Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sermon - Thanksgiving Day - Matthew 6:11

Thanksgiving Eve & Day – November 26/27, 2009
Matthew 6:11
“On Daily Bread”

Christians pray the Lord's Prayer as Jesus taught us to do. In that model prayer, we pray for many things – none of which we deserve. We pray that we may keep God's name holy, that his will is done in our lives, that his kingdom would come. We pray for forgiveness of trespasses, for strength amidst temptation and deliverance from evil. But we also have this little petition we'll concentrate on today. “Give us this day our daily bread”

We've already read aloud Martin Luther's brief explanation from the Catechism, “What does this mean? - God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people,but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving”.

And then he goes on to define daily bread including “everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body”. Or to put it another way, all our physical blessings.

As I've discussed this petition with various people over the years, I find that many who think of daily bread think first about The Lord's Supper. The bread that is also Christ's body in the sacrament. And while it's true that God gives us this bread freely and it is a great gift – here in the Lord's Prayer we're talking about the broad category of physical, earthly blessings – the “Things” God gives us every day.

It's worth taking some time to stop and count these blessings. It's good to set aside a day for Thanksgiving. But it's better to be thankful every day. Every time we pray the Lord's Prayer, to recognize that God blesses us richly – first of all with daily bread.

Some people would forget that's it's God who gives it. Our sinful perspective warps our understanding of God's gifts. We think we've earned them, that we deserve them. That I have good things in life because I am good. If we have a nice house or car or job, if we achieve some great task or possess some great talent – we feel it's because we are something special, and God must be rewarding us in kind. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Luther makes it clear. Daily bread is a gift. That means it is given, not earned. If we deserved or earn it, it would be a wages. And the only time Scripture talks about our wages – it's the wages of sin we deserve – death. Punishment – temporal and eternal. That's the daily debt of sin we incur. That's the tab we run with all our sinful and corrupt actions and thoughts and words.

Thanks be to God, first and foremost, that he doesn't count our sins against us, or treat us as we deserve! Because of Jesus Christ, the great redeemer, we are given what we DON'T deserve – the riches of his grace! Salvation! Forgiveness! Life – temporal and eternal! Because of his bloody self-sacrifice on the cross, we have the ultimate reason to give thanks! We have abundant spiritual bread for the hunger of our souls – our thirst for righteousness is quenched and we are sustained by him. But there's even more!

God's mercy and grace is so abundant that he adds to all this physical blessings – even for the wicked. Yes, the non-Christian, the unbeliever who lives and breathes and eats – does so only by the mercy of God. Their lives depend on him too. They don't know the hand that feeds them, but we do. The same hand that created and sustains us all – and feeds us daily bread.

Here, as he teaches us to pray for daily bread, Jesus also teaches us to trust. To trust him, and the Father, to care for us always. In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus gives the Lord's Prayer as part of the Sermon on the Mt. Where he also teaches us not to worry:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is note life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”

These may be hard words for us to hear in times like these. When the economy is uncertain at best. When people lose their jobs, or have pay cuts. When it's getting harder and harder to make ends meet – our natural sinful reaction is to worry. How will I pay those bills? When will things get better? Will our family ever recover? How can Jesus say, “do not be anxious”?

Trust. Trust in his promises. Work, yes. But don't worry. Labor but do not be anxious. God will provide your daily bread. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble”.

Oh it may not be easy. Jesus acknowledges that today may bring trouble. He knows it well. He lived an earthly human life. He knew poverty and temptation and hunger and thirst. And yet, God provided for him. And God will provide, does provide, for you.
Look at the birds of the field and the lilies of the field. God provides for them. Look at the evil and wicked people of the world, even those who hate God. God provides for them. So you, his child, don't you see, won't you trust, that God will provide for you?

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not along with him graciously give us all good things?

God knows what you need. He's your loving heavenly Father. And he blesses you according to His grace, in his time, for his purposes. Not only the spiritual, but also the physical.

No, it's not that if you pray hard enough, or trust deeply enough, or do enough good works that he will provide what you want. But he will provide for you what you need, according to his grace. Just because he's good.

Faith which clings to these promises is also thankful. What's the opposite of anxiety? It just might be contentment. What's the opposite of greed? It just might be gratitude. The recognition that God gives us daily bread, brings about in us, an attitude of gratitude. We know and trust and believe and recognize the giver of all good things. From the grand spiritual blessings of eternity, to the mundane and minuscule – the daily bread. Give thanks for daily bread, be content. And trust in the giver of all Good things, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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