READINGS: Proverbs 30:7-9; Phil 4:10-13; Matthew 6:9-11
I was reading about an army chaplain who had a question from one of his soldiers about those army rations – we used to call them “rat packs”.
The trooper asked: Padre, should this pack get “grace” or the “last rites”?
Great question. Ex-soldiers would understand the sentiment.
I have a habit at the end of our elders’ meetings when someone says “let’s say the grace together” to begin “for what we are about to receive…” I really have to concentrate as the night grows longer. And perhaps we should call our closing prayer the benediction and not “the grace”.
We need to say grace before meals. And usually we have food on the table to give thanks for. When you think about it, though, there are few of us who when praying “give us this day our daily bread” really don’t know where our next meal is coming from.
There’s a huge chunk of the world who do have that problem. Their prayer for “daily bread” is literal.
Either way it’s the first part of the prayer that focuses on our needs.
So what do we learn from this part of the prayer?
Lesson 1 – watch how you pray!
The first thing to learn from this line in the prayer is where it is. It’s not at the beginning.
Too many of our prayer go straight into what we call “petitions” or “supplication” – or asking prayers. Like little children we go bounding in to our Father’s presence with requests, without greeting or address. (Of course children as they grow into their teenage years learn to be more respectful in their approach – before they ask for their latest need, or want, or in time ask to borrow the car!)
If the Lord’s prayer is a model – a framework – a template – then quite a large prelude to asking is what we talked about in the first four messages in this series.
We should always begin with God – praise, adoration, thanksgiving – because it puts into perspective, apart from many other things, who we are praying too. This generous heavenly Father. This Holy yet loving God. This powerful creator and provider. Our first request is for His Kingdom to come and that means His will to be done in our midst.
Let’s watch how we pray. Don’t leap into requests too soon. Our needs are a couple of lines down in the prayer template.
Lesson 2 – pray regularly – daily!
It’s the regularity that counts. Whether it’s “each day” or “this day” it’s every day. (Remember the differences between Matthew and Luke’s record of this prayer. Luk 11:3 Give us each day our daily bread. Mat 6:11 Give us today our daily bread.)
There are days that fly buy in our lives where we are too busy and too self-sufficient to think about God’s provision.
In our last hymn today we will sing the chorus “all good gifts around us are sent from heaven above…”
I suspect it originates in James 1:17: Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
And probably also Matthew 7:11: If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
This prayer pattern recognises that every day is good for us – to ask – and to be thankful. It’s good for our perspective. Self-sufficiency only works while you have a job and an income. Usually we pray less during those times.
When you’ve been unemployed – if you know how that feels – it’s amazing how your prayer life gets busier!
How’s your daily prayer life coming on? He wants us to depend on Him each day.
Lesson 3 – be content with the basics. (It’s bread!)
We are to ask for daily bread. It’s bread. Not caviar or a lavish dinner out. That means being content with the basics.
From the temptations of Jesus – where he could have turned stones into bread – to the last supper – where bread takes on a new significance – we can’t escape bread in the Bible. Even “Bethlehem” where Jesus was born means “house of bread”.
It involves the basics. It’s a staple food. People feel satisfied when they eat their staple food, whether it be bread, rice, or some other sustaining food form.
It involves contentment. And contentment with daily bread as a desired state of being is found early on in scripture – as we heard in the prayer in Proverbs 30:
Pro 30:7 “Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die:
Pro 30:8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.
Pro 30:9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God.
I wonder if the American dream has messed us all up? Listen to these famous words from the declaration of independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. ——
That pursuit of happiness causes heaps of trouble – people need more and more in the pursuit – but they’re often never really content.
Contrast that with Paul writing to Timothy:
1Ti 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.
1Ti 6:7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
1Ti 6:8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
1Ti 6:9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.
1Ti 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Or the passage from Philippians which is often misquoted:
Php 4:12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
Php 4:13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
It certainly puts that last verse into perspective. It’s clearly NOT about being a great achiever or conquering the world. Context in Bible reading is everything.
Daily bread it is then. Bread is a essential staple food for many. It also represents basic needs – which include food, heath, shelter, clothing, some kind of income, safety, friends, family.
It doesn’t have to be bigger and better – with endless upgrades.
Contentment is the key. Remember this verse in John 6?
Joh 6:35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
Just as Jesus is the bread of life – who meets every spiritual need we have – so too this prayer is a check and balance to us – to focus on the basics physically as well. To ask for daily bread every day.
In the context of the prayer as a whole – it’s the Kingdom coming in our midst, and his will being done that matters more.
Daily bread will give us what we need to do His work.
May we learn anew to be content. Each day. With enough for the day. “One day at a time, sweet Jesus” is what Chris Kristofferson used to sing. (his 6th no 1 hit).
