We made it to the daily bread this week in my series on the Lord’s Prayer. To aid our thinking, we read the story of the manna God provided for the Hebrew people (Exodus 16:9-21) and the Feeding of the Five Thousand (Luke 9:10-17). In putting the sermon together, my mental travels took me to Morocco, Dallas, and back to Hamden. No matter where we are, we hunger.
Several years ago, Ginger, our friend Jay, and I had the chance to go to Morocco. It was an amazing trip. One of the places we visited was the city of Fes, which sits at the base of the Atlas Mountains in the center of the country. It is an ancient city; it was founded in 789 and the university there, which is still educating students, began in the late 800s.
As we walked through the narrow streets of the old city, we came upon a neighborhood oven. It was wood burning, like some of our favorite pizza places (I mean apizza places), and one man was there baking bread. Next to him was a huge wooden rack where he placed the loaves, but they were not his loaves to sell. The people in the neighborhood brought their unbaked loaves each morning and then came back in the afternoon and picked them up. Their houses were too small and the general temperature too hot for them to bake at home, so the neighborhood baker did it for them. Our guide told us stories about bringing his mother’s bread to that very baker on his way to school. The historical marker on the wall of the bakery said that oven had been working since the 1200s.
As I watched him work, I imagined the women rising early in their kitchens to prepare the dough, which meant being up early enough to knead the dough and let it rise, and then sending it to the oven with their children, where it proofed on the shelf until it was time to go in the oven. Then it went back on the shelf until the kids picked it up and took it home for the family meal. It truly was daily bread—and it took a lot of time and effort.
When we pray, “Give us our daily bread,” I think of those who shaped the loaves and that man who pulled the fresh bread from that hot oven and I am mindful that the roots of those words are sunk deep in the awareness that it takes a lot of time and effort to prepare food every day. We live in a time and place where meals are much more convenient than has been true for most of human history. Even today, most of the world lives more like the folks in Fes, making what they need each day rather than being able to swing into Stop and Shop and grab what we need.
But neither the bread not the dailiness of it are the most crucial part of the prayer. The heart of the prayer lies in the pronoun: us. Give us our daily bread. Not me. Us. I am not simply praying that I will not go hungry, I am praying that there will be enough for everyone.
Let’s remember, first, how we got to this point in the prayer. We have asked that God would make us mindful that God is the Universal Priority, the one who both imagined all of creation and holds it together. Then we prayed that God’s will—God’s intent that all of creation would flourish in relationship with one another—would be a reality in our world just as God dreamed it. And now we are praying that everyone of us would be nourished daily.
Last week we sang the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” which has one of my favorite lines: “Morning by morning new mercies I see.” The person who wrote that hymn had in mind the story we read earlier about God raining bread on the Hebrew people in the wilderness “morning by morning,” offering them new mercies to see. The only instruction they were given was to take what they needed for the day and no more. To follow those instructions meant they had to trust God that they had enough, and they had to have an awareness of those around them, that they weren’t the only ones who needed to eat.
Our gospel passage was the story most of us know as the Feeding of the Five Thousand, which makes it sound like Jesus ran an amazing catering service, but the event was not that planned. Once again, it was a bunch of hungry people in the wilderness. They were not quite as isolated as the folks in the earlier story, nor had they been there as long, but they had been following after Jesus for most of what appears to have been a pretty hot day and Jesus could tell people were hungry, so he told the disciples to feed them.
The disciples were frustrated by his request because they were in the middle of nowhere and they were not workers in the food industry. All they were able to find was one boy with a sack lunch of bread and fish. Jesus divided the crowd into groups of fifty and had them sit down together. Then he blessed what food they had, and the disciples began to distribute it. Luke doesn’t give us many details about how the dinner went down, other than to say everyone ate and they had twelve baskets of leftovers.
I am convinced that a big part of what happened was that those who had food and were keeping it for themselves began to share with those in their group once the disciples started passing out food. People began to realize they were part of an us rather than just a me. When people shared, they had more than enough. They fed everyone.
Hear me clearly. I am not saying it wasn’t a miracle. I think that is the miracle. Our world would be transformed if we truly lived into the reality that we are all connected and there is enough to go around.
Many years ago, I belonged to a church in Dallas, Texas. One of their traditions was a Wednesday night meal and prayer service. One Wednesday, as a part of a world hunger awareness emphasis, we had a Hunger Meal, which meant before we got to the serving line, we had to draw a ticket that was marked with an indicator of what we would eat. The meals were divided into those who simply got some rice, those who got rice and beans, and those who got rice, beans, ham, and cornbread. The percentages of who got what meal were based on the percentages of who goes hungry in our world, so most of us got rice, a few less got rice and beans, and only a handful got a full meal.
I sat down at a table where one man was being quite vocal about being cheated out of his midweek dinner because he only had rice. Others at the table tried to explain, but he wasn’t having it. About that time, a kid who was seven or eight sat down next to him. The boy had the full meal. The man got quiet. The boy, who knew nothing of the man’s complaints, looked at his plate and said, “You hardly got anything to eat. Take some of mine.”
No one else had to say a thing.
Perhaps a paraphrase of “give us our daily bread” might be “teach us to share.” The root of our English word companion means “with bread,” which speaks a deep truth. God created us to live in relationship. We don’t begin as individuals and then figure out how to connect, we are born connected—first, to our birth mothers, and then to our families–and then learn who we are as our connections grow to include others We are created for companionship. God’s will is for us to feed one another, to nourish one another—and that is not just figurative language. We are called to make sure we—in the largest sense of that word—have enough to eat.
As we think about these words we say every week, let us also think about who in Hamden isn’t getting daily bread and how we can be companions. What are the things, the people, the organizations that keep us connected and feeding one another?
At our deacon’s dinner last Thursday night, Lisa and Nancy told Ginger about their quilting and how that connect with veterans of our community. The prayer shawls offer another tangible means of connection with people who are hungering to know they are not alone. Many of us ate well this week because of the vegetables that Anna and Bill share so generously from their garden. We lots of other people we could name who are making daily bread for those around them.
How do we deepen the connections between those of us in this congregation and those of us outside of these walls so that we not only pray the words that Jesus modeled for us, but we can also be part of the answer to the prayer. As we go from worship to share coffee and snacks—our weekly bread—may we keep dreaming together about how we can be a part of taking care of all of us. Amen.