Lord’s Prayer: Give us today our daily bread

Sermon Date: 
24 Jun 2012
Bible Base: 
Phil 4: 4-20, Matt 6: 25-34

David Jeans

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The Lord’s Prayer : Give us today our daily bread.
Most of you will know that our time in New Zealand influenced me quite a lot. One thing I always enjoyed were the times in College Worship when the leader would invite everyone to say the Lord’s Prayer in their own native language – and as we had students from all over Polynesia and Melanesia, from Africa and Asia plus Maori and European New Zealanders from a variety of European origins, it was a rich mix reminding us of the way in which Jesus is followed and worshipped by people from all nations. (My favourite language was pigeon English from the Solomon Islands, which talks about God as ‘longfella in sky’!).
I’d like to try the Lord’s Prayer in Maori:-
Leader: Kua akona nei tatou e to tatou Ariki, ka inoi tatou
All : E to matou Matua i te rangi, Kia tapu tou Ingoa.
Kia tae mai tou rangatiratanga.
Kia meatia tau e pai ai ki runga ki te whenua, kia rite ano ki to te rangi.
Homai ki a matou aianei he taro ma matou mo tenei ra.
Murua o matou hara,
Me matou hoki e muru ne i o te hunga e hara na ana ki a matou.
Aua hoki matou e kawea kia whakawaia;
Engari whakaorangia matou i te kino:
Nou hoki te rangatiratanga, te kaha, me te kororia,
Ake ake ake Amine
When I first heard the Lord’s Prayer in Maori, there was one word that stood out for me – anyone? It was the word ‘matou’. Now I thought this must mean grace of forgiveness or something like that. But actually it is the Maori word used for ‘we’, ‘us’ and ‘our’. And it made me realise that the Lord’s Prayer is a prayer we say together – we can say it alone, but primarily we say it together. It’s about us, not just about me!
This is particularly true about the section of the prayer we are thinking about this morning. Give US today OUR daily bread.
Our reading from Matthew speaks about not worrying about what we are going to eat or wear because God will look after us. Perhaps we struggle with that reading. But actually I think the key thought in it is in verse 33:-
Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.
Now as always we Europeans tend to think individualistically about things like this. If I seek first God’s Kingdom then God will look after me. That’s true but it doesn’t quite work the way we think it does.
This is where the old translations help us. Modern English has dropped the distinction between ‘thou’ and ‘thee’ (singular) and ‘ye’ and ‘you’ (plural) (except in parts of Yorkshire perhaps). (The AV calls God ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ not because it’s more respectful, but because it’s singular. Of course in modern French the ‘tu’ form is the familiar and ‘vous’ is polite, and I suspect that older English was like that as well.)
Now if we read this verse in the AV it reads ‘seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you’. It’s plural, it’s addressed to all of us.
The second thing about the verse is that the Greek word for ‘righteousness’ is the same as the word for ‘justice’. So perhaps this verse should read ‘seek (all of you) the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things will be added to you’.
There’s an old story which I have told you before but I will tell it again. Someone once had a vision of hell where the inmates were sat at a long table with a beautiful plate of food in front of each of them. The problem was they each only had a 3 foot long spoon to eat it with. Try as hard as they could they could not get the food into their mouths, so they all starved. He then had a vision of heaven. The same long table, the same beautiful food, and the same long spoon. But this time each person used the long spoon to feed the person 3 away from them , and so all were fed.
At the heart of seek first the kingdom of God and his justice and all these things will be added to you is this:-
If we all seek to live according to the kingdom of God and to live according to God’s justice, then the abundant resources of the earth will be distributed fairly and all will have enough. As I was saying last week, as we pray the Lord’s Prayer we are called to be part of God’s answer to the prayer.
But our problem is that we find it very difficult not to be selfish. Sinful self-centredness is so often our default position. What’s so wrong with avoiding taxes has been part of the media discussion this week. But paying our fair share of the expenses of the whole community is part of what it means for us as Christians to seek the Kingdom of God and his justice. How can we deal with our own sinful selfishness?
(It’s an age-old problem of course. Remember God’s provision of the manna to the people of Israel in the wilderness. They were to gather the manna according to how many people they had to feed. If they tried to gather more to hoard it, it had gone rotten by the next day.)
Jesus spoke these words in John 6:-
I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever.
When we pray ‘give us today our daily bread’ we primarily think of our physical food. But we also need to ask God for spiritual food, the daily nourishment that comes from our daily relationship with Jesus; the food that fills us with God’s Holy Spirit and changes us to make us fit for the Kingdom of God, fit for the life of the age to come. For it is as we daily grow more like Christ that we can begin to not just seek the Kingdom of God and his justice, but to find it and live it out. And then we will do our bit to make sure that others receive their fair share, and that others find the kingdom of god for themselves.
You will be surprised to know that there is a prayer in the New Zealand Prayer Book that sums this up beautifully. It’s on the service sheet (and may appear on the screen):-
God of seed and growth and harvest, creator of need, creator of satisfaction;
give us, we pray, our daily bread, sufficient and assured for all.
Give us also, we pray, the bread of life,
and we shall have a care to feed the hungry,
and to seek for peace and justice in the world.
Help us, then, to remember and to know that you are our life today and every day;
you are the food we need, now and for ever.
Note that middle part – Give us the bread of life (our relationship with Christ and the Holy Spirit living in us and making us more like Christ day by day) – and we shall have a care to feed the hungry and to seek for peace and justice in the world.
As we allow God to be our life today and every day, as we receive our spiritual food from him, then we can become the answer to our own prayers and th