Exodus 16:4-16, The Lord’s Prayer
October 2, 2011
“God of heaven, creator of all things, you are sovereign over all the universe, and you are our father. Because you are holy, because you have the power to work in the world and in our lives, we, your beloved children seek your kingdom here on earth, seeking the same sovereignty that is present in your heavenly kingdom.”
That’s our prayer so far. And if that was all Jesus told us about prayer, if that was all he taught his disciples when they asked him to teach them to pray, it would be enough. It would be more than enough! But he continued that day. And, as sometimes happens when planning worship, “things just sort of work out!” When I least expect it, God says, “Watch me line up a could of things in a way that will be really cool!”
You see, when we first started talking about a series on the Lord’s Prayer, it was a month or so ago. And the sequence wasn’t planned way back then. But today we’re looking at the section of the prayer that begins “Give us this day our daily bread…” and here it is World Communion Sunday!
I think that’s cool. And I would love to tell you that we planned it that way from the beginning! But we didn’t. It’s a God thing. And I think it’s great! Because there are many references to bread in the Bible. And the three most famous ones are: the manna in the wilderness, the bread from heaven in Exodus; Jesus’ prayer “give us this day our daily bread; and the bread broken at the last supper, which we celebrate today. And they’re all in this event! This is the day we celebrate this sacrament with Christians around the world, just as Jesus’ body was broken for the redemption of the world! That’s what we’re observing today!
So it’s “Give us this day our daily bread.” Now I remember as a kid thinking, “Gee, is that all we’re asking for? Bread?” It didn’t seem worthy of prayer, in a way. But then when I was older, I came to learn that this was a figurative way of talking about our daily “sustenance.” And as we think about that today, we have to remember how that has a long tradition. Because this is actually another one of those places where Jesus is weaving in a little “Old Testament stuff.” Of course it was primarily a Jewish audience he was speaking to on the Mountain in Matthew. And in Luke, these disciples were also good Jews. And in both accounts, the people would have gotten the reference to this story in Exodus 16. This was about the manna in the wilderness.
One thing they would have known is that the manna was not just about getting food. It was about God’s provision, without which the people would not have survived! That deepens this first phrase, doesn’t it? It’s now “Lord, we cannot live without your sustenance. Give us, please, what we need!” That puts that phrase in a much more serious, all-encompassing light, doesn’t it?
Then, when you think about the manna in the wilderness, you have to bring in another very important word for the Hebrew people. That’s the word “covenant.” To this day, when a Jewish boy comes of age, he receives his “bar-mitzvah.” That means “Son of the Covenant.” For a girl it’s “Bat-mitzvah.” “Daughter of the Covenant.” And the covenant we’re talking about is all about this journey through the desert. It’s about receiving the Torah. It’s about this bread from heaven!
That’s why it was shocking when Jesus said, “I am the bread which is come down from heaven.” (John 6) It was shocking because he was casting himself in this story, but in a new way! Some people listened to him no further after that! It was too much for them! And then, while in the upper room, Jesus said, “This cup is the New Covenant sealed in my blood…” He was saying that in the context of the Passover – which was the story of the Old Covenant. He was pouring and blessing the cups that represented that most sacred event. And he was changing it! He was making it about himself!!! Friends, we cannot begin to imagine what that was like for the disciples to hear!!
So, in this prayer, Jesus teaches us to pray to God “You are our daily sustenance. We need from you what we need to live.” And remember when Jesus said “live,” it was always more than just “keeping the blood pumping.” It meant joyous living! It meant fulfilled living! That’s the kind of life God wants for us! Do you have that life in you? Not just life without end, but the endless joy of life?
While you’re thinking about that, let me point out to you that this phrase about our “daily bread” is tied to what comes after it. There’s the conjunction “and” in there. “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Why would Jesus link those two? Was it just a flow thing? Did it make the prayer read more smoothly?
I think not. He’s saying that when we have what we need for life, when we have what we need for life eternal, then we’ll better realize that there’s another thing we need. And knowing that God is our sustenance makes this easier. Because what it is that we need has to do with others. Notice, this whole prayer so far has been about our relationship with God, now it’s about the need for wholeness in our relationship with other people.
That’s not surprising if you think about how important that was to Jesus. So much of his ministry was teaching people about reconciliation in human relationships. And that’s how this kingdom would come to be on earth as it is in heaven! “Our Father in heaven, …you’ve forgiven us, now help us to forgive others.” “We have been reconciled to you, help us to be reconciled to each other.”
That was so important to Jesus! Earlier in this Sermon on the Mount, he said, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift right there! And go and first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Jesus wanted us to know that prayer and worship – in fact all of our spiritual lives – are not separate from our relationships with others. Right here in this prayer Jesus has added in that “human relationship” factor.
And so it is that we celebrate this sacrament together. And so it is that we recognize this as a faith community event. That’s they way Jesus intended it! This most sacred of rites is not private. Yes, it’s about reconciliation with God, but at the same time it’s also about reconciliation with each other! So, as we celebrate with our brothers and sisters here in this place, we also celebrate with fellow Christians around the world this day. And we know that this sacrament is also about our relationships in the church universal, and about God’s call to love for all his people!
So, that’s the next part. And as we close, I’m not going to have us pray the Lord’s prayer together, like previous weeks. Instead, I want us to share it with Christians around the world as part of our communion liturgy.
Our Father in heaven, creator of the universe. Help us to know that everything we have is a gift from you. Help us to be grateful people. And help us to be reconciled to all the people in our lives, and all your children around the world. For this we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.