Sunday, May 29, 2011

Give us this day our daily bread

Every part of the Lord's Prayer, including the Introduction and each petition, shows ultimately that along with everything else that should be said of it, the essence of this prayer is that it has to do with our life in Christ.  The Fourth Petition, Give us this day our daily bread, bears this out in manifold ways. 

The world came about by the power of God's eternal Logos.  Christ, our Lord, is the Fiat of the Father's will.  He is the Amen of the Spirit's life-giving activity.  (Therefore all of our own Amens and Fiats are such only because they are in Christ.)  When God says, Let there be, there is; when He says, Let it be, it is, whether anyone else wants it to be or not.  Our gracious God has provided all that we have in this world.  (And God does not divide Himself or His work.)  Just as amazingly, God's work of creation is not merely a one time event in history, but is His ongoing work.  He is not a God that we praise merely for past achievements, but is confessed by the Church, in the present tense, as Pantocrator.  He doesn't retire, He doesn't vacation, and He neither slumbers nor sleeps.  Each new day, He gives us our daily bread, which encompasses, as Luther says, everything that belongs to the support and wants of the body, or as Luther says in his explanation of the first article of the Apostles' Creed, He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life

The prayer, Give us this day our daily bread, is first of all, not a prayer, but a confession that God provides us with all good things.  It is a word of thanks and praise.  It is also a prayer that we would be led evermore to know these things, to know Him as Creator, to appreciate His creation, and to have faith in Him instead of worrying about what tomorrow will bring.

We reach another dimension of this petition when we take seriously what our Lord Jesus says of Himself.  I am the bread of life.  Christ is our very life.  Ego sum resurrectio, et vita, He says of Himself, and this is an especially fitting truth of which to remind ourselves as we continue our way through Paschaltide.  We can even turn this into a prayer.  Thou, O Christ, art the resurrection, and the life. Thou art my life.  Abide in me.  And leave me not.  For without Thee, I have no life in me.

Often when I pray the Our Father, I think of the words Daily Bread in capital letters.  Christ is my Daily Bread.  I long to be with Him each day.  Indeed, God is ever present.  Yet His saving presence, His salutary presence, His presence for us, is precisely where is promises to be.  That is in the hearing of His holy Word, and in His mysteries, that is, the sacramental treasures of the Church.  The most amazing and profound example of this is His presence in the venerable Eucharist.  There, He is truly the Christian's Daily Bread par excellence.  The food that He gives in the Blessed Sacrament is, in one sense, all that I need to support this body and life.  This sustenance we receive in the Eucharist is not merely for the ones who desire to be super-Christians.  (Those are the ones who need to go back to their ABCs, and learn how poor they are.)  Rather, it is for the Christian who takes seriously the dire struggle we face, the dangerous spiritual warfare in the midst of which we are all caught.  So Luther says in the Large Catechism, "Therefore it is given for a daily pasture and sustenance, that faith may refresh and strengthen itself so as not to fall back in such a battle, but become ever stronger and stronger."

Rarely can Lutherans in this country receive the Eucharist daily, and thus let Christ our Daily Bread be truly a daily blessing.  Nevertheless, think on Him, our Eucharistic Lord, when you pray for what is most needed in life.  Give us this day our daily bread.

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