An older man went to a diner every day for lunch. He always ordered the soup of the day, which came with two slices of bread. One day the manager asked him how he liked his meal. The old man replied "It was good, but you could give me a little more bread."
So the next day the manager told the waitress to give him four slices of bread. "How was your meal, sir?" the manager asked. "It was good, but you could give me a little more bread," came the reply.
So the next day the manager told the waitress to give him eight slices of bread. "How was your meal today, sir?" the manager asked. "It was good, but you could give me a little more bread," came the reply.
So...the next day the manager told the waitress to give him a whole loaf of bread, sliced up, with his soup. "How was your meal, sir?" the manager asked, when he came to hand him the bill. "It was good, but you could give me a little more bread," came the reply once again.
The manager was obsessed with seeing this customer say that he is satisfied with his meal, so he went to the bakery, and ordered a six-foot-long loaf of bread. When the man came in as usual the next day, the waitress and the manager cut the loaf in half, buttered the entire length of each half, and laid it out along the counter, right next to his bowl of soup. The old man sat down, and devoured his bowl of soup, and both halves of the six-foot-long loaf of bread.
The manager now thinks he will get the answer he is looking for, and when the old man came up to pay for his meal, the manager asked in the usual way, "How was your meal TODAY, sir?"
The man replied, "It was good as usual, but why you are back to giving only two slices bread?!"
We’ve been making our way through the Lord’s Prayer the last few weeks. And today, we’ll be looking at “Give us this day our daily bread.” Clearly, that guy at the diner wanted his daily bread—in abundance!
And that’s what we typically think of first, when we think of this part of the Lord’s Prayer. We think of food. Bread is a staple of our diet—I mean, raise your hand if you’ve eaten a sandwich in the last three days?
How about a piece of toast?
How about garlic bread or bread with a meal?
Eaten something made with bread crumbs, like a meatball or mac and cheese?
Eaten crackers, or pita bread, or a wrap or quesadilla or soft taco?
Even if you eat gluten-free, you aren’t exempt! There are a ton of bread and cracker versions made with different types of flours, so you can still have your sandwiches and toast and breadcrumbs. They just taste a bit different, and fall apart a bit easier.
Our first Bible reading from the Gospel of Matthew shows God giving literal daily bread to people. It’s the famous story that we call “The Feeding of the 5,000” because…? Yeah, 5,000 people were fed by Jesus. Actually MORE than 5,000 people were fed, because back then they only counted the men. It didn’t even count the women and children. So there were way more fed than 5,000.
So Jesus is teaching and healing the sick all day, and it gets to be evening and people are hungry. There’s no real place to get food unless they all walk to nearby towns and villages. No McDonald’s, no Panera. (See what I did there? Panera! BREAD.)
So Jesus takes the only food around, five small loaves of bread and two fish, and miraculously multiplies them so more than 5,000 people have enough to eat—and there is so much food that there are 12 baskets left over.
So Jesus, who is God in human form, gives people the food they need in that moment. So daily bread is God providing food for us, like in the Feeding of the 5,000.
But daily bread isn’t just food. Jesus didn’t just provide them food. What else did he give them…? Yeah, he was teaching them and healing them, even before the food.
Our daily bread isn’t just food—it’s everything we need to live. Martin Luther, the guy who our Christian denomination is named after, says that our daily bread is: “Everything included in the necessities and nourishment of our bodies, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, farm, fields, livestock, money, property, an upright spouse, upright children, upright members of the household, upright and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, decency, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.”
That covers a whole lot of what God provides for us every day! When we pray that God gives us our daily bread, we aren’t just asking that God provide us with the food we need. We are asking that God provides for us all of the things we need to live a full life. And God does provide for us, every day. That’s our daily bread.
And Jesus gave them more than just their everyday needs—he gave them spiritual needs too. He taught them and showed them his love for them. We need that, too. We need that spiritual nourishment.
In our reading from the Gospel of John, Jesus says “For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world… I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
Is Jesus saying it’s gonna rain down bread from heaven, like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, that kid’s book where it rains food? Probably not, although he’s Jesus—he can make anything happen. But in this statement, he’s talking about himself. Jesus is our spiritual food, when we are spiritually hungry and thirsty.
This means literally—when do we eat and drink spiritually…? Yeah, when we take Holy Communion. Every week, when we gather here to worship God, we come to this table and Jesus feeds us with his body and blood, the bread and wine. Jesus literally feeds us and becomes part of us.
And Jesus feeding us spiritually isn’t just at Communion—he fills us with what we need spiritually. We hunger and we thirst for God. How many times have you or someone you know said something like, “I knew something was missing…?” We all have a God-shaped hole in us, that can only be filled by God. We sometimes try to fill it with other things—food, material possessions, you name it—but ultimately the only thing that can satisfy us is God.
Jesus fills that God-shaped hole. Jesus feeds us so that we will never be spiritually hungry or thirsty. Jesus gives us that spiritual daily bread that we need.
That guy at the diner didn’t need more bread—he needed Jesus! No matter how much bread he ate, or how the bread was sliced before he ate it, he wasn’t satisfied. Only Jesus can fully satisfy us when we are hungry and empty and longing for meaning in life.
We have been calling the Lord’s Prayer the Dangerous Prayer—and praying for our daily bread is dangerous because we are praying that God gives us what we need—not what we want. Needs and wants are different. We need all those things Luther mentioned—we WANT the new iphone, or that new pair of sneakers or shoes, or that really cool toilet seat that lifts up automatically when you walk into the bathroom. When we pray for our daily bread, we are telling God that God knows what we need, and we trust God to give us what we need—not what we want. We may never get what we want. But God promises to give us what we need.
Praying that God give us our daily bread is especially dangerous because it means that we are asking God to give us what we need AND to fill that God-shaped hole. And when we are satisfied and have what we need—it means that we are now free to help others and share God’s love with them.
Because when we have what we need—we can help those who are in need. That can mean material things like food and shelter and other stuff, but it can also mean spiritually. Even people who have what they need in all other aspects can still have that God-shaped hole. And you can be the one God uses to tell them about Jesus and how Jesus has made an impact in your life.
This is the second verse of the song we are about to sing: "Christ is able to make us one/at the table he sets the tone/teaching people to live to bless/love in word and in deed express."
When we experience Holy Communion here in worship, we are experiencing what God wants for our world. Everyone is welcome, everyone comes and eats and drinks and gets what they need—materially and spiritually. God wants that for everyone. God wants everyone to have what they need for a full life.
We are fed so that we can feed others—literally and spiritually. God provides in our world enough of everything so that everyone can have what they need— we are called to redistribute so that everyone is provided for. We are called to help people get what they need—and to share the good news of Jesus so that they can be fed spiritually.
And we are only able to do that because God first provides for us. We pray “give us this day our daily bread” because we know that God provides for us and gives us what we need. We continue to pray that prayer so that we may be satisfied and can then feed others.
You have been given bread to share, by God. Those twelve baskets leftover from the Feeding of the 5,000-- where Jesus feeds us so much that there is more to spare—those baskets are ready to go. How is God calling YOU to feed people? Amen?