We’ve spent the last few weeks looking at the first half of the Lord’s Prayer...hearing about God’s name, God’s kingdom, God’s will. It has been very divinely, heavenly focused. At the end of last week, we read the words “on earth, as it is in heaven” and were reminded that, like two sides of one coin, both heaven and earth are always with us. This prayer we recite each week brings our minds to be aware of the overlap of heaven and earth.
We have been looking mainly at that heaven side of the coin the last few weeks and today we turn it over to focus on the earth side. Starting with bread! One of earth’s greatest products!
It is such a wonderful product of creation - such a great mixture of the things of the earth! Today, we tackle the part of the Lord’s Prayer which says “Give us this day our daily bread.” I’m up for that - be it wheat or sourdough or fruit/nut or even gluten free - I’m happy to let God decide.
For inspiration, I looked up some quotes on bread.
Julia Child, great cook, has some very wise words: “How can a nation be called great if its bread tastes like kleenex?”
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, author of Don Quixote, makes a wise observation: “All sorrows are less with bread.” (I would add “and butter.”)
The one that best applies to today’s message, though, comes from Mahatma Gandhi:
“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”
Give us this day our daily bread…
First thing to note: it is not “give me this day my daily bread.” It is not a plea for singular, individual needs to be met. It is a plea for all of us...all of creation. Maybe you do have your daily bread quota met, but that doesn’t mean your neighbor does - or the person across the state - or the person across the globe. This phrase of the Lord’s Prayer is yet another reminder that this plea is a communal experience, connecting all of God’s people (aka, everyone).
We hear bread used all the time as a symbol for broader needs. It’s even used as a synonym for money, referring to someone as the “bread winner,” indicating they make the most income in a household. It’s accepted that bread symbolizes nourishment and a meeting of needs, whether that is physical or emotional or financial or spiritual.
Knowing this, we can already see why Jesus would pray for daily bread, or daily needs, to be met. John Dominic Crossan, in The Greatest Prayer, asks a fun question, though. Why wouldn’t Jesus ask “Give us this day our daily fish?” After all - there are so many stories in the Gospels with Jesus at the shoreline or on a boat! Many of his disciples were fishermen!
Crossan digs into the historical context of Jesus’ time to discover why bread was an important choice of words….beyond the fact that “breaking fish” doesn’t work as well as “breaking bread” logistically. (That’s just a disgusting image in my mind and would make communion very tricky.)
Crossan observes that Herod Antipas, the ruler of the region at that time, placed the capital city, Tiberias, near the water. This was actually a strange placement. Most capital cities would be further inland, so they could be more protected from storms off the water. So, either Antipas wasn’t so smart or he had other plans.
His plan was likely to exploit the fishing community of the Sea of Galilee. His plan was to multiply the number of fish for Rome, for the empire, not the people. As we know, if irresponsible resourcing takes place, then the resource is tapped dry. Be it money or trees or fish, if the resource isn’t carefully used, it’ll go away quickly. This was the situation people found themselves in around the Sea of Galilee. Overfished, the waters soon didn’t provide enough fish for all. Without the income for those fishermen, soon all were also not able to get their daily bread.
Antipas’ plan was to be the person who owned the lake, the Sea of Galilee, and he was doing a pretty good job of it. Enter Jesus.
In Mark’s story, which is a story that all the Gospels tell with some changes in detail along the way, Jesus orchestrates meeting the people’s needs in fishes and loaves of bread. Antipas was not caring for “his household,” if you will; so Jesus, representing God’s “household,” made sure all were provided for.
Crossan points out the significance of the order of Jesus’ actions: taking the bread, blessing the bread, breaking the bread, sharing the bread. Take - bless - break - share.
It may remind you of the order of things seen here on communion Sundays. It is an order seen more than one time in biblical stories, and it is seen particularly in the story of Jesus’ “Last Supper,” aka the “First Communion,” with his disciples. During that dinner with his disciples, he also takes, blesses, breaks, and then shares. He has this meal and this moment with his disciples before he is executed. He instructs them to have this meal together as a remembrance of him, as he is about to die.
Jesus makes this connection of bread to his body, or his life. It is a connection that sometimes makes us uneasy (at least I’ve gathered that from many conversations with you) - not wanting to think of the bread we take in communion as Jesus’ body.
However, we, too, need to follow the process of taking in the meaning of Jesus’ life, asking for those lessons to be blessed within us, allowing Jesus’ lessons to breakthrough in our own lives, and then sharing that message with others.
We, too, need to take - bless - break - share the bread of new life.
So, still why bread and not fish?
I don’t think we can say with certainty what Jesus’ thinking was in not saying “Give us today our daily fish,” however, I really like what Crossan connects this to. If you know the story about Jesus being in the wilderness and being tempted by the “evil one,” you may remember that one of the temptations was to “turn this stone into bread.” It would solve his hunger!
Jesus’ response comes from Scripture (Deut 8:3): “man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Mt 4:4) And to this Crossan states: “But the word of God is that all God’s people should have a fair share of God’s food from God’s earth. It is about the just Household of the Divine Householder. It is never just about food. It is always about just food.” (p133)
We do not survive on water mixed with yeast and other ingredients, we survive - wholly - when all of God’s people are cared for.
What do we do with all of this?
Many of you may be thinking “we serve meals at Judeo-Christian Center (JCOC) and People in Need (PIN) or “we have our food pantry,” and I agree those are great! I am not about to knock that! It is a piece of this puzzle.
I think it is important for us to be aware of two things:
First, regarding the Mark story, I said that “Jesus orchestrated” the feeding. He didn’t do it. The disciples did. The disciples tried sending the people away to find food, but (and I love this) his response was “you give them something to eat.” If we are hoping and praying for the hungry to be fed, we need to also be willing to put our hopes and prayers into action. I have a feeling that Jesus would tell us, as well, “you give them something to eat.” This Christian faith is a collaborative effort, remember.
The second thing for us to be aware of is what it looks like to share justly - to share with all, so that God’s Household is in good working order.
An example of not sharing justly is from the Romans and how that trickled down to the first Christians practicing communion. (This was a crazy story to me.) The Romans would throw big parties as a display of hierarchy and power and have all their servants invited, as well (undoubtedly so that they could show off how many they had). The big question was whether the servants got the same food as the masters, which most of the time the answer was “no.” In Corinth (you may remember two books of the Bible called Corinthians), this cultural norm trickled down to the practice of the Lord’s Supper, which then resembled a full meal. Those early Christians would meet at some of the congregation’s “finer” homes and those who were more “upper class” would meet early to partake in the finer foods, while those who arrived later due to working would be served whatever was leftover, after supper. Paul specifically addresses this in 1 Corinthians, stating that the Lord’s Supper should be observed after all have had their supper - so that the Lord’s Meal is served on equal footing. God’s offering and involvement with God’s people is on equal footing.
In Luke 24, there is a story of what sharing justly does look like. Some disciples were walking down the road and Jesus appears to them. They do not recognize that it is Jesus until after he takes, blesses, breaks, and then shares bread with them. Jesus shares food with, who they perceived themselves to be, strangers. Jesus is recognized in sharing daily bread - with those we know and those we don’t. It is where we see Jesus. Crossan states: “It is the daily bread of daily justice along with the daily danger of challenging daily injustice.”
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread…
Our Householder of all the earth, may our actions bring honor to your reputation.
May your ruling style be implemented, may your eternal vision of wise choices be fulfilled.
May all share equally in what You and Your creation provide
Scripture: Mark 6:30-44