5th Sunday in Lent March 18, 2018
155, 170, 145, 36
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
#5) The 4th Petition
“Give us this day our daily bread.”
What does this mean?
God gives daily bread without our asking, even to unbelievers, but we pray in this petition that He would teach us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.
What is meant by daily bread?
“Daily bread” means everything we need for our bodily well-being. It includes food, drink, clothes, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money and goods, a godly husband or wife, godly children, godly workers, godly and faithful leaders, good government, good weather, peace, health, education, honor, faithful friends, trustworthy neighbors—and things like that.
In our house, food comes and goes at a fast rate. Raising four boys sometime seems like the grocery store ought to install a revolving door. My wife serves a nice variety of foods, meats, vegetables. Yet, there is always one staple food that we seem to always have on hand: peanut butter and bread. This is necessary because one of those four boys eats at his own pace and with his own tastes. He is simple about his food choices. If it were up to him, he would have a peanut butter sandwich every meal. Fortunately, there is a ready supply.
But what if we lived 150 years ago? We couldn’t just drive a half mile to Aldi and grab a jar and a loaf. If we were living in the 1800’s it would take a lot more effort and time to make that peanut butter sandwich. First we would have to grow the peanuts. We would plant the seed, nurture and care for it, watch it grow up as a plant and then send it’s pegs into the ground where the peanut seed is formed. After about 120 frost-free days we would finally be ready to harvest those peanuts. Once the harvest arrives, we’d pick the seeds, shell them, and clean them. Then we have to roast the peanuts and blend them. At last, we have our peanut butter!! Only one thing, we don’t have bread yet. We haven’t grown the grain to make into flour and bake into that loaf of bread which we are used to having ready and on hand at every meal.
We are so far removed from the actual dirt and work that produces food we eat, that we don’t event think about it. Ever since the industrial revolution, over 90% of our population is almost completely divorced from the sweat, suffering, and sacrifice that it takes to make a loaf of bread. I wonder if the little guy would be so quick to turn down a baked potatoes, if he had to make his own bread and peanut butter before he could eat. We’ve forgotten what it was like to wait in anticipation of the harvest and wonder if it will be a good enough crop to feed our families through the winter months.
God indeed gives us our daily bread without our asking. Today we pray for two things: (1) that God would teach us to realize this gift and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving, and (2) that God would continue to give us what we need for our bodily well being.
Every child has favorite foods and ones they greatly dislike. One particular food that our little guy doesn’t like is potatoes. For whatever reason—whether it’s the texture, taste, or all in his mind—the only way he will eat potatoes is if they come in a little red box with Golden Arches on it.
I’ve often wondered, what would he do if we were an Irish family living in the 1800’s? First of all, if you were living in Ireland during the 1800’s potatoes were pretty much the only thing you would ever eat. Two-Thirds of the Irish population relied on the potato farming industry to survive. It was a cheap crop and it provided a lot of calories to sustain the working class. You could bake them, slice them, mash them, or make potato soup—almost every meal was going to involve potatoes in some way. That was, until the potato blight of 1845 struck.
In 1845, a mold disease spread through those Irish countryside and for close to four years, the potato industry was ruined. Still there was a grain crop, but due to trade laws, it was more advantageous for investors to ship it to the mainland and trade with the British. Landowners began evicting their tenants because they could not produce a crop and they could not pay the rent. During the Potato Famine of 1845 over one million Irish died and another million emigrated to the United States to look for a more promising future.
Now, are you sure you still can’t eat those scalloped potatoes? Are you still sure you need to worry about getting that raise? Are you still sure you need to complain about the poor service you received at the restaurant last night? Are you still sure you can’t bare to cut out cable TV when money is tight?
As Americans, we eat so much food that we have to go on diets and we do so little hard work that we have to pay someone to let us use their exercise machines. When we are in too much of a rush to go to the grocery store, we just pull up to a window where we can exchange a plastic card for a burger in five minutes. We accumulate so much stuff that we have to pay for extra buildings called “storage units” and we even have medical disorders named after the inability to get rid of stuff.
Jesus didn’t have such luxury. Throughout His ministry, He never owned property and He constantly had to rely on others and God to support His bodily well-being. By the end, even the clothes on his back were taken by gamblers. He was stripped bare. Stripped bare of His belongings and His dignity. He even had to give up His own mother. At the cross Jesus gave up what was dearest to Him. He had to leave His loved ones behind. Which is why He prays, “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.” (John 17:15)
Jesus gave up everything in order to accept our embarrassment and our nakedness. He accepted our ungrateful greed and at the cross He put greed to death in His flesh. All the greed that has kept us from giving thanks or led us to discontentment, all the greed that has showed itself in worry or complaint—He accepted it and put it to death.
