Sunday 17th MayService Transcript & Video
Shore Street May 2020 (Coronavirus lockdown)
Good morning Shore Street. It’s lovely to have this opportunity to be part of this service and to share with you something from God’s word. Before I do that, let me just say thank you to Alvin and to all of you in SST for your prayerful and practical and financial support for Marjorie and I over the last 4 years. Especially in the last month or so as we endured some pretty tough days and on our journey back to Northern Ireland.
Really it has encouraged us and blessed us and reminded us of your love and care for us over the past 4 years. This morning I want to talk about bread, daily bread. Where we live, bread is readily available but not the same variety as we have here at home. And one of the things I love about being home is the bread, Soda bread, potato bread, veda, granary, seeds, wheaten, baps, rolls, crusty bread, I love my bread.
Let me read to you from God’s word, and you can listen to what Jesus says about bread. Matt. 6:9-13.
A couple of weeks ago I read in the Belfast Telegraph that a group of 40 volunteers are packing around 250 food parcels each day – six days a week – at a cross-community food bank established in a north Belfast school. The article said that the cost of producing the parcels has jumped from £400 a day to around £1,500 a day due to the increased demand on its services.
When we read stories like that it really concerns us doesn’t it, because it’s in our own backyard. Marjorie and I live in two worlds, we have two back yards. And for people living in the Middle East, the lack of daily food is one of the big issues that concerns me, for obvious reasons. I listened to a report on the radio from Lebanon last Saturday. The person being interviewed was telling the reporter how people were demonstrating in the streets because of starvation.
And in another country in the ME that you and I know particularly well, only about 25% of the population can afford to buy enough food to last for a week. The rest of the population live day by day, hand to mouth existence. It is deeply distressing to see that up close and personal. And as I hear stories of people struggling to put food on their table whether it is in Northern Ireland, Europe, the Middle East, Africa or beyond, my thoughts have turned to the Lord’s prayer. And that verse that we read earlier “Give us today our daily bread” has taken on a whole new meaning for me, and I hope it will for you also this morning. Now I see more clearly why Jesus deliberately included this in the prayer that he taught his disciples to pray. It’s there so that we might learn to trust him, and to go on trusting him for everything in life, even something as basic as our bread.
And you know God can use anything in our lives, even the Coronavirus to encourage us to remain dependant on him. And so the 1st thing I want to say this morning is that we pray for bread because it reminds us that we need our God. Bread in the bible mainly represents a portion of bread, and this is because the staple diet then and today in the middle east consists of bread. Throughout the world, bread represents the one thing that is fundamental to human survival.
For the people then and for many people today, bread was and is their basic food. The bible is full of examples of this. Genesis 18v6 Abraham receives heavenly guests just before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah… he tells Sarah “ Quick… get three seahs of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread.”
When Esau was desperate for food, Jacob gave him “…some bread and some lentil stew.” Genesis 25:34. When Jesus himself was concerned with the hungry crowd, his disciples asked “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?” Matthew 15v33.
But in the bible, bread also signifies all forms of food. When you see the word food mentioned in the Bible, it is referring to bread. Genesis 3v19 “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground…” Mark 3v20 “Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat.” And yet having said all of that, bread not only signifies all forms of food in the bible…
It sums up all of our basic material needs. It stands for all the daily benefits we need, such as food and clothing, housing and heating, health and strength. So today for us when we pray give us today our daily bread, we are not simply asking God for bread or even food, we are actually asking God for all of life’s necessities. But if the truth be known, we are doing more than that, and this is where it gets crucial.
You see, when we pray this part of the Lord’s prayer, we are acknowledging our entire dependence upon God for all of our physical needs. You know we have eaten in dozens of homes in the country where we live. The homes of students, refugees, and local people. And the meals are always the same, chicken, rice, bread and sometimes salad. But these are special meals, special times with special people.
And when we bow to pray before the meal, and you hear the people pray, you know you are in the presence of thankful people, people who are really thankful to God for his daily provision of food. Do you know why these people are so fervent in prayer, because they know that they do not have the resources to provide food daily for their families. So this part of the Lord’s prayer is incredibly important to them, and it can be to us also and to every Christian throughout this world.
By praying give us today our daily bread, we are acknowledging to ourselves, to this world we live in, to the God we worship and follow, that we are