Our Father (who art) in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name,
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
Today, at the youth-led worship services at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Lord’s Prayer was sung beautifully by a very talented, musically-gifted young person. I was gripped by his voice, the tender notes of the piano, and the subtle complexity of a prayer I’ve not reflected on for some time. I was inspired to revisit my series on the Lord’s Prayer.
I’m especially intrigued by the petition to be nourished. The meanings of “daily bread” branch out onto a vast network of social, historical, and cultural circumstances. The Eucharistic resonance is inescapable for me, especially this day on the heels of a Sunday morning worship service. I can’t help but think of “daily bread” as that simple loaf broken for the disciples of the upper room and, by an extension of faith, for you and me, latter-day disciples of Jesus. I can’t help but draw near to the bread that carries the very Spirit of Christ to me in a tangible way each week. It fills my soul with the hope only a forgiving, loving God can bestow.
And yet I know that this petition goes so much further. It is the request for material sustenance in a world where so many go without. It is the hope-filled request to be nourished in a way that is so basic for me as a well-fed citizen of a wealthy country I often overlook it. To utter these words is to share the yearnings of an under-nourished world–a world I inhabit and yet ignore (even if not intentionally). The Eucharistic resonance folds back in on me with Christ whispering in my ear: “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17).
I’m reminded that our daily practices of eating echo with the clamor of voices wishing to share in the (over-)abundance we too often accept as “normal.” But what can we do? Finish our plates so the kids don’t starve in Japan, right? No. We don’t count ourselves blessed and move on. That misses the point. We change. Thanks be to God.
Yes, we eat differently. It’s taken me some time to adjust my eating habits. And I’m not done yet. For a long time I lacked any awareness of the ways my plate connects to the wider world. I didn’t care to know the story that whispered up to me from the food I gorged myself on. Slowly, painfully at times, I’ve learned to eat differently.
Not perfectly–differently. No meal is exempt from the reality of scarcity. There are few, if any, meals that don’t damage the planet or marginalize some people group. Yet, that doesn’t mean we accept where we are as all we can do. We must lament the sin-scarred scarcity that plagues our best attempts at just and healthy eating patterns. Still, sin-entangled as we are, residents of a sin-stained world, we sit at the table of Christ and remember words of forgiveness spoken over us as we struggle to learn a new way of life.
And so we eat in ways that are purposeful. We eat in ways that reflect the simple prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread”–both for ourselves and others. We eat to share. We eat to love. We eat to find new life.
How can we do that? That’s a difficult question with many complex corners and unforeseeable consequences. Surely, we don’t eat to be justified. We don’t take on vegetarian or organic-centric diets to be righteous people. Christ has accomplished that for us– he is the bread of life. We don’t need to be “food snobs.” Instead, we eat to love–that is, to love others who need food, too. Maybe we begin by asking, “will this meal, and all that went into it, benefit others, help others to eat?” Maybe we can ask, “will this portion size bring glory to God?”
If we begin to see our tables as places where the Lord’s prayer lives, then maybe we’ll discover that “spiritual” prayers have material implications. Maybe we’ll find that in the midst of material scarcity, spiritual abundance can be found. And maybe we’ll taste and see that God is good.
O God, give us this day our daily bread–no more, no less.