Jesus teaches us to give thanks. He teaches us to be thankful on a “whole-nother level,” which is why the Fourth Petition is about more than just food. Yes, it is about material goods—in fact it is the only petition in the whole Lord’s Prayer that is for material goods. But ultimately, it is about more than that. It is about a God who loves, a God who has mercy, and a God who gives lavishly.
What we pray for in this petition is that God would give us a thankful, content, and sharing heart. By recognizing Jesus as our Savior and as the one who gave up everything for us, we learn to pray this prayer. Whether it is just a peanut butter sandwich or a baked potato, this is a prayer of thanksgiving for all that God has done for us and seeing Him as the source of all good things. There is nothing bad that a God of such love and sacrifice could ever give us. Here we see how greatly the Lord has blessed us and give thanks for it.
God indeed gives us our daily bread without our asking. And that daily provision is more than just bread. By bread, we mean everything God gives for our bodily well-being. We mean food, drink clothes, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money and goods, a godly husband or wife, godly children, godly workers, godly and faithful workers, good government, good weather, peace, health, education, honor, faithful friends, trustworthy neighbors—and things like that. With “daily bread” we include family and the care of a loving son for his lonely mother.
Even in His dying moments, Jesus never stops thinking of those around Him. He never stopped thinking of us and of those He loved. From the cross, He looks down and sees his mother. He sees His mother and His beloved friend and disciple John standing next to her. And He says to His mother, “Behold your son.” And to John He says, “Behold, Your mother.” (John 19:26-27)
It is assumed that Jesus says this because Mary is a widow. In those days, a widow like Mary would be in dire straights if she had no husband and no son to care for her. She would have had no property and no place to live. Perhaps she had other sons, we are not told. Nevertheless, Jesus knows she is in need. She needs the comfort and support of a friend after He is gone. And from that time forward John took her to his own home.
The fact that God gives us a home is indeed a gift of grace. We do not deserve it, yet each of us is born into a family. Still not all families recognize this gift. Some do not honor and do not uphold their calling in the family. There are men who leave their pregnant wives alone. There are fathers who abuse their children. There are mothers who break the law and end up in jail. So easily this gift of family is broken. The place where food, shelter, and security should be found becomes a place where abuse, negligence, and violence take place. Likewise, all of us, in our own way, are often unwilling to sacrifice ourselves and our selfish desires in order to love and serve those in our care. Sadly, this sometimes leads to children having to be put in foster care or protective services.
That is why our church has gotten involved in a book drive for children in foster homes. The department of social services in our area averages 200-300 children at any given time being taken from their homes and put into foster care. Most of these come into homes and leave with nothing. They are taken out of their homes and away from their belongings. So we’ve gotten involved in collecting books for these children to have and to take with them when they return home.
What we are praying in the fourth petition is that God would supply what we need for our bodily well-being. And if you ask my wife, books are a bodily need! Luther thought the same thing. Along with a godly family, peace and health, he prays for “education.” Indeed, our daily bread is so much bigger than a peanut butter sandwich. It is the family we belong to, the church that ministers to us, the society and government that surrounds us and every way that God cares for our physical, emotional, and mental well being.
Yes, the system breaks down. Yes, sin infects it and things go wrong. But here we are as lights in the world with opportunities all around us to show people the hope that is in us. Perhaps it is as simple as a book or even better, a Bible story book. Or maybe it is something more. Maybe you could be one of those homes that opens their doors to a child who has no safe home. Maybe you could be one of those parents who fosters a child for a time or actually adopts a child and gives them a Christian home. Maybe your home is God’s way of providing daily bread to a child in need. Maybe your home could be the place where Jesus says, “Behold your mother” and “Behold your child.”
The reason so many died and so many emigrated from Ireland during the Great Potato Famine, due in part to the greediness of the upper class who were more interested in turning a profit than helping supply their fellow man with daily bread. Because of tax laws, it was a better investment to ship grain to England than to sell it in their own lands.
Daily bread is never in short supply. What is often lacking is compassion and grateful hearts. And that is something only God can supply. And God supplies us in abundance. When Jesus looks down from the cross and says to his mother “Behold Your Son,” we see the compassion of God. Although He is suffering for our sins, Jesus still thinks of our every need both of soul and of body. So we pray in this petition that the God who gives daily bread without our asking, even to unbelievers, would teach us to realize that He gives us these gifts, to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving, and to share with the underprivileged around us. Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
“The Fourth Petition” and Explanation are from “Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, A Handbook of Christian Doctrine,” by Michael A. Sydow; Published by the CLC Board of Education and Publications, 2006.