Matthew 6 ends with this – quite logically:
Mat 6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
May you be content, and fruitful, in the Kingdom of God.
Peace be with you.
Readings: 1 Corinthians 15:16-28; Matthew 6:9-10; 31-33
Praying for the Kingdom to come.
We’ve talked about God as Father – this heavenly Father – and what it means to make his name holy in our lives.
The focus of the prayer we call the “Lord’s Prayer” thus far is about honouring and adoring this amazing God.
So close to us – yet so different and perfect – holy is the word we use.
The transition to the next concept may seem all too familiar to us. After all we can pray this prayer blindfolded and without really thinking about the words and their meaning.
- A Father, loving and faithful
- A holy God before whom we cry like Isaiah “woe is me” because we are unholy
- And now a KING.
Images of royalty – singing “God save our gracious Queen” – the idea of a King Charles verses a King William – all these come to mind.
And on Wednesday the world will think again of the tragic death of Princess Diana – and at the same time thinking people will wonder why people made so much fuss, when one considers aspects of her lifestyle.
The current Queen has a much greater sense of duty and decorum – of being worthy of the role she has faithfully carried out.
But what about God as King?
- If it’s his Kingdom we are to pray for – then he is the King.
- How do you feel about that?
When you wander into this place on Sunday (whether on time or not) – in the presence of the King – do you think our approach is worthy of his Kingly honour?
Or are we more like people in a shopping mall or a market? Just a thought.
And so three thoughts on how we respond to this:
PRAYING FOR THE KINGDOM TO COME –
- positions us differently as his subjects.
John the Baptist, and Jesus, spoke about the Kingdom being near. For John the preparation required that people clean up their act. The axe was at the root of the tree – a symbol of judgement.
For Jesus – his ministry ushered in the Kingdom – which was effectively a declaration of war on the powers of darkness – sin, sickness, and sedition if you like. Sedition or revolution – the usurping of power – symbolised by Satan himself who rebelled and was cast out of heaven because his behaviour was not fitting for that holy place.
And Jesus spoke endlessly about this Kingdom – near us, within us, and described in the many parables as a new force with upside down qualities like the first being last, the last being first, and the greatest being servants of all.
If his Kingdom came in Christ – and we are to pray for it to come – we suddenly find ourselves with a different agenda – to line up our lives with the values and standards of this King.
And since the death and resurrection of Christ – and His exaltation – Jesus is the King – the one with the name that is above every other name – whom we worship and obey.(Philippians 2).
Praying for the Kingdom to come as Christians positions us differently – we are no longer self-serving. We serve Him. We obey Him.
And we do this until the end – whatever generation of Christians is around at the end. Paul gives us a glimpse of how this Kingdom will be wrapped up. Just as there is a succession process in the House of Windsor – there is one in heaven too.
Listen again: 1Co 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 1Co 15:23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 1Co 15:24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.
1Co 15:28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.
PRAYING FOR THE KINGDOM TO COME –
- positions us differently in the community of the Church
You have to read Paul’s letters to the Ephesians and the Colossians to understand the implications of Christ being King and head of the church.
We talk about his often – how we are members of His body – that each part matters – that all gifts are valuable – that we are to build each other up in love.
All we do here – the things we reflect on today in the AGM reports and plans for the future – are actually not about a club having a meeting to pat ourselves on the back each year – they are actually because we want to glorify the King, obey Him, and see his Kingdom touch the lives of others.
As we have said before – the church is the only organisation that exists for an invisible head and for it’s not-yet-members – whom we want to see enter into the life of the Kingdom of God.
And Christ is the head of the church. We have to be connected to Him. (And not like a headless chicken running around – they eventually fall over.)
All we do together and for each other – is to the glory of the King.
- Our first priority is always WORSHIP. As the shorter Westminster confession says in its very first question:
What is the chief end of man? (What is the main purpose of people?)
Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
- And we have to listen to what he says. King Jesus commissioned his followers to proclaim the gospel to everyone – here at home and beyond to every nation. PROCLAMATION.
- King Jesus commissioned us to make disciples and teach them to live by his teachings. DISCIPLESHIP.
- King Jesus gave us the new commandment to love each other – declaring that people would know we are his followers by our love. That’s what drives our pastoral care in our FELLOWSHIP. It’s not keeping members happy like a club. It’s care that is linked to DIAKONIA – ministry or service of those in need in the community too, the hungry, homeless, lonely and depressed.
PRAYING FOR THE KINGDOM TO COME –
- positions us differently in terms of our priorities in life.
At a basic level – He says
- “…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matt 6:33)
- When you pray say: “Your Kingdom come” (Matt 6:10)
And then we have the rest of our lives revisiting his teaching on the Kingdom.
He didn’t speak so much about the Kingdom for fun.
