The Greatest Prayer - Week Five - "Our Daily Bread"

This week I am continuing my line by line sermon series on The Lord's Prayer with "Our Daily Bread."  Every installment of this series has re framed the lines of the prayer in such a way that we've hopefully gained a better understanding of what they mean.  This week, our "take away" is pretty simple:  Life without the Bread of Life is no life at all. 

Let's get into it.

I love the smell of baking bread.  It makes me think of my grandmas.  I don't know why exactly.  Neither one of them baked bread all of the time.  I just have these memories, though... 

My dad's mother was an old farm girl from Colorado.  The bread she baked was thick and yeasty and you would smear it with margarine and jelly and eat it like cake.  The smell of it would fill the whole house when she baked a loaf or two. She would always cut me a slice right out of the oven.  I can still see the steam spiraling up into the air from those pieces of bread that she would hand to me. 

My mom's mother was from South Carolina, a poor mill workers daughter with nine children.  She would sometimes bake her biscuits for me when I visited her.  I was the one grandchild that didn't live within fifteen minutes of her house.  So when I came "home" to see her, she would grant me my wish and bake me biscuits---even though she never made them any more.  I guess she just got weary of baking them over the many years that she had kids in the house.  She still made them for me, though.  And I would eat a dozen or so. 

There's something about our sense of smell that produces some powerful memories.  I read somewhere that the way our brain stores smell memories is in a completely different way than any other of our five senses--other than taste, perhaps... but then again those two are intricately connected.  It's deeper, and more lasting, isn't it?  The great French philosopher Marcel Proust wrote an entire tome about his memories after taking just one bite from a freshly baked madeline (sweet bread).  Presumably, the smell of that bread also had something to do with his rush of memory. 

In the Gospel of Luke there is the story of two disciples of Jesus--a man named Cleopas and a companion, who could have been his wife--who are leaving Jerusalem after Jesus was crucified.  They unwittingly encounter him on the road, and do not recognize him.  Some scholars have surmised that the reason they didn't seem him well is because they were walking into the sunset heading west away from the city.  I think that's silly, but I like the idea that the disciples on the road were walking toward the sunset rather than the sunrise.  Christians are called to be sunrise people---can I get a witness?

At any rate, these two disciples had lost the meaning of their discipleship.  They were getting out of Dodge while the getting was good.  They strike up a conversation with their new companion, who seems to not know a thing about what just happened in Jerusalem (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).  Once they tell him, though, their new friend begins to tell them all about how Scripture was just fulfilled and the Messiah had arrived.  At that moment they all arrived at an inn and they invited the stranger to have dinner with them.  The Scripture states that when Jesus broke the bread for dinner to bless it, they suddenly recognized him.  And then he disappeared. 

Immediately, the two wayward disciples turned back and returned to Jerusalem.  I love what one of them says to the other, "Weren't our hearts burning inside us when he quoted the Scriptures to us?" 

There are some awesome things to understand about this story.  First, it was an ordinary moment at an ordinary meal.  Christians often use this story to illustrate the meaning of the Lord's Supper, but this was just a regular meal among friends.  I love the idea that Jesus just shows up in the ordinary moments of life... on a Tuesday... at 2 PM... so to speak.  And these two disciples were not fed with bread at their meal with the Lord, they were fed with Christ himself.  It's like when he broke the bread, they saw the Bread of Life. 

One scholar who wrote about this wondered if they had been with Jesus when he fed the 5,000 and saw his hands break the bread on that day.  He wondered further if when they saw the hands of Christ break the bread at their table that it all came rushing back.  I don't know.  But there was bread, and there was Jesus and they finally got it. 

What we learn from this moment is that Jesus is fully present and is known when his disciples are close to him. 

The Old Testament that Jesus quoted to the disciples on the road was a litany of unsatisfied longings and unfulfilled promises... which found their fulfillment in Jesus himself.  These disciples had bet the farm on that, and felt like they lost.  They had put it all on the line, and felt like they had been betrayed and disappointed.  And when they encountered the very Christ they were promised, they missed him at first.  Until he broke the bread. 

In I Corinthians 11:23-25 we have the Apostle Paul's words of institution that so many of us pastor-types use when we preside over the Eucharist in our communities of faith.  The words, "In remembrance" make up the key phrase of this passage.  Maybe they are etched on the front of the communion table in your church.  They are in mine.  So many of us believe that when we partake of the Lord Supper that we simply remember, or think about what Jesus meant to us and did for us.

But it's deeper than that.  The phrase literally means, a "fixture of the mind."  The kind of deep, embedded memory that can't be erased.  The kind of memory that smells like freshly baked bread.

So what does this mean for us?  I think it comes down to a series of questions that we need to ask ourselves as we ponder how much of a fixture in our mind Jesus has become. 
First, are you walking toward the sunrise or the sunset?  Do you find yourself beating a path away from faith, from trust, from obedience.  If so, you may need to break some Bread with the Bread of Life. 

Second, has your life become a series of longings for what you "need?"  Do you find yourself become obsessed with having "enough?"  I heard someone once say, "Don't you dare ask God for your daily bread when there are people starving in the world."  That's pretty hard core, and convicting, but a bit shallow.  What that kind of understanding of "daily bread" rests upon is a belief that we're actually talking about provision.  I think this is a bit deeper than that, but there's some truth in it.  We often confuse our needs with our wants, and we find ourselves living lives of scarcity as a result. 

Third, and this is closely related to the second thing, where do we find our fulfillment?  Do we find it in things, in possessions, in having "enough?" Or do we find our fulfillment in being fed by Christ?  Are we worried so much about the two feet in front of us that we never look up to see the way Jesus is transforming the world around us? 

Here's the thing... when you've been with Jesus, you remember it.  The disciples on the road to Emmaeus had burning hearts.  It was evidence that Jesus had shown up and totally messed their life up... again.  They immediately turned around and went back into the teeth of the storm to the other disciples in Jerusalem where they told their story. 
We have been saying this a lot lately in our church, but it bears repeating: "When you KNOW Jesus, you want to SHOW Jesus."  You never forget when your life changed forever because of Jesus.  My moment came when Jesus stood behind me at a meeting almost 14 years ago where the Christian Education committee of the small church I attended discussed their need for a youth director.  Jesus stood behind my chair that night because I very literally felt what seemed like hands on my shoulders.  I have never been more at attention in my life. I KNEW I had encountered Jesus, and I also had a deep and abiding desire to SHOW that I'd encountered him.
I applied or that youth director job, and it changed the course of my life forever.  I will never forget it.

That's why I can say with confidence that Life without the Bread of Life is no life at all.  It's walking away from the sunset.  It's unsatisfied longings.  It's unfulfilled promises. 

But when you stop walking and finally sit with Jesus and the bread is broken and you smell that life giving aroma... you know what it means to truly live. 

Give us this day, O God, our daily bread... 

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