This is a preview of this coming Sunday's sermon (January 8) that I will preach at St. Paul Chuckery. We are beginning 2012 with a series on the Lord's Prayer. Enjoy!
Grace mercy and peace be to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
“Here we now consider the poor bread basket, the necessaries of our body and of the temporal life.”
Today in our ongoing series on the Lord’s Prayer we consider the 3rd Petition as well as the 4th. Thy Will be done and Give us this day. We have begun with the bread. We have begun with the 4th.
In the 4th Petition we pray for bread, but this prayer is for much more than just mere bread. Bread is only the finished product. It is that thing that we need to eat and to live. But bread doesn’t appear all by itself. Before there can be bread there must be someone to bake it, there must be flour and grain and eggs and sugar, there must be a farmer to grow and to harvest the grain, cattle and chickens for milk and eggs, land to plant the seed, sunshine and rain to make it grow. Daily bread is much more than just a prayer for bread. IT is a prayer for everything that goes in to making and preparing that bread. It involves all of commerce and all of life. This simple prayer is a prayer that God would provide all of those things as much as we need them. We pray that God would support us in our earthly and physical life.
Last week we mentioned that the prayer that God’s Kingdom come was not a prayer for our election cycle – God’s Kingdom is not of this earth, so a prayer for God’s Kingdom has nothing to do with who is president in Washington, Beijing, Moscow, Baghdad or Tehran. But, here in the 4th Petition good government is included. (we can’t after all make a living and eat our bread in peace unless there is a government to help us protect it. God provides this. God takes care of us, of his world and his whole creation by creating our various stations in life: bakers and farmers and presidents and autoworkers and soldiers and teachers and mothers & fathers. He gives each station each office for our good and then he calls various ones of us to fill those stations. Tom, you bake bread; Marsha, you be a nurse to bandage and heal; Al, you go farm – plant and harvest; Jill, go paint and draw – and since you’re so good at it teach others to do it!
It’s God’s world, God’s creation. He makes it. He keeps it running. He enlists us and calls us to participate in this work together with him.
When you, the Christian pray this prayer you do not simply pray it for yourself – Lord I want my pantry full. You pray this prayer for all people, for your neighbor. Notice that the prayer is not singular. Give me this day my daily bread. It is profoundly plural. Us and Our! We pray not just for ourselves but for each other. Lord you have blessed me with more than I need, but I have noticed that my neighbor has a need. You pray for your neighbor and for that need. And if you are going to pray for it, you also should help to fill it.
Remember the words of James in chapter 2 of his epistle. What good is it my brothers if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food and one of you says to them, “Go in peace be warm and well fed.” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith, if it does not have works is dead.” (James 2:14-17)
Remember the preaching of John the Baptist? “Whoever has two coats is to share with him who has none. Whoever has food is to do likewise.”
Even as we pray that God would fill us it is our duty to fill others.
So we pray this prayer on behalf of our neighbor. But we also pray this prayer against Satan. Luther says that “for all his thought and desire is to deprive us of all that we have from God and to hinder it. He is not satisfied to obstruct and destroy spiritual government by leading souls astray with his lies and power. He also prevents and hinders the stability of all government and honorable, peaceable relations on the earth.” [LC III p 80]
Wherever there is dissention and disagreement know that the devil is at work. Wherever there is want and poverty and need, know that the devil is at work.
“If it were in his power and our prayer (next to God) did not prevent him, we would not keep a straw in the field a penny in the house, yes even our life for an hour.” [LC III p 81]
In the 3rd Petition our Lord teaches us to pray, “Thy will be done.”
I will warn you dear Christians, think twice before you pray this prayer.
This first petition that we have covered is one that we can readily agree to pray and eagerly get behind. Lord give me bread, preserve my wealth and health and stability. While you’re at it do the same for my neighbor. We like that prayer, but this next one – the one that comes directly before it – Thy will be done – that is a terrifying prayer.
It’s terrifying because it means you have to die.
The Small Catechism tells us that the devil, the world and our sinful flesh get in the way of God’s will. They do not want God’s Kingdom to come or his name to be kept holy and so they fight against it. You are on the devils side in this fight. You might not agree. You might not care to hear that. But it is true. The Catechism says that it is. St Paul says it is. “For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7:18)
The Apostle John says the same thing. “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)
In order for God’s will truly to be done. In order for God to really and completely and totally have his way with you, it is necessary that you die. It is necessary that your will, your priorities, your aspirations, your pursuits, your pleasures, your achievements to be set aside. And there are many of them. Some of them are temporal – careers, personal records and achievements, family goals, financial goals. These become gods that take the place of the One God. Some of these goal are even spiritual goals – your commitment, your goodness, your effort to do the right thing, your rightness and righteousness ,your prayer life! The Christian does not look at herself and say, “I need to be a better Christian, I need to be a more devout Christian. I need to pray more, be more sincere, be more faithful, be a better husband or wife or sister of brother.” The Christian looks to Jesus and simply prays, Lord may your will be done with me. And if you are to do better, to know more, to grow more deeply, God will do it.
God’s Kingdom first came to you when He first gave you His Name. Our Lord fulfilled the first two petitions – Hallowed be thy Name and thy Kingdom come – when you were baptized. He gave you his name through His Word and according to Faith he made you an heir of His Kingdom. The Gospel has come to you and made you a Christian. And that’s just it. That’s where your death began – you died to yourself and to your sinful flesh and to your own quest for wealth and power and glory – to you own will on the day that you were baptized.
Paul writes in Romans 6:
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:3-11 ESV)
In the Large Catechism Luther writes, “In God’s Kingdom, although we have prayed for the greatest need – for the Gospel, faith, and the Holy Spirit, that He may govern us and redeem us from the devil’s power – we must also pray that God’s will be done. For there will be strange events if we are to abide God’s will. We shall have to suffer many thrusts and blows on that account from everything that seeks to oppose and prevent the fulfillment of the first two petitions.” [LC III p 61]
So your death that began at your baptism and is God’s Will for overcoming your will is accompanied by trials, by struggles, by temptations. Our sinful flesh always wants these things to be gone as soon as possible. Our sinful flesh wants to return too quickly to the 4th petition where God gives us bread and peace and prosperity. That is the god we want. But that god is a false God. Jesus calls you to die. Jesus calls you to take up your cross and follow him. Jesus calls you to postpone present glory for the sake of that which is still to come. Heaven. Un-spoiled peace. Unspoiled prosperity. And more than just bread – a feast.
The Christian faith is a faith that is lived in the present with an eye to future. We live today, but in the hope of tomorrow. The gifts of today can seem to sparkle and shine but they will fade when compared to the future hope of eternity. Lord get us to that day. Give us bread for today. But as far as tomorrow, as far as forever is concerned – may your will be done and not mine.