Thursday, April 1, 2010

Daily Bread and the Cross of Christ

Maundy Thursday
April 1, 2010
Luke 22:7-20

One of the things you learn as a Christian is how to pray. Our sinful nature is quite content asking for things we need in this life. Our sinful nature has no need for the spiritual and eternal things. Our sinful nature would just as soon have us be concerned with the things we need to live in this life at the cost of losing eternal life.

So it’s no surprise that when our Lord has given us ‘His Prayer’ it’s a deeply spiritual prayer. It’s a prayer that combats the readiness with which we pray for our peace of mind, a steady job, a well-paying job, our team to win, our neighbors to keep the noise down, and our family members to stop annoying us so much. When we pray we pray for the things that are staring us in the face. Our feelings, our wants, our dreams, our frustrations, our pain. God wants us to pray to Him in our need and we do.

It’s just that our prayers tend to be so very unspiritual. So Jesus teaches us to pray for things like hallowing His name, His Kingdom to come, His will to be done, our sins to be forgiven, and for us to forgive others, for us not to be led into temptation, and the catch-all spiritual petition: that we be delivered from evil. Jesus is God and knows that our spiritual problems and needs are far greater than our physical ones and the prayer He taught us reflects that.

But there is that one little petition in the middle of it all. You know, that one non-spiritual one. The one that concerns our physical needs, if you will. Give us this day our daily bread. Throughout Lent we have meditated on the petitions, all very spiritual. Tonight we consider the one that’s much more to our liking—God give us what we need to live in this world.

In the middle of our Lord teaching us that our greatest needs are our spiritual and eternal ones He invites us also to pray for our daily bread. For those things we need in order to stay alive. But even more, to enjoy life and reap the benefits of His creation. While filling His Prayer for us to pray with the theology that man does not live by bread alone but by the very Word of God He places smack in the middle of it an invitation to pray for bread. The key I suppose is that we’re not praying for bread alone. But we are praying for daily bread. He knows we need much more than our physical needs to be taken care but at the same time He knows that we need those physical needs to be taken care of as well.

Perhaps He surrounds this petition for our earthly needs to be met with the others which are wholly spiritual to remind us that without our spiritual needs being met we have life for this world only resulting in eternal damnation. As we pray for daily bread we must be mindful that this too is just another gift from God. As He blesses us eternally with His spiritual gifts so He blesses us temporally with His physical gifts. He gives us those things we need in order to live our lives on this earth.

Obviously there are some who don’t have as much as others. And there are some who don’t even have enough to survive. But this is one more reminder to us that the prayer for our physical needs is only one petition among seven that are for our more important spiritual and eternal needs. You may have more than enough to eat and live in luxury but if you die in your sins you die without the glory of heaven for eternity. On the other hand, you may be barely scraping by but if you die in faith of Jesus as your Lord you are with Him and have surpassing wealth in heaven for eternity.

We have come to the heart of Holy Week. Maundy Thursday and Good Friday hone in on the suffering our Lord endured so that eternal blessings are secured. Have you ever thought about all that Jesus went through in His suffering? You know much of the physical torture He endured. But think about another thing He endured beginning from His Last Supper with His disciples. He ate that meal with them and then nothing. From the evening of Maundy Thursday through 3:00 on Good Friday He had nothing to eat. Part of His physical suffering was that He was dreadfully weak. He went through the night with no sleep and with no food. He was expected to carry His cross to the crucifixion site and in one of the few merciful, or perhaps merely practical, acts toward Jesus, they gave the task of carrying His cross to some guy who was on the side of the road. Jesus was too weak to carry His own cross. If it were happening today someone might have given Him one of those power gels long distance athletes use to give themselves energy and stamina.

But for Jesus there was nothing. No food. No drink. He truly was not living by bread alone, and even at all, but by the very Word of God. His life was entrusted to His Heavenly Father. He was brought to the cross.

When we pray the petition that seems to be the only physical one on the list in His Holy Prayer we really should treat it and pray it as we do all the others which are so very spiritual—in light of His cross. Yes, it’s true that we need our daily bread, and obviously true that our Lord invites us to pray for it. But isn’t it even more true that we cannot pray for our daily bread without also realizing that our Lord gives us so much more? He is, after all, the Bread of Life. In His Suffering and Death we have eternal life. There is food which gets us by day to day, and thank God for that! But there is also food which sustains us for eternity.

At this altar He gives it to you. Living Bread. Life-Giving Blood. The Body delivered on the cross, the Blood shed on the cross, given for you, in your mouth, for you to eat and drink, for you to be forgiven, strengthened, sustained.

So we may pray in boldness, Give us this day our daily bread. And we may also pray, Give us this Life-Giving Bread now and forever. Amen.


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