Text: Luke 11: 1-4 Title: Enough for the Day Date: 07.13.14 Roger Allen Nelson How much do you need for each day? What is enough for the day? When the Israelites were fleeing Egyptian captivity they grumbled to Moses that they didn’t have enough to eat. They sputtered about being led away from hot meals and full bellies to starve in the desert. So, God told Moses that he would rain down bread from heaven ~ enough for each day. Loaves of Wonder Bread falling from the sky? Thanks be to God! Well, not exactly. The next morning the Israelites found the ground covered with something like coriander seed, white, flakey and sweet, it tasted like wafers made with honey. The Israelites asked, “What is it?” The Hebrew for “What is it?” is man hu, which we now know as manna. Bread from heaven. The instructions were clear. Take what you need for the day; take just enough for the day. Scripture reads that was about two quarts of manna per person and those who hoarded it soon realized that it spoiled overnight, stank to high heaven, and was crawling with maggots. So, take just what you need for the day for ~ forty years? According to scripture there was manna every morning for forty years. Fourteen thousand two hundred and forty days of manna. What can you do with manna? You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey's uh, manna-kabobs, manna creole, manna gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There's pineapple manna, lemon manna, coconut manna, pepper manna, manna soup, manna stew, manna salad, manna and potatoes, manna burger, manna sandwich. That - that's about it…. There is a long colorful history of speculation about manna. While in southern Israel ~ near the Sinai ~ I saw tamarisk trees. And I was told that a kind of lice feeds on the sap of those trees and then excretes a sort of yellowish-white resin or ball of juice that is rich in carbohydrates and sugars that the Bedouin (Arab-nomadic-desert dwellers) still eat. It decays quickly and attracts ants so a daily portion is the most that anyone gathers…. Manna is lice excrement? How much do you need for the day? What is enough for the day? Dear friends, over and over again in scripture, bread is a symbol of God’s provision, and therefore a reminder of our dependence on God. In the Old Testament there are dozens upon dozens of examples where bread served as a window into God’s presence and provision. With the possible exception of water there may be no other commodity in
scripture that so consistently points to our dependence on God. One could suggest that the bread is teleological. Its purpose, or final end, points toward God. So in part, “Give us this day our daily bread,” is a reminder that we are dependent on God for daily sustenance. The actual petition is oddly phrased. It’s plural ~ it’s not my bread, it’s our bread. There is a continuous quality to the verb. And the day (today or tomorrow) to which Jesus is referring is a little fuzzy. It reads more like, “Be giving us our bread according to the day.” Enough for the day. Thanks be to God. But, the truth is it’s easy to get anxious. It’s easy to grumble and grab. It’s easy to want more. It’s easy to hoard for tomorrow. It’s easy to worry about not having enough. R.C. Sproul writes that South Korea was left with lots of children orphaned by the Korean War. In one of the orphanages the children were particularly restless at night and consistently had difficulty sleeping. The relief workers soon discovered that the children were anxious about whether they would have food the next day. Even though they were given three solid meals each day they were worried about the next. To resolve the problem, the relief workers decided that each night when the children were put to bed they would place a single piece of bread in each child’s hand. The bread wasn’t intended to be eaten; it was simply intended to be held by the children as they went to sleep. It was a reminder that there would be provision for their daily needs. Sure enough, the bread calmed the children’s anxieties and helped them sleep. The practice of praying, “Give us this day our daily bread,” teaches us a spirit of humble dependence. We ask God to provide what we need to sustain us from day to day. We are not given license to pray that we win the lottery, but we are encouraged to make our needs known and trust that God will provide daily bread. The Heidelberg Catechism puts it like this: "Give us this day our daily bread" means, do take care of all our physical needs so that we come to know that you are the only source of everything good, and that neither our work and worry nor your gifts can do us any good without your blessing. And so help us to give up our trust in creatures and to put trust in your alone. And maybe that is enough for the day: the reminder that we are dependent on God. Our Father who art in heaven will be faithful. “Morning by morning new mercies I see, all I have needed thy hand has provided. Great is thy faithfulness.” Amen.
But. But, what is enough for the day? Life is so much more than bread. What is enough for the day? A friend who works with recovering addicts wrote recently about the harrowing clarity that some get after they’ve done the hard work to get clean and sober, after they’ve told the truth, after they’ve offered apology and tried to repair the breach, after they’ve worked the steps, after they’ve done all of that, in his words, Meditation can be risky business for recovering people. By the time we get to Step 11 of AA ~ the one which encourages prayer and meditation ~ most of the glittering promises made by the therapeutic spin doctors have faded to black and we face the unvarnished truth. Life is tough. And if not tough, it is sad. And if not sad, it is often enough, at its best, banal, lonely, and fearful. That’s pretty dark, but the hard truth is that if you chip away at all the hype and hoopla of self-help, and if you get past the acquisition of more stuff, and collecting a lifetime of experiences, and the security of a fat retirement account, and the gifts and strains of friend and family, and the rigmarole of religion, and the glory of life’s simple gifts, and flaws and failings that we just can’t shake when you get past all of that… You are often and easily left with existential doubt and loneliness and fear. The nagging gnawing hunger for something more. The undeniable longing for something more. The unrelentingly restlessness. The bedrock of the human condition. Now, as near as I can figure there are all sorts ways that people try to fill that spiritualexistential-human-hole. There is every manner of practice and program, every expression of snake oil and sales pitch, every talisman and tradition, and yet in the words of Bruce Springsteen: Everybody has a hungry heart. Everybody needs a place to rest. Everybody wants to have a home. Don’t make no difference what nobody says Ain’t nobody likes to be alone. But, dear friends, the good news of Jesus Christ is that the provision of God is not just the bread of daily physical sustenance but that you belong to God ~ who will never leave you nor forsake you. And therefore you are part of a family of brothers and sisters who are often just as scared and lonely and fallen as you are….
And! You are also accepted exactly as you are in Christ. (There is no earning your bread.) And! The very Spirit of God dwells in you…… Now, that may not fully silence the fear, or dissipate the loneliness, or resolve the doubts, but it does give you the daily bread of community, and the daily bread of scripture ~ a voice that is beyond your own, and the daily bread of a relationship with God ~ full of searching and seeking and settling and stumbling and some satisfaction that you can’t shake, and the daily bread of sacraments that embody and point toward a God who would break bread with us. John Buchanan, recently retired preacher at Fourth Presbyterian, writes that his eight year old grandson assists his daughter in serving communion. While he holds the basket, she says, “The bread of life broken for you.” One Sunday they were assigned to take the elements to the people sitting in the balcony. As they climbed the stairs Buchanan’s daughter realized that her son was not following. She turned around, saw him at the bottom of the stairs, and whispered, “What are you doing?” And in an answer of sacramental significance he said, “I’m eating the bread of life. I’m hungry.” Dear friends, come to the table of God for here is bread for everyone. There is enough for the day. Come to the table of God for it is a foretaste of that great and glorious feast when all human hungers will be satisfied and God will make his dwelling with people and there will no longer be loneliness, or doubt, or fear. Thanks be to God. Amen.