Our Daily Bread
First Baptist Church Laurens
October 2, 2016
I love to eat out. It may one day be the death of me physically and financially but I always enjoy discovering new restaurants and am particularly fond of those that are in some way unique or historic. One of my all time favorites is a bakery in Paducah, Kentucky called Kirchhoff’s.
Kirchhoff’s Bakery is in downtown Paducah in an old two story brick building no more than a block off of the convergence of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers. The Kirchhoff’s have kept the bakery in their family for five generations going all the way back to Franz and Hannah Kirchhoff who opened their business back in 1873. Franz started the practice that continues until this day of rising early each morning to bake his products -which he did at that time in a wood-fired oven. Through his work, he became one of the primary providers of daily bread to the tables of Paducah.
One of my favorite parts of the story is that Franz also always kept one ear to the river for the sound of the steam whistle signaling the approach of a passing river boat or barge. Whether he was asleep in his bed over the bakery or hard at work in the kitchen, when he heard it, he would take bread and other wares in a cart down to the banks of the Ohio that he might be ready to meet the passing vessels as they came near the shore in order to supply their needs for food. (kirchhoffsbakery.net)
Till this day, Kirchhoff’s prepares fresh bread each morning as well as cookies, cakes, pies and other bakery items while also running a casual yet wonderful restaurant in their bakery which offers sandwiches, soups and other daily specials.
When we lived there, along with occasionally buying bread for communion, we had another way as a church that we incorporated Kirchoff’s skills into our work. Any time we had guests, we would take them a loaf of Kirchhoff’s bread along with information about our congregation.
It was my job on our staff to go and pick up the bread at the bakery in preparation for those visits. That act of taking fresh bread that had been baked that very day to families who were searching for spiritual food always stuck me as rich with meaning in keeping with the Bible.
After all, the scriptures regularly use bread as symbolic of the spiritual life. Think about it for a moment – there is the manna that fell from heaven as the Israelites wondered in the wilderness in the book of Exodus, or, Jesus saying that I am the “bread of life” in John’s gospel. Or what about the great feeding of the 5,000 told in every gospel where five fish and three small loaves of bread fed a huge crowd. And, of course, our minds immediately go to Jesus and the disciples at their last meal together where our Lord took bread and a cup and used them to speak of his life and his death – an act from which we get our practice today of The Lord’s Supper.
Then there is our phrase for today from the Lord’s Prayer, “give us this day, our daily bread”. Like all of the others, the symbolism here is rich, deep and profound as once more, Jesus uses this common element of everyday life – bread – to plunge us deeper into the lessons and value of prayer. Let me quickly mention several that we don’t need to miss.
Praying for daily bread is a way of allowing prayer to remind us of how our daily needs are met. The ask here is for God to supply our needs. As we make this basic request, we are admitting humbly and directly that we cannot meet those needs ourselves. This is an important daily act on two levels. Yes, it is good to ask for God’s help and God’s gifts. But, it is equally valuable in the process to admit and remember that we are incapable of doing this on our own. Remember, if we are asking God to give something to us, we are at the same time admitting that we cannot provide it for ourselves.
Now, of course, we play a role in our daily needs. It is an oversimplification to act as though what we have falls like manna from heaven. But, it is also an oversimplification to say that we did it all ourselves. There is so much of our wellbeing and provisions everyday that come our way as a gift from God and that is totally out of our control. This is so easy to forget and asking for daily bread gets our minds back around the one who is the source of all that is good in our lives.
Bread here is such a wonderful example. Sure, the sweat of our brow may have provided the funds to pay for the bread on our table. But, more time than not, we didn’t bake the bread that we bought, and we didn’t harvest the ingredients that went into the bread and we didn’t manage or provide the rain, sun or soil that produced the ingredients. Again, God is the one who orchestrates it all. Our role is small as is any human being’s role in what we have. Our job is to do our part but to recognize, with our daily prayers as a huge component, that our dependency is on God who is the ultimate supplier of our needs.
At the same time, praying for daily bread is a way of asking God each day to help us to be content with enough while not not buying into the world’s idea of excess.
Through prayer, as we seek God’s help with our daily needs, we, at the same time, ask God to help us to have the wisdom to recognize when we have enough and to be content with enough in a world of greed and waste.
In 2006, in a poll shared in Time Magazine, researchers found the on average American men owned 12 pairs of shoes and American women owned 27 pairs of shoes. This means that if you average out the two sexes, American’s have roughly 19 pairs of shoes each. At the same time, the same researchers learned that a startling number of Americans also own at least one pair of shoes that they have never any even worn or taken out of the box at all. (Time Style & Design Pole, Sunday, March 5, 2006, source: time.com)
We could likely find, I am sure, similar statistics about pants, coats, shirts, hats, toys, books and the list goes on and on.
Further, if you are like us, it is terribly convicting to think about the amount of food the ruins in our refrigerators each week or that was wasted at the end of our tailgates yesterday afternoon. Almost all of us in this room have a problem – our problem is abundance, excess and a sense that what we need is more not less.
But to pray for daily bread is to pray that God would bless us with enough. It is to pray that God would meet our needs. It is to pray that God would provide for us the needs of our table not the needs of two freezers or a pantry or enough clothes to fill up a walk-in closet. As someone has said, the prayer here is for daily bread, not for a silo full.
As we pray this prayer honestly and think about the word daily, it is also a challenge I think to wrestle with the question of what is it that we have that we could give to another so that as we resist the temptation of abundance, we at the same time could help others to discover the peace and wonder of enough which is a feeling that lots and lots of people in this world know nothing about.
Finally, Jesus’ call for us to pray for daily bread is a reminder to focus on today. The people of the Biblical world seemed to have an uncanny ability to focus on today rather than worrying about tomorrow. It was hard enough for them to ensure the meeting of each day’s needs that they rarely had the luxury of expending too much energy on tomorrow much less next week or next month.
We, however, live in a different world which sometimes is to our detriment, not to our benefit. So much of our struggles in this life, I think, are connected to our inability to focus on today not only in terms of our needs but also in terms of so many other aspects of day to day life. One of the phrases that I find myself offering as encouragement and as a suggestion to so many people on almost a daily basis is the reminder to just worry about, focus on and live through today.
So far, after two episodes, I am a fan of the new show on ABC called Designated Survivor. The show focuses on the interesting practice of the US Government in which a member of the President’s Cabinet is hidden in a secure location during the State of the Union Address so that if that is a crises and everyone at the Capital building dies, at least someone from the Cabinet survives to lead the country.
In the series, just such a catastrophe occurs leaving the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development as the only living survivor. The show thus revolves around his being named President and being forced to run the country. The first two episodes literally carry him through one day each. There is so much going on, so much to decide or deal with that he is simply fighting to survive that day. Now, I suspect that the pace will begin to ramp up and yet there is a great truth here.
The old saying really is true – yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never be ours. Our job is first and foremost, live well, focus on and do our best today. This is what is in front of us and that must be at the center of our prayers. Lord, this is what is front of me today – these are the people I will interact with, these are the situations I will be a part of, these are the decisions I will need to make. Lord, help me to receive my daily needs but also to focus on first the priorities of today.
You see, this phrase about daily bread is so much deeper, profound and meaning – in these seven words are lessons as prayers role in reminding us of our limitations, prayer as a tool to help us to be satisfied with enough in a world of abundance and prayer’s calling for us to focus, hand in hand with God on today. These are indeed the ways and the things for which Jesus taught us to pray. Will we do it? Amen.