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Gates-Fourth UMC

March 4, 2012

 

SERMONS ON THE LORD’S PRAYER

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

Matthew 6:11

 

          Both Luke and Matthew’s Jesus tells us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” For most of us here today this is not an urgent issue. We do not have anxiety over bread for the day. In fact, most of us have too much bread in our diets and we have the waistlines to show for it. In one of my churches a Sunday school teacher began to instruct her four-year-olds about The Lord’s Prayer. When they came to the request, “Give us this day our daily bread,” she heard one of the boys praying, “Give us this day our Daily Donuts!” As his father was picking up the boy after Sunday school, she told him about his son’s humorous translation. “Well,” his father said, “I guess it’s because we stop at Daily Donuts and purchase a bag of donuts for our Sunday lunch.”

 

          But this four-year-old was right. Most of us here today live in a “Daily Donuts” world. We mainline congregations have few who are struggling for bread. We have “bread”---the basics for living---without much worry. But those in our congregation for whom bread is a critical survival struggle remind us that a Daily Donut society is denied to so many. Certainly when we provide food and clothing for the most desperate of those with too little bread, we do them a real service. But the real payoff for our doing this is to help us keep in mind that our comfortable Daily Donut world is not the norm. When Ellen offers our breakfast grace she often confesses to God, “We are so blessed,” a reminder of how fortunate we are.

 

Yet we all understand that there are many in our nation, and all over the world for which bread is critical a necessity and a scarcity. Seeing the pictures on our TV of images of malnourished children dying from the lack of a scrap of

 

food is disturbing. Today in the USA hungry persons and families confront us with a reality we would rather not see.

 

          Friday, Ellen and I attended an archery shoot involving our grandson and granddaughter, for mid-high and elementary school children in the annual Schwarzenager fitness program at the Vets Memorial. There we saw Kent Beittel, son of a long time ministerial colleague now retired. Kent and Mary belong to the Broad Street United Methodist where Ellen and I attend. For twenty-eight years, Kent has been the Director of the Open Shelter here in Columbus. The Open Shelter ministers to the very down and out, providing them with food, a safe place to sleep and clothing. But somewhere in his Christian journey Kent heard a call to give himself to “the least and the lost” as Jesus is described. He has a significant material bread ministry.

 

          So what does all of this mean for most of us that have adequate bread? It means directly serving the needs of those hungering for bread. Our monthly community breakfast in preparing the food, setting up tables and serving the hungry are part of this. Beyond this we must participate in community organizations caring for the hungry and the poor. It means calling for political and economic structures to reduce the number of the hungry, electing officials who will reform the status quo that keeps the hungry in their bondage to hunger. We will need to do all these things.

 

But there are critical hungers that plague all of us whether or not bread is an issue for us. In the temptation story, Jesus says to Satan, “Humans do not live by bread alone.” There are human hungers raising doubts and questions haunting all of us. We ask, “Are we alone in the universe?” I do not mean if there is life beyond our planet, like those little green creatures that fly across the sky in their flying saucers. “Are we alone in the universe?” is our search for an answer to this question of what someone has called “cosmic loneliness.” We want to know if human life and all other forms of life are grounded in an eternal Presence within and without, a Presence keeping us in its eternal care and impacting our lives here and now. If the answer is “yes” our anxieties are dampened even if great mystery remains about this conviction.

 

Another total human hunger is a desire to know if there is any lasting purpose to life. The Scriptures in our tradition overwhelming say purpose is written into the universe. From the Creation passages in the first pages of the Hebrew Bible, to the closing words of Revelation, the last book in the Christian scriptures, this “yes” is affirmed over and over again. We need a positive answer to this hunger otherwise life has no serious meaning. Too many in today’s world are caught up in the negative answer to the question of purpose, hungering for the saving bread of, “Yes, life has a lasting purpose.”

 

A final human hunger is an answer to our concern, “Does anything survive?” The joys and delights of life, our accomplishments, the fair systems of justice, works of art and music, nature’s beauty, friendships and the richness of lived out human love in fidelity to another person, and ultimately our personal existence---these hunger for a positive answer. Until we discover a positive answer short of total certainty, for we life by faith not by sight, life is tragic. Nothing good survives the onslaught of time. Might it be an invigorating commitment to place our faith in our tradition that God is the final reality that gathers up all that is good in us, in nature and in history---Someone who makes certain that whatever falls short of its potential through disease, accident, history, the violence of nature or even our self-destruction, is finally scooped up into an Eternal Loving Care?

 

We come to church for a combination of reasons. But the basic reason is that we are spiritually hungry. So we may pray this line of the Lord’s Prayer in this sense also “Give us this day our daily bread.”

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