Sermon: Daily Bread

I invite you to open your Bibles with me to the Gospel According to Matthew. Matthew 6, beginning in verse 9. Matthew is in the New Testament, about 2/3 of the way through your Bibles. Matthew is the first of four accounts of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was written by Matthew, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Matthew 6, beginning in verse 9.

This fall, we are sitting at the feet of Jesus as he teaches us to pray. We have spent the last few weeks focusing on the God-centered petitions of the Lord’s Prayer – for God’s name, his kingdom, and his will. This morning we begin to turn more directly to our needs, specifically the everyday need for bread, for food. We find that God is not unconcerned with our normal, physical needs and that, as he cares for them, we are drawn deeper into the heart of God for us. It’s Matthew 6, beginning in verse 9, but before we hear God’s word, please take a moment to pray with me. 

Father, may your Word be our rule, Your Holy Spirit our teacher, and the glory of Jesus Christ our single concern. Amen.

If you are able, I invite you to stand as we hear God’s word. Listen closely and listen well, for these are the very words of God:

Pray then in this way:

Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven,

give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our debts,

as we also forgive our debtors.

And do not bring us to the time of trial,

but rescue us from the evil one.

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God. (You may be seated)

We were made to hunger and to be filled. Before we know how to do anything else, we know how it feels to be hungry, and we know how to look for that hunger to be satisfied. I’ve had the privilege of being in the room when each of our three children were born. Olga is a rock star, by the way. As soon as a baby is born, they are screaming. It is a cold, bright, and noisy world outside the womb. Yet within a few minutes of being born, doctors now recommend skin-to-skin contact between mom and baby and to try and get the child to latch onto her breast and eat. From the moment we are born, we know how to be hungry. And the first thing we show a newborn child is where to go for that hunger to be satisfied.

We were made to hunger and to be filled. As children grow, they don’t outgrow hunger. Needing food isn’t a phase we grow out of as we get older. What we want to eat changes from milk only to include things like carrots, peaches, avocados, and, in our house, a lot of potatoes. Our hunger grows more complex, but it doesn’t go away. In fact, I’ve been told that teenagers eat a lot more than toddlers. Their hunger grows until they consume everything in the house.

We were made this way – made to hunger and be filled. We need daily bread. The physical way our bodies were made by God points to something deeper. We are complex emotional, relationship, physical, spiritual beings. We hunger for purpose, for meaning, for love, for friendship, for wholeness. But in and behind all these hungers, we hunger for God. It is as Saint Augustine once said, “O Lord, you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” We were made to hunger and for that deep hunger to be satisfied by the Lord.

Give us this day our daily bread. We are hungry people. Every day. Christians pray this pray coming to the Lord to satisfy our everyday physical hunger as well as the deep hunger of our souls.

This morning, as we hear Jesus teach us to pray for daily bread, ask yourself: What am I hungry for and where do I go to satisfy that hunger?

What am I hungry for and where do I go to satisfy that hunger?

Let me tell you a story:

For over four hundred years, we were slaves in Egypt. On the surface, it was a good land. It was fertile soil watered by the Nile. The land produced abundantly. But it was a land of death. Pharaoh had power over life and death. When he became afraid of how much the Lord had blessed us, he took our baby boys and drowned them in the Nile. He worked us to the bone with the whip and the rod, building monuments to Pharaoh’s name and temples honoring the false gods of Egypt.

We cried out to the Lord from that land of death, that house of bondage, and the Lord heard our cries. He sent Moses and went with him to confront Pharaoh. Moses, speaking on behalf of the Lord, called for Pharaoh to let us go, but Pharaoh, in his hard-heartedness, refused. So demonstrated his strength by breaking the power of Egypt and of Pharaoh. Ten Plagues systematically targeted all the so-called God’s of Egypt and revealed their impotence. You have a god of the Nile who you claim brings life and abundance to Egypt? The LORD turns the Nile to blood until the whole land stinks of death. You have a frog god? I will make frogs until they crawl into your bed at night, then kill them in an instant. You trust in Ra, the sun God?  I will blot out the sun, plunging the land into darkness. But it was the last plague that finally broke Pharaoh. The Lord took the lives of all the first born of Egypt, passing over only our people who painted the blood of a lamb on their door posts of their houses. Finally, Pharaoh let our people go.

But as we reached the border of Egypt, by the Red Sea, Pharaoh changed his mind. He gathered his horses and chariots, his entire army and came rushing down after us. With the sea at our backs, our children, our elderly, and our animals in tow, it looked like our story would end in Egypt, that land of death. But the LORD split the Red Sea, piling up the water on one side and on the other so that we passed through on dry land. The whole people passed through the waters out of the land of death to the other side.

When Pharaoh came rushing after us, the LORD unleashed the Red Sea and the waters that were deliverance for us, became waters of judgment for Pharaoh and his army was swallowed up by the deep.

So we danced and sang of the greatness of the Lord on the far side of the sea. We grabbed our tambourines and praised the God who had brought us out of Egypt on dry ground.

But not two months later our tune had changed. We grew hungry. But even after our dramatic rescue by God, we had not yet learned where to go. In Exodus 16, we hear, The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread: for you have brought us out into the wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (Exodus 16:2-3)

Talk about short term memory. How easy is it to forget, and how easy is it to mis-remember the past? Listen again: If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread. Is that what Egypt was like? Really? Nevermind the backbreaking work, never mind our children drowned in the Nile, never mind the whip and the staff, Pharaoh throwing our people to the ground and placing his boot on our throats. Nevermind all that, we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread. Years later, the people grumbled again about food and remembered this about Egypt: We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. (Number 11:5). Egypt must have been a life of luxury – free fish, fruit, vegetables – variety. They forgot what Egypt was like, and it didn’t take long.

