Reading Ramblings – September 4, 2016

Reading Ramblings

Date: Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost – September 4, 2016 – Lord’s Prayer 4th Petition

Text: Genesis 28:10-22; Psalm 104:24-35; Acts 2:42-47; Matthew 6:25-34

Context: ** We continue our alternate text selections for the remainder of the liturgical year in order to preach through Luther’s Small Catechism. ** The Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer moves us from petitions regarding God’s holiness and kingdom and power to more obvious petitions for personal care. It is part of our sinful nature that we see a distinction here, as though the holiness of God’s name should not be of equal concern to us as our need for food. God’s plan for our salvation includes provision for the mundane necessities of food and shelter, but these are small parts of the much larger picture, a picture which completely fulfills all of our needs not just for this day but eternally.

Genesis 28:10-22 – Jacob flees home to avoid being murdered by his brother Esau, who is angry that Jacob has stolen his birthright and blessing from their father, Isaac. He has left home, perhaps for the first time. And now he leaves home alone. He is vulnerable and keenly aware of it. So as the Lord comes to him in a mysterious dream, to promise him care and blessing, Jacob is still worried enough to make God a pledge the next morning – his faith and obedience in return for the blessing God already promised him without asking for anything in return. In our sinfulness we are prone not to take God at his word. He gives us good things daily, and the greatest of these is the gift of his Son, Jesus. Our prayers for the necessities of day to day life should never eclipse the reality that we are already blessed through Jesus. Our needs have been met, not just for today but eternally.

Psalm 104:24-35 – We praise God for his mighty works, his mighty creative works as well as his creative energies that give us food to eat each day. Our food is not something that we earn, that is provided to us by the grocery stores. It is a gift of God freely given to us. He provides for all our needs of body and spirit. There are those who would criticize God for allowing people to starve to death around the world instead of sending them food. Rather we should realize that God has provided all the food necessary to feed all of his creation, but it is our sinfulness which ensures that God’s largess does not reach all those who need it. God is the source of all things – life itself as well as all that is necessary to sustain life. Therefore He is to be praised!

Acts 2:42-47 – God provides for our daily bread in many different ways. We tend to think of it in terms of enabling us to work to earn money to buy our food with. But there are many people who do not have this option (because of the sinfulness of humanity) and are completely reliant on others who give out of their abundance. The early Christian community was characterized by this sort of sacrificial love, so that the important thing was that everyone had enough, not that some maintained more. Of course we know from the story of Ananias and Sapphira that sin would infiltrate this generosity pretty quickly. Still, it is Christians who are the first to respond to the needs of others, whether bringing food where needed or helping those devastated by natural catastrophes. We give freely to others because God has so richly provided our daily bread. This generous spirit is not because we are such wonderful people, but rather because of the prompting and leading of the Holy Spirit of God. He enables us and leads us to open our hearts and hands to those in need.

Matthew 6:25-34 – Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount begins in Chapter 5 and continues beyond our current text selection. Jesus identifies the nature held by God’s people. He then begins to describe the life such blessed people live. It is characterized by what they don’t do (Chapter 5) – including being angry with others and lusting after others. Then Jesus continues describing (Chapter 6) the Christian life – not just a life defined by an abstinence of certain kinds of behavior but by deliberate types of behavior. They are generous, they pray, they don’t seek acclaim, they have their priorities straight, and they don’t worry.

We are a culture and people given to worry. We are fixated on problems and worries and concerns. We are fixated about being taken advantage of. We are fixated on our safety and security. We are worriers. But in Christ, we are not to worry – at least not excessively! We are to trust in the love and provision of our God. Our worry does not change our situation, but our trust in God can change our attitude in the midst of our need. And we need to learn to discern genuine need for the arbitrary markers of security we have become accustomed to. Most of us have no just daily bread, but enough bread for the next week as well! We pray not just for the means to survive today, but rather are worried about stock performance and our 401K yields.

This petition is not only for food, but for all the necessities of life. God provides, we receive and give thanks so that God’s name might be glorified. The habit of prayer before meals is a wonderful way to remember that God is answering our prayer by providing for our daily bread!

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