Thursday, August 11, 2011

“Give Us This Day” - Matthew 6:11 - July 17, 2011

We come to the second week of a five week look into what it means to live in the midst of the Lord’s Prayer. It is a prayer that is repeated in Christian churches across the globe. It comes in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus has been talking about the kind of prayer that honors God. Jesus spoke to the crowd about the practice that had become the norm for the religious elite. They would stand and pray in public for everyone to hear. He told them that this kind of prayer stole the glory from God and claimed it for themselves. He also addressed those prayers that go on, and on, and on. He then told them that those kinds of prayers belonged to those outside the family of faith and that the quantity of the words was not substitute for the quality of the heart of the one that prays. With these words still fresh in the air, Jesus teaches the crowd a model of prayer that will draw them to the feet of God with a spirit of humility. Ultimately the Lord’s Prayer is a prayer of dependence; purposely placing who we are and how we conduct our lives in the hands of God. In the first movement we declared our dependence on God’s will and God’s way. Last week talked about how best to understand these words and I suggested that we might hear the first few sentences the prayer something like:

Our Father, who is up close and personal but also transcends the breadth of the universe,
Holy, revered, honored and cherished is your name in my life,  May your kingdom come and your will be done, on the whole of the earth and in my every part of my everyday life, just like it is in heaven.

The prayer continues and we pray: “Give us this day, our daily bread.” This declaration comes as an acknowledgement of our total dependence on God for even life’s most basic provisions- our daily bread. There is a part of me that wants to go silent and allow others to voice this part of the prayer. This is a dangerous part of the prayer. It calls us to the kind of dependence that seems foreign in our culture.

• It asks us to pray out of our need rather than our greed.
• It asks us to pray out of need rather than our wants.
• It asks us to pray out of focus on God meeting our needs for today rather than the seemingly countless tomorrows in front us.
• It asks us to trust God with our basic life substance and everything else.

I think it would be easier to pray that God might bless our endeavors to earn our daily bread. It would be easier to pray that God multiply our crops – to empower our business efforts – or to sustain our monies in IRAs and other retirement accounts and to multiple the value of our investments. The hard reality is that statistically the more someone makes the less by percent they are willing to give to churches and charitable organizations. It seems the more we are sure we can depend on ourselves and our own wealth, the less likely we are to depend on God. We have become so accustomed to the security we find in what we have earned with our own efforts and in the financial plans we have made to ensure our security in retirement, that the idea of being dependent on anyone – even God – seems foreign. If we are not careful, this can even be true for our church. We are most comfortable when we can define our future success by positive giving patterns and can count on an annual stream of limited dollars we receive from dollars endowed on our behalf. This is not what God intends!

It seems that it takes something dramatic to make us remember that we are dependent on God. A drought, a dip in the stock market, the loss of a job, or a tornado – those moments when our security is turned out upside down – make us pause and realize we cannot guarantee our future on our own; that we need for God to step in. Jesus envisions something very different for his followers. He teaches us to pray for God to provide our daily substance – our most basic – and nothing more.

Apparently Jesus does not understand that we live in and are often defined by our American capitalist consumer culture where who we are is defined by what we have. Or perhaps it is us who fail to understand. In the words that will follow this prayer in of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus will teach the crowd not put treasure things that are temporary and that can we wiped out by rust or vermin. He will teach that they were not to worry because if God would care for the birds of the air, that God will care for us. He will teach that if God dresses the flowers of the fields with beauty, that God will make sure we have what we need. He will teach:  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:31-34 NIV)

He is trying to help the crowd gathered on that hillside outside of Capernaum, and all those who would follow him, to understand that the only way to have the kind of relationship with God that we were created for, was to trust God and depend on God to meet the our needs – our spiritual needs and our physical needs. When we fail to trust God, to truly depend on God, we rip God from His rightful place in our lives. We claim for ourselves the reign and the rule of our lives. We cheat ourselves from peace and the security we are promised in the arms of God.

Jesus teaches those on the hillside to pray a prayer of dependence that invites them to trust God for that day, and everyday – one day at a time. It calls them to look past their wants and their fears, and to truly depend on God to meet their needs. It means giving ourselves up to God – to trusting God – to depending in God -over and over again. It means our financial focus is not some distant goal, but focuses on depending on God for one day at a time. It means claiming God’s promises again and again. It means that we see all that we are and all that we have as that which is given by God. It keeps God at the very center of our life and our way of life.

There is a part of me that this makes incredibly uncomfortable. There is a part of me that wants to know that there is a long term plan that will lead to long term stability. I want to be able to graph it and track it. But, this is not what Jesus is teaching us. We are suppose to focus on being faithful today – to depend on God for today – to live for God today – to pray that God will give us what we need – our daily bread. It is easy to be driven by what we want – what we can touch – what we can count – but Jesus teaches us that this is not the way. We are called to a life of daily dependence on God – no more – and no less.

Do you believe that God is dependable? Are you ready to let go of the reins and trust God to provide what you need? Are you ready to depend on God and trust that the daily bread that God will provide will be enough?

Our Father, who is up close and personal and divine and eternal,
Holy, revered, honor and respected, is your name,
Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth and in my life, as it is in heaven.
Give me today, my most basic needs, so that I depend wholly on you….. AMEN!

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