Before we starting thinking, “What stupid Israelites! How could they forget when the plagues and the crossing of the Red Sea had just happened?” Before we blame them, we should take a hard look at ourselves.

Anyone other than me have an iPhone? In the most recent update to the operating system of the iPhone, it began to gather and display some disturbing information. Built into the phone is something called ‘Screen Time.’ It tells me information I should know, but I certainly don’t want to know. How much time I spend on Facebook or Twitter. Or even how many times I pick up my phone during the day. Whatever we say on Sunday, for many of us during the week, technology has become where we go to find our hungers satisfied. How often do you find yourself picking up your phone without realizing you are doing it? Just touching your pocket to make sure it is there? Checking Facebook or Instagram to ward off boredom? The test is coming up in a couple days, but instead of studying you binge watch half a season of a show on Netflix. You know it is a mess and people will only make you more frustrated and anxious if you go on Facebook, but you go anyway, because you get a little rush when you log-on. You may think I’m being dramatic, but the research is there and it is troubling. We were made to hunger and many of us have learned to look everywhere but God in order to satisfy that hunger.

If you aren’t on social media or aren’t particularly tech-savvy, you aren’t immune. What is your ‘if only’? If only this were true, life would finally be okay. If only I could get past this hurdle at work, life will be okay. If only my health were better, life would be okay. If only my kids weren’t fighting, life would be okay. If only my finances were in better shape, life would be okay. If only, you fill in the blank. Whatever your ‘if only’ is, that is the place you look to satisfy the hunger of your soul – the hunger for safety, for relief from fear or anxiety, for purpose, for wholeness, for meaning, for peace. Like the Israelites in the wilderness, when we look anywhere else but God, we end up looking to Egypt, which can never satisfy.

So we are taught to pray, Give us this day our daily bread. The Lord’s response to the hunger of Israel and their longing for Egypt is the same response he gives to us when we hunger and when we turn to all sorts of different places for relief. He gives us daily bread.

For our ancestor in the wilderness, the Lord said this, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day.” Daily bread. Every day for forty years, the people got up and went out of their tents and found small white flakes like coriander seed on the ground for them to eat. They called it manna, meaning ‘what is it?’ because they weren’t sure exactly what it was. But we are told that every day, except for one day a week, called the Sabbath, there was Manna on the ground for them. Daily Bread. On the day before the Sabbath, they were to gather double for the next day. But every day, the Lord provided for them. Every day without fail for forty years.

Daily bread was God’s way of teaching the people where to go to satisfy their hungers. Both because of their sinful nature and because of four hundred years in Egypt, we knew no other place to go to relieve our hunger than Pharaoh. Even if it meant slavery, even if it meant pain and suffering, where else could we go? Even if there is no app that will quiet the deep questions in our hearts, where else could we go? Even if there is no amount of money in the bank that will make us truly secure, where else could we go? Even if there is no amount of success in our life or the lives of our children that can truly give us worth, where else could we go?

So the Lord rained down bread from heaven – daily bread – that we would know where to go for all the true hungers of our hearts. It was always enough. Each day they went out and gathered their daily bread and it was enough for that day. Some families gathered more and some less, but it was always enough. When people tried to hoard it, it grew rotten. It was bread enough for that day, but when they got up tomorrow, there was bread enough for that day too.

For forty years, the Lord taught us where to go for our physical hunger, to train our hearts to know where to go for all the deeper hungers of life. Give us this day our daily bread. When the forty years were finished and we took the first steps into the promised land, the manna stopped but really nothing changed. It was still the Lord who gave our daily bread, only now through the work of our hands and others. And it is still the Lord who is the satisfaction of all our hearts deepest desires.

What are you hungry for and where do you go to satisfy your hunger? Our Lord Jesus taught us to pray, Give us this day our daily bread. In praying this, we come to the LORD for sustenance, we come as hungry people – physically, spiritually, emotionally, relationally – and look for God to satisfy us. Give us this day our daily bread is a prayer that, through whatever means he chooses, God would give us enough for today. It is a prayer that we would not forget where our bread comes from, where our needs are truly met.

But it is also a prayer that acknowledges that our daily bread is a gift. What God gives us each day to sustain our lives, to lift up our hearts, to fill our souls, is not something he owes us. It is a gift. And as a gift, it is something we can freely share. We can share because all we have is already a gift to us. For many of us in this room, daily bread is not a problem. Our freezers are full and our tables set with food. We more easily perish from too much bread than too little. This, in some ways, puts us at a disadvantage in praying this prayer in relation to those who know what it means to need their daily bread. We are more prone to the pride and forgetfulness that plagues the rich than the genuine gratitude of those who live in total dependence on the Lord.

What do you hunger for and where do you go to find satisfaction? Give us this day our daily bread. As we pray daily, we learn to look for bread, for the answer to all our hungers, from the Lord’s hands. The more we learn where to go for our hunger, the more easily we may find it to share our bread with others.

When you are hungry, where do you go? We were made to hunger and made to be filled. We were made to look to the Lord as the fulfillment of all our hungers. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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