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Sermon for January 21, 2007

The Lord’s Prayer: Give Us Our Daily Bread
Matthew 14:13-21

Imagine the bread aisle at your grocery store. When you think about it, there’s a lot of bread there. In a major grocery store, the aisle is probably 45 feet long with 6 or 7 shelves. Think of the variety of starches in that bread aisle: light and flaky croissants; solid and sturdy bagels, thin a baguettes, wide flatbread, twisted or braided, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. You will see hot dog and hamburger buns in many shapes and sizes. And rolls. There are hard rolls, French rolls, sour dough rolls, dinner rolls, and crescent rolls. Then there are the actual loaves of bread. We have twelve-grain breads, nine-grain breads, eight-grain breads, and the numbers of grains slowly decline until we get to the Wonder Bread – that miracle of modern refinement in its whitest of wrappings. Wonder Bread itself comes in three varieties: Big, Small, and Thin slices. Make sure you notice all the other varieties of bread; Rye – with our without the seeds, Pumpernickel, Sourdough, Italian, French, Raisin, Whole Wheat, Irish Soda, Pita and Potato. And there’s the strangest of all – lo-carb bread. I just don’t get that one. Lastly comes the best and most dangerous part of the bread aisle: the boxed cakes like Ring Dings and Ding Dongs and Twinkies and Zingers; Brownies, and Freihofer’s and Entenmann’s Cakes. Thus ends forty-five feet of the bread section in our family superstore and we are reminded of the fact that America is often called the “breadbasket of the world.”

Next time you walk down that bread aisle, I want you to look at the abundance we have, and turn it into a prayer. I want you to think of the petition in the Lord’s prayer when we ask God to give us this day our daily bread, and I want you to give thanks to Jesus who says that he is the bread of life. Jesus, with his abundant love for ALL people, is so good. His love and way of life are so satisfying. I want you to give thanks that the infinite, compassionate love of Jesus tastes good.

We have a reminder of Jesus’ goodness in today’s scripture reading where he does a miracle with bread. The feeding of the five thousand is the only miracle repeated in all four gospels. The day Jesus fed the multitude was the day that some learned what it meant for God to supply their daily bread. Let’s listen to the passage and reflect on how God provides our needs.

Think about the feeding of the 5000 from the disciple’s point of view. They are tired. Crowds have jostled them around all day long. They’ve accompanied Jesus as he preaches and heals people with tireless energy. When evening comes, the disciples ask Jesus to send the crowds away. “Jesus, tell all these people to go out to eat somewhere – to go home and get some rest. A little peace and quiet would feel so good.” That’s when Jesus pulls out the most disappointing statement of the day. He looks at his disciples and says, “These people aren’t going anywhere. I want YOU to give them something to eat. Now the excuses begin to fly. The disciples complain, “But, but, we only have five loaves of bread and two fish. How can WE food 5000 people?”

The complaint of the disciples is the response of the ages. It’s what people say when they feel overwhelmed by the world around them.

It’s the response of the parent worried about her child. The child has so many peers who exert so much pressure. The child’s friends seem to have more power and influence than the family. The child has so many temptations to face. Sometimes, parents are afraid to send their kids to school. We feel helpless when we realize that we can’t ensure the safety of our children, and we ask, “What are we to do? How are we going to raise our kids with such limited resources?” Like the disciples of old we cry, “This seems impossible. It’s as if we have nothing here but five loaves and two fishes.”

It’s the response of the spouse who desperately tries to make a troubled marriage work – a spouse who grows weary of feeling like the only partner in the relationship. The spark is gone. The couple doesn’t talk anymore. Their bodies might be in the same room, but their minds are always somewhere else. Hungry for a rekindling of passion, the couple is left saying, “We don’t know where to go from here. We feel limited and we don’t know how to make this work. This seems impossible. It’s as if we have nothing here but five loaves and two fishes.”

It is the response of a teen who finds life at school so demanding that he or she no longer knows how to cope. A while ago, a teen wrote a letter to Ann Landers, responding to someone who had lived through the Depression and had described how hard it was to live in the 1930’s. The older person thought life was easier for teens today. The student responded by writing, “Are your parents divorced? Almost every one of my friends comes from a broken home. Where you thinking about suicide when you were twelve? Did you have an ulcer when you were sixteen? Did your classmates carry guns and knives? How many kids in your class came to school regularly drunk, stoned, or high on drugs? What percentage of your class also graduated from a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center? Did your school have armed security guards in the halls? You talk a lot about being dirt poor and having no money. Since when does money mean happiness? The kids at school who have expensive cards and designer clothes are the most miserable. When I am your age, I won’t do much looking back. I’ll just thank God I survived.” What are teens to do in schools that are battlegrounds? How can they cope when they feel as if they don’t have the resources to survive in the world? They cry out “This seems impossible. It’s as if we have nothing here but five loaves and two fishes.”

If we look hard enough, I think we’ll discover a place in each of our lives where we don’t feel like we gave to ability to do what God asks of us. We lack energy. It’s hard to muster faith. Yet, we wait for God to do something remarkable with our struggles. We hunger for God to sustain us with daily bread and give us what we need to make it through life.

“Lord, we have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” It’s a good excuse. We can’t make something out of nothing, no matter how hard we try. The good news for us today is that God can. Jesus says to his disciples, “You give them something to eat.” They ask, “How?” And Jesus says, “Bring them here to me.” He looks up to heaven, blesses and breaks the loaves, and gives them to the disciples, and the disciples feed the crowds, and everyone eats until satisfied.

Some commentators like to spiritualize this passage. They say it has to do with Jesus breaking the bread of communion, or God meeting our needs for spiritual nourishment. I say, why go that far? The people were hungry, and when it looked like they were going to go without food for the night Jesus fed them. He supplied exactly what they needed at that moment. Jesus knows our needs. Jesus knows that we have groceries to buy, rent and mortgages to pay, clothes to purchase, and bills of every sort to pay. Jesus reminds us that God knows us – our desires and hungers, the daily pains, the thousands of trifles that dampen our spirits. God knows the numerous little joys by which we keep on going. Jesus comes to meet us right here in the midst of everyday life. He gives us our daily bread, and he does not demand that we approach him only when we have managed to rise above the trials of day-to-day living. When we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we pray for the help to rely on God for all of our needs. God gives us what we need in order to flourish in this life. God provides it all.

What good news for you moms and dads who wonder, “Do have what it takes not only to be an adequate parent, but a good one?” The answer is no – you don’t have what it takes. At best, we only have five loaves and two fish. But we have a Savior who says, “Bring them to me – your skills and your weaknesses, your strengths and your fears, your children and their futures. Bring them to me, and I will help you meet the daunting task of parenting.”

This is good news for the spouses in troubled marriages, and for the students who feel like they are always swimming upstream. It’s good news for people of conscience who feel called to take a risky stance on an unpopular issue. It’s good news for the person who wants to change the world but doesn’t know how it’s ever going to happen. Christ says to all, “Bring them to me – your hopes, your dreams and convictions, your burdens, your challenges and responsibilities.” The One who fed the multitude with someone’s lunch can do it again – even with the meager resources at our disposal. When life get s the best of us, maybe it’s because we focus on how little we have instead of how much Christ can do.

God gives us what we need. As Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you.

Jesus instructs us to pray saying, “Give us this day our daily bread.” We can pray knowing that God is ready and willing to give us all we need. Jesus looks at our five loaves and two fish and says, “Bring them to me.” Through Christ, God multiplies our resources and makes our lives abundant. The weary find rest, and the hungry are fed. God gives us what we need, and asks us to share the abundance of our blessings with everyone.

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