Friday, April 04, 2014

Sermon for 4/2/14--Midweek Lent IV (midweek series)



Meat in Due Season
John 19:28-29/Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

From His cross, Jesus said, “I thirst.” The children of God frequently pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Our Lord wants us to pray in this way. But why does He, the Creator of all things, lower Himself to ask for something to drink? And why is the all-powerful God concerned about a simple thing like food when He has a whole universe to operate and control? How does it happen that we human beings have the right to ask for food to eat, and water to drink, and clothes to wear? Why should God allow us to trouble Him with these personal needs? These questions lead us to consider again the relationship between the Lord’s Prayer and our Lord’s Passion. He taught us to pray this fourth petition of His prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.” And He practiced what He preached. He prayed as He taught His disciples to pray. He, who took on flesh and blood to become one of us and to experience real flesh and blood needs, shows us in the very act of redeeming the world that material needs are important. Matter does matter, both to God and to us.

Most of us are prepared to grant that God is concerned about our spiritual needs. We know that Scripture teaches that it is God’s will that “all would be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” But as flesh and blood ourselves, we would not be too surprised if this fifth word from the cross had pierced the air as the first word from the lips of the crucified Savior. Imagine yourself, as well as you are able, nailed hand and foot to a cross, with little or no support holding you suspended in mid-air. The heat of the noontime sun, the burning fever, the dehydration caused by the sun and the loss of blood – with nothing to drink – it would be next to unbearable. We would have cried out for water or any kind of physical relief from the outset. And isn’t that typical of human beings. Our needs are the subject of our most frequent and fervent and desperate prayers. If time permits we may strain ourselves to pray for others, or even for the glory of God.

We thank God for the crucifixion of Jesus. God the Father took His own Son, “laid on Him the iniquity of us all,” and allowed Him to be the cursed One hanging on the tree of the cross. Even here in desperate agony He perfectly fulfills the Father’s will for us. He prays first for His enemies and their salvation. He spends Himself in love for all people. Only then does He pray for His own needs.
There is a parallel between the place of this fifth word from the cross and the fourth petition of His prayer. The first words of both are addressed to the Father. He teaches us to pray for the glory of God’s name, then the eternal welfare of God’s people in His kingdom, and their willingness to do the will of God faithfully. Then He urges us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Prayer begins with a life that is set right with God, and then turns to those physical needs we all have. Our material needs do matter to God. We deceive ourselves if we get the idea that these needs are trivial; they are not at all, not to us nor to God. Besides, “daily bread” means much more than the neatly wrapped package we purchase at the grocery store. It means valuable work for us to do every day, and the ability to do it. It means all of those things that God gives us to support our bodies and lives. Recall the list Dr. Luther offers us in His explanation—“food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home…” to name just a few. God is very much interested in these things. He came, in Jesus Christ, to walk on this earth. He needed bread, and ate it with His disciples. He had need of a place to sleep. He knew the pain of a broken heart when a loved one died. And on the cross He needed something to drink to satisfy His tormenting thirst. Does God really care about these things as they concern us? Why else would Jesus bid us pray these words?

God the Father always supplied the needs of His Son. At the beginning of His ministry, when Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan, the Father sustained Him and, when Satan had been overcome, sent His angels to minister to Jesus and to satisfy His physical needs. The same is true here; when the work was done, the Father satisfied His thirst. The same Father in heaven has made many wonderful promises to us. After teaching His disciples, and us, to pray His prayer, Jesus then said: “Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, or about your body, what you shall put on…Your heavenly Father knows that you have need of them.” Our Lord wants us to have the faith of David, who could pray: “The eyes of all look to Thee, O Lord, and Thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest Thy hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.” Jesus, who experienced all our needs and received His Father’s rich supply, has invited us to bring our needs to the attention of our heavenly Father: “Our Father,…give us this day our daily bread.” He has made us sons of God. By His prayer and life, by His bitter suffering and death, He has redeemed us to God, and made Him our Father, and has earned for us the privilege of bringing all things to our Father in prayer.

And so, when we pray in faith, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we are showing our confidence in His goodness and wisdom; it is an expression of humility and dependence. We ask only for bread, our basic needs, as God knows best how to give them. We seek only a daily share of His grace, knowing that He will again tomorrow open up His generous hands to supply our needs. In so praying, we also thank God for all the wondrous things He has done for us.

And as we pray this prayer we can hardly do so without thinking of Jesus Himself breaking bread with His disciples and telling them, “I am the Bread of Life.” Our Savior, who promised to be with us always, gathers at table with us. He supplies our needs. He also gives Himself, the very Bread of Life, to satisfy the hunger of our souls. He who has experienced our material needs firsthand and richly supplies them, knows all our needs… and then He supplies them completely as He gives us Himself. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

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