Lord’s Prayer, Fourth Petition
- Author: Robert Bekkerus will graduate with a Master of Divinity from Luther Seminary in 2009.
- Updated: 07/16/2009
- Copyright: Robert Bekkerus
Text: 2 Chronicles 31:2-12a
Theme: Give us this day our daily bread.
Robert Bekkerus sermon puts the fourth petition of the Lord Prayer into a great perspective for a modern understanding. We are reminded that we are given an abundance from God and for this we are to thank God and share with those in need.
Topic: Lord's Prayer, Fourth Petition
Scripture: 2 Chronicles 31:2-12a
This sermon was preached at a Wednesday Lenten Sermon at St. Andrew Lutheran Church, Eden Prairie. The congregation as a whole is 10,000 members, generally in an upper-class suburb of Minneapolis. However, the service that was being held that night was populated by a number of confirmation-aged (7-8 grade) students and their families, as well as others. The sermon began showing four short clips from the movie "Field of Dreams," showing Ray and his brother sparring over whether or not to sell the field, and concluding with Ray's brother seeing the baseball players in the field.
Movie Clips: 1:20:55-1:21:41, 1:26:39-1:28:13, 1:29:03-1:29:09, 1:29:40-1:29:57
That was an edited clip from Field of Dreams. And what a powerful message. You see, Ray, played by Kevin Costner, has been building this baseball field in the middle of nowhere (You know, Iowa). And everyone is watching him, asking why he is doing this, wasting all of this money? His brother in law continually tries to force him to sell the farm, to give up. But Ray sees these baseball players out there. A few others see them too, but his brother in law misses them. And then, in this scene, all of the sudden, the guy realizes what is going on.
Those moments are pretty amazing, aren't they? Those moments when we realize that we have been seeing something, but we have been missing the bigger picture, missing the deeper meaning. All of the sudden, we begin to realize the deeper point. That there is something more than what we have noticed before.
We are studying the Lord's Prayer, and this week, we are looking at "Give us this day our daily bread." When we read this at first, it has an easy, selfish meaning. We are asking that God will provide us with what we need. We are asking that God will give us food. How many times have we said this? And we, here in Eden Prairie, we often gloss over this. Why? We are blessed. We have not worried where dinner would come from in quite some time. Maybe every once in awhile we worry. But most of the time, we simply know that we are going to be fed, and warm, and safe.
When we talk about this, there are two important things we need to discuss. First: What is daily bread? Luther thought this was important enough to put in the catechism, and I want to read it for you. He writes: Daily bread includes everything needed for this life, such as food and clothing, home and property, work and income, a devoted family, an orderly community, good government, favorable weather, peace and health, a good name, and true friends and neighbors. Wow...that's a lot more than we think when we simply think about dinner on the table.
If daily bread is all of these things, the question is, who gave us daily bread. I think that our prayer is equally about asking God for our daily bread, and acknowledging that this daily bread comes from God. You see, if we think that we get all of this stuff by our hard work, then the prayer seems silly. Why would you even say the words? If you think all this bread comes from you--If you think that your blood, sweat, and tears produce it all, then asking "God" for it is ridiculous. Our prayer acknowledges something important--we believe that God is giving us all that we have.
The bible talks a great deal about this. James tells us that "Every Good and Perfect Gift is from above." We have been given a lot of good gifts. A LOT of good gifts. This is a blessed place. We are a blessed people. And these gifts, the gifts we have been given come from one place. From God.
Why? Because God loves us. God loves us and that is why he gave us life. That is why he gave us salvation. And that is why He gives us good gifts. The Gospel we read says if you, who are "evil," or sinful know how to give good gifts, then a God who IS love, who is love embodied, who is made of love, can give gifts that are that much better. The gift of a body. The gift of talent and ability. The gift of time. The gift of family and friends and love and good government and favorable weather and on...and on...and on... Even the gift of a nice house to come home to, and even bread on the table.
The ancient Israelites knew this. They knew that they were being given to by God. They knew that the fruit of their labor was from God. And so, they gave to God an offering of the fruits. We do that too. We give our money, our time, our food, our possessions, and our efforts to others. But those ancient Israelites used an important word. If we look at that Old testament lesson, we see this word: first fruits.
The ancient people knew, very well, that God had given them what they had. They knew that the new crop they had harvested was not their doing. It was FROM GOD. And so, they did not give God the leftovers. They brought, to the temple, the best of the best from what they had. The choice meat, the choice grain, the choice food. They brought thanksgiving dinner, not spam that was going to expire next week. The priests would take what they needed, and then they would distribute it to the poor, the widows, those in need, and they would be taken care of. In this story, the one we read from Chronicles, they had so much they had to store it for later.
They brought the abundance to where they knew God was. And they didn't do it because they HAD to. They did it because they wanted to. They did it because they knew where the abundance had come from. They brought the best of the best, and laid it there. There was so much, they didn't even know what to do with it.
We have prayed for daily bread, and we have been given so much. We have been blessed. We have been blessed beyond the wildest dreams of some people in this world. I was hearing last week that the food shelves here in Eden Prairie, however, are getting bare. The leaders over there are wondering how they will continue to feed people. Not just here, all over the area. I think we, as a people who are really blessed, need to do something about that. I think its time to give a firstfruits offering. To bring in our best.
So here's the challenge I am laying for you all. Bring in some food. But don't bring in food like I usually bring in for food drives. What I seem to do is to grab whatever is left on the shelves at my house...those things I am not going to eat ever, and throw them into a bag. Lima beans, boxes of scalloped potatoes that were probably never actually potatoes. There's nothing wrong with that, but we want to offer our best. So instead of doing that, go over to rainbow, or off to Cub, and buy the stuff you really like. Bring THAT in. And like the Israelites, leave it in the place you know where God is.
I've pulled out this cross. You see, the cross is where God offered us his best. God offered his son, as a sacrifice on our behalf. It's the place where we are given everlasting life, the greatest gift from God. Without our doing, without our asking, we are offered salvation and communion with the one true God. The cross is the symbol of God's first fruits. God's best. And when we talk about daily bread, and of first fruits, I am reminded of this old saying that comes out of the old Green Hymnal's liturgy, that was said when we turned in offering: We offer with joy and thanksgiving what you have first given us--our selves, our time, and our possessions, signs of your gracious love.
When I told people that I wanted to give you all the opportunity to bring in firstfruits, well-meaning people cautioned me--yeah, people will come back with things on Sunday, if they do it at all. People will bring their things into the church when its convenient. But our time, our talent, our possessions, they are from God. Should we really be fitting what we give to God into the meantime? I am going to take this cross out into the narthex after service, and I would invite you, go and bring your first fruits, your best, and leave it at the cross. Simply leave it there. Tell God that its for Him. Take time out of your schedule. The writers just came back from strike, and there's not really anything good on TV. Go and come back before the doors are closed. If the doors are locked, maybe you like shopping at midnight, leave it by the door. Someone will say--what if someone takes it.......yeah?
That's the point! We are going to offer it to God. And in the name of God, we are going to offer it to others. Offer the best. Find time to serve God--not just when its convenient, but when its needed. When God asks. There are a lot of hungry people out there, who have no daily bread, no food on their table, and I think that just ticks Jesus off. I think it makes Him angry. But I think there are a lot of people without home and property, work and income, a devoted family, an orderly community, good government, favorable weather, peace and health, a good name, and true friends and neighbors. And we can do something about this, too. So lets do it. Lets start tonight, make a pile of food. Bring it tomorrow, or Friday, or Saturday morning, or later, but offer our best, for the one who already offered what was free to us--daily bread, life, and salvation. Thanks be to God!