Just a couple of his declarations about the Kingdom for today:
- Joh_3:3 In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” IT’S A SPIRITUAL KINGDOM TRANSCENDING ALL BARRIERS.
- Mat_18:3 And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. IT’S A KINGDOM THAT IS ENTERED THROUGH FAITH AND TRUST – LIKE THE TRUST OF A CHILD.
- Mat_19:24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” IT REQUIRES PAYING A PRICE WITH NEW VALUES – WE HAVE TO DECIDE WHETHER STUFF MATTERS OR THESE SPIRITUAL TRUTHS AND VALUES.
- Luk_9:62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” IT REQUIRES COMMITMENT AND ENDURANCE.
If we get out our bibles each week – and look for one parable or teaching on the Kingdom – perhaps we may begin to grasp the depth and width of what it’s all about.
We will surely see the difference. So will others.
For now – are we really seeking the Kingdom first?
The Sermon on the Mount (continued)
Reading: Matthew 6:7-21
Last week we looked briefly at the Beatitudes, and then focussed on what it means to be salt and light. In short, we are called to be people of influence. We watched a movie this week about a gifted man who influenced the duration of the Second World War by cracking the German enigma codes. Like Churchill, one man made a huge difference.
I must admit that it left me with more than a lump in my throat. How much influence will I have? What difference will I make? – These were the thoughts that travelled home with me. The main character in the movie was treated badly and his life ended too early. It made me wonder how much people remember us for at the end of the day. Watch “The Imitation Game” – before or after the Oscars. This man was worth his salt. It is estimated that his work reduced the length of the war by some two years.
The Sermon on the Mount is a challenge to everything that undergirds modern life and society. The beatitudes of Matthew 5 are part of that challenge. The question is – are they a standard set for us to follow? Or all statements of fact? For example, tell me that the meek are inheriting the earth, and I’ll give you plenty of examples of where that is not true.
Tom Wright puts it like this: In our world, still, most people think that wonderful news consists of success, wealth, long life, victory in battle. Jesus is offering wonderful news for the humble, the poor, the mourners, the peacemakers. Wright, Tom (2014-03-20). Matthew for Everyone: Chapter 1-15, Part 1.
The beatitudes are not about happiness. They are about promises which are real now for Jesus’ followers – not just in “heaven” at the end if our lives. They are a taste of things to come. Jesus ushers in the upside-down Kingdom which is ultimately the right way around. The individual beatitudes require a lot more attention of course. Perhaps during Lent you could go back to them. In time we will investigate more about where and what heaven is and what the future holds (if we dare).
You have to read the rest of Matthew 5 to see how we are to be like Christ, who is ultimate salt and light, and that we all together are the new Israel who by following Jesus influence the nations (ethnicities?) around us with that flavour and light! All kinds of things crop up in chapter 5, especially reconciliation (which comes first before worship), and truth-telling. And turning the other cheek. And love for enemies. When you pray for those who persecute you, guess what? You are being children of God (“of your father in heaven!” vss 44-45). And here we read about being perfect (like that same heavenly father – vs 36). Being salt and light has broad implications indeed.
The key to understanding this business of where and what heaven is, is staring us in the face, or shining at us on a screen each Sunday. It’s in the Lord’s Prayer which the Narrative Lectionary includes in today’s reading.
Matthew chapter 6 starts with a general discussion on prayer and acts of righteousness (or piety). “When you pray” is about public and private prayer. Private prayer should not be showy. It’s not about impressing people or long repetitive prayers. After all, says Jesus, “your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8). Of course persistence seems okay under certain circumstances, as illustrated in the story of the widow and the unjust judge. (See Luke 18:2-8 – although this too has a twist at the end of the account).
And so we come to the Lord’s Prayer. The key to it all is in this directive in verse 9: “This, then, is how you should pray.” I don’t think it actually says: “this is what you should pray” – although I am totally committed to praying the Lord’s Prayer. In Luke 11:2-4, on the other hand, Jesus gives the same prayer, with some variations. If it is a matter of accurate repetition, we might have a problem choosing one of the two.
The prayer, then, is like a scaffolding to build on, or a framework (both terms come from Tom Wright). Wright says that Jesus may well have intended us to pray the prayer like the Jews did their prayers – three times a day using “short powerful prayers”. But it’s clearly more than that. It is a powerful outline of key issues in our following of Jesus.
Myron Augsburger writing about Matthew puts it like this: “The beauty of this prayer, called the Lord’s Prayer, has been honoured in both spoken word and in music. Across the lines of culture and language, the Lord’s Prayer has served as the model for Christians to approach God. No liturgy is complete without it and no prayer can surpass the scope of meaning contained in its simplicity.” Augsburger gives these as an outline of the key matters in the prayer:
- The honour that worship accords to God.
- The humility that recognises our dependence upon God.
- The hope that the rule of God creates.
Let us pray…
As we spend some reflective time in prayer today, let’s use this broad structure.
PRAYING – ABOUT GOD
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name (v9).
- Honour his name always in prayer before you do anything. Focus on God. To reverence His name is worship.
- He is our Father. Our relationship to Him is key. If you pray “our father” you are claiming John 1: 12 as yours.
- He is the living God, not an idol. He dwells “in heaven”. We are not to pray using mindless repetition of this prayer – we are to reach out in prayer to the living God who already knows our needs.
- Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (v10)
Here is the key we mentioned earlier. The kingdom comes here as the will of God is done here. Praying this means focussing on Him – seeking His will – and not just asking Him to bless our ideas and programmes.
What does it mean for His Kingdom to come?
- In my life? In your life?
- In your family
- In your suburb, your city, your nation
- In the world.
This takes us into a time of intercession for all of these people and places. We are to ask God to reign, to break through into each level of our life. What other areas could we include?
Read Matthew 6:33 as you reflect: But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
So much in chapter 6 challenges us about our priorities. It ends with this well know verse:
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34)
And so we proceed to the rest of the prayer which involves our needs.
PRAYING – ABOUT OURSELVES
The part of the prayer about us comes afterwards:
Give us today our daily bread. (v11) Here are some possibilities. You can add your own:
- Now we ask for our needs to be met
- This is bread sufficient for the day
- It includes money and whatever else we need for the day
- It reminds us that God provides – all the people in the supply of these things are working on His behalf (even though they may not recognise this)
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (v12)
Forgiveness is part of our Christian DNA as it were. The verses which follow the Lord’s Prayer spell that out clearly: For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:14-15).
Give some thought this week to the difference between having our debts forgiven by God (as we do the same to others) and having our trespasses forgiven, as we commonly pray (see Matthew 6:12). Whichever translation you prefer or favour, when you pray, asking for forgiveness has got to be there somewhere. It’s not an option. Here are some considerations – again add you own areas which need work when it comes to forgiveness:
- Have you asked for forgiveness? Or are you usually in the right anyway? (In your view).
- Have you forgiven all?
- Have you forgiven yourself?
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (v13)
There is this clear warning that there is a battle on. (The Kingdom of God at hand – and the enemy reacts quite violently in the Gospel accounts). We need help.
- What persistent temptations do we need help and protection from?
- Where is evil/the evil one obviously at work?
- In what way are we seduced by evil?
- Remember Jesus prays for us in his regard in John 17:15. Read this at home.
- Remember Ephesians 6:16: In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Also read 1 John 2:14, and 2 Thessalonians 3:3. And of course read 1 Peter 5:8 – Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Amen
Readings: Isaiah 55:10-11 and Matthew 6: 7-15
What really sustains you? Is it your (singular) walk with God? Or is it the fellowship that you share in the family together?
We live in an age of independence – in thinking and living. We treasure our independence. We hold onto control as long as we can – our home, our car –the various options we have that have a “my freedom” attached to them. We have all these on-line identities too – where I tell my story and share my ideas – I facebook them, or a Tweet them on twitter. I email my friends. I sign my name to petitions and letters, and have my private bank account and ID.
The prayer that forms the basis of our Christian life – the one Jesus taught – was taught or given to US as a prayer and a pattern for prayer.
It begins as “Our” Father. Not my Father. And all the petitions are in the plural.
Lead us not…
We are in this together.
And we have the challenge of praying together- trusting together – forgiving together as we are forgiven together.
Mat 6:11 Give us today our daily bread. Is our common prayer for our needs to be met. The “daily” bread is the sufficient bread – the bread that is enough for the day – like the mannah, you could not store it up but collected it each day (excepting the Sabbath).
What are you hungering for? What are you concerning yourself about when it comes to your needs/
Jesus teaches us to depend on him daily for that which is sufficient. (GNB) Give us today the food we need.
This fits in so well with Jesus’ teaching from the sermon on the Mount. Don’t worry! God provides for the sparrows! He clothes the lilies of the field. Don’t fret so.
Seek First His kingdom – says Jesus in that sermon in Matthew 5.
So it makes sense that the opening petition of the Lord ’s Prayer is “your kingdom come, your will be done…” followed by that same dependency: ‘Give us this day our daily bread”.
It’s not “My Father – give me today my daily bread!”
Sharing and supporting each other is at the heart of the Christian Community.
Let’s trust Him for the day’s needs.
Let’s depend on Him for the practical food.
And especially the bread from heaven. Remember the heart of the temptation narrative from Sunday? Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8 again: Deu 8:3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
Mat 4:4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”
As important as our physical nourishment is the open book of God’s word – letting Him speak to us each day from our Bibles.
May we learn to be sustained together by this wonderful Father.
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)