Feb 13th, Daily Bread- Enough, with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski
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Feb 13th: Daily Bread – Enough, with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski. – powered by Happy Scribe
Many people, including myself, wrestle with prayer. If you want to see a Presbyterian run really fast, ask them to pray in public. I learned one of the best lessons on prayer. Sitting in a theater, watching the play Shadowlands. About the famous author and theologian C.S. Lewis, whose wife, Joy, was dying of cancer, the great theologian who built his reputation on having an answer to every theological question, was suddenly left helpless, faced with a situation for which he had no answer. And C. S. Lewis is talking to the President of the College where he teaches, who says to him,
“I know how hard it must be for you right now. You’ve been praying and God isn’t answering.” And CS Lewis responded, I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because I can’t help it. The need to pray flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. “Prayer doesn’t change God.” he said. “Prayer changes me”. I don’t pray that God’s heart might be open to me. I pray that my heart might be opened to God.
Jesus grounded his life in prayer. The Gospels are full of praying stories. Jesus prayed before his baptism. He prayed before he named the disciples. He prayed in the wilderness. He prayed before, and while reaching out with a healing touch. Jesus prayed before feeding a large and hungry crowd with a small piece of bread and some fish. There’s a story of Jesus praying on a mountaintop. And in the midst of praying, he literally becomes transformed by light. Jesus was found praying in sweaty agony in the garden of Gethsemane. He prayed with an utter sense of abandonment from the cross.
His very last words were a prayer surrendering his life into God’s hands. But it wasn’t just the dramatic moments. We’re told several times in the Gospels that Jesus often gets up while it is still dark and goes away to a place alone to pray day in and day out. Jesus opened his heart to God, made himself present to the love, the love that was always present to him.
And it gave him the strength, the strength he needed each day to face whatever he needed to face that day. Now the disciples, they watched this daily discipline and this practice of a prayer. And they became curious. They saw in Jesus the presence, power and peace of God flowing freely. And they saw that prayer.
Prayer was the key. Prayer is what opened his heart to God’s heart. So they asked their teacher, Lord, teach us how to pray. And Jesus said, Pray this way. We’re continuing our worship series on the prayer that Jesus taught, what he said when he said, Pray this way.
And we’re suggesting Jesus intended this prayer to be much more than words we recite on Sunday mornings. I mean, for most of us, we prayed this prayer so often and by memory that we don’t always think about what we’re praying, what it means and how this prayer might change us. Jesus was teaching this prayer as an orientation of the heart, a way of living in a world where God’s presence, power, peace might freely flow through us. Today’s Focus: Give US This Day Our Daily Bread. Now bread remains a big part of our diet, but in the time of Jesus, I mean, bread was central. You couldn’t just go buy a nice loaf of bread at Safeway or Whole Foods.
Bread had to be made every day, every day. And that involved way more labor than putting the mix in the bread maker and pressing start. Making bread was labor and time intensive.
Grinding wheat to flour, adding yeast, kneading the dough, giving the dough time to rise, time to rest and time to Bake.
Daily bread in the time of Jesus was essential. And it took a lot of time, a lot of time and planning to make sure it was going to be ready when you needed it. So praying for daily bread wasn’t a prayer for easy provision.
I know I do. At least we probably take the bread, the bread we enjoy for granted, forgetting that it for that bread to be on our table, it required someone’s labor.
So this prayer give us this day our daily bread invites gratitude. And we’re invited to be grateful for the labor to harvest the wheat, to be grateful for the gift of hands that need the bread, the abundance of flour, the gift of time to watch the dough rise, grateful. There are people in our lives to share the bread.
And there’s nothing in the Lord’s Prayer about stockpiling huge piles of bread for another day, stockpiling huge piles of bread, more than we need, just in case we might need it later. We’re told to pray, Give us this day today our daily bread.
Give us enough for today.
That’s a prayer about trust that there is enough trust in God’s abundance. When we don’t trust, there’s going to be enough tomorrow. We’re tempted to hang on to more of today’s bread.
I’m sorry, go back. I’m like Ad libbing all over the place. I messed that one up. So when we don’t trust,
It is a prayer about trust in God’s abundance. Trust there is enough.
When we don’t trust is going to be enough tomorrow, we’re tempted to hang on to more of today’s bread than we need. You know this prayer, and I’m certain that the disciples kind of heard this Echo. Give us today our daily bread. This prayer reminds us of the Israelites in the wilderness in the Book of Exodus who are given just enough manner, just enough food to nourish themselves for a day. God provided two portions on Friday so they wouldn’t have to gather up the Mana on the Sabbath day.
