farms, our trips, our bank accounts, our homes, our cars — do us no good without God's blessing. And how is God's blessing obtained? Through seeking to honor his Name, seeking his Kingdom, and doing his will — and asking that each day again we may have the sustenance to fight the good fight of faith. Then, when you observe the things the Lord has provided, you will be humbly grateful. And that is exactly the attitude the Lord desires us to have. Let us not major in the minors; rather major in the majors. And all these other things will be provided for us.

Conclusion: Congregation, many years later another Israelite was in the wilderness — Jesus Christ. The chief rabble rouser — Satan came to him and tempted him — "Turn these stones into bread". But Jesus says defiantly, "A person shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of my heavenly father. Let's be very much aware of how the chief rabble rouser incites many voices in our culture to cause us to become discontent with our "boring" lives. We look at the so-called fun the world is having, the wealth some seem to enjoy and we look at our manna fed lives and complain bitterly. Let's seek the Lord's forgiveness. Let us pray that God's vision for the future is our vision. Let us ask that he would help us to see that the Lord provides for our daily needs and so much more.

As we take our daily food may we ask the Lord to help us realize that his word is the bread of life. That is why this petition is so strategically placed in the prayer. The words which proceed from the mouth of our God enable us to hallow his name, seek his kingdom and do his will. Our daily bread gives us the nourishment and strength to put it into practice.

So it is, that in our affluent western world, teeming with abundance, it is vitally important to come to know the significance of having been taught the prayer,

"Give us this day our daily bread".

Amen

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