And if the ancient Israelites kind of got into that scarcity mindset and they tried to save and stockpile extra portions of Mana, it would rot.
Now that’s a lesson most of us really haven’t learned, to know and trust that what we have is enough.
We may not have all we want, but we are given what we need.
And this prayer is also a prayer that calls us to share, to make sure everyone has their daily bread. Notice just as Jesus began the Lord’s Prayer, our Father, he teaches us, Give us this day our bread.
There’s no such thing as my bread. Give us our bread. This is a prayer that there be enough for everyone. This is a prayer reminding us there is enough for everyone’s need, just not enough for everyone’s greed. I have a friend who pastors a Church in Haiti where, quite simply, there’s not enough food to eat.
And most children have red tips in their hair because they’re malnourished on Sundays during worship when they celebrate the Lord’s Supper. When the children come forward to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, my friend tears off large chunks of bread to give each child and says, the body of Christ, given in love for you, knowing that bread is likely to be their only meal that day. In Matthew 25, Jesus says, I was hungry and you gave me something to eat for whatever you do, for the least of these, you do for me. I mean, what if every time we prayed this prayer, we remembered, there’s no such thing as my bread? It’s our bread.
And we took some action that day to make sure those who are hungry have something to eat. I encourage you to make Sensibility a spiritual practice. This year. Sensibility is a program of our Church where you’re asked, every time you sit down for a meal and you give thanks for your daily bread, you place a coin or two in a jar. Dollars are okay, but you place, a coin or two in a jar and you say a prayer for those who have no bread.
You take a moment to be mindful of those who have no bread. And at the end of the month, we collect everybody’s offering, everybody’s money from their jar. And every penny, every penny goes to feed the hungry in our community and in the world. Why don’t we all make that our spiritual practice?
Give us this day our daily bread, trusting there’s enough and give us today the hunger that there be enough for everyone.
But let’s not forget, with Jesus, there’s always more than one meaning. I mean, I have no doubt that he’s literally asking us to feed the hungry, but there’s also another kind of hunger he’s talking about besides physical hunger, what is the daily bread your soul hungers for?
Deep down, what is it you really need? Not what you want. What do you need? What do you need that will sustain you, that will give you the strength to get through whatever you have to get through? Today the disciples ask Jesus, teach us, teacher, teach us how to pray.
I confess I’m a lousy prayer. I often feel like a spiritual fraud. I’m really envious of my colleagues who pray these beautiful and poetic prayers. My prayers usually sound like this. It’s not beautiful, but it is honest.
There’s a sentence in the Book of Romans that says, It’s okay if you don’t know how to pray. God’s spirit hears your size too deep even for words.
God hears your hunger. God hears your cries of hunger, the hunger of your spirit, and will give you what is sufficient to face what must be faced.
I’m not sure why, but I’ve been thinking and I’ve actually been journaling and writing a lot lately about when my wife Laurie, was in the ICU on a ventilator for a month and we weren’t sure she was going to make it. I was terrified and completely spiritually.
I went to the meditation garden in the hospital to pray, to bargain, to beg, to demand, to cry.
I opened my mouth. No words came out, but I startled myself hearing curdled screams, screams of anguish that kind of been just bottled up inside, that just all of a sudden were released. These screams of anguish rising from what I can only say was a deep, deep hunger in my spirit.
I didn’t pray any words, but I imagine I was praying, God, I can’t do this on my own. I can’t.
Please give me what I need to get through this, you know, after screaming, my word was prayer.
I felt strangely calm, grounded.
I mean, my prayer was this tear soaked surrender.
I had been starving for my pain to be seen and heard by God.
And somehow this prayer, this scream, this expression of the depth of my pain, open my heart to God, whose heart had always been open and present to me. There’s a prayer in the book of Ephesians that says, I ask God to strengthen you. Not a brute strength, but a glorious inner strength, rooted and grounded in a love that surpasses knowledge.
To my surprise, in that meditation garden, screaming to God, I received the spiritual bread I needed to sustain me. At least for that day. I received the strength I needed to return to the ICU and do my best to be the presence of love I desire to be for Lori and my sons.
I’d pray the next day and the next.
Lord strengthen my spirit, strengthen my spirit with the nourishment of your love that I might be bred for others.
Friends, may your spiritual practice be gratitude, not taking the bread on your table for granted. May your spiritual practice be remembering it is our bread so that you share, making sure there’s enough for everyone.
May your spiritual practice, be openness, opening your heart to God, asking for the spiritual nourishment. Your soul hungers for that you might find the strength you need today and so that you can be bred for others.
Give us this day our daily bread.
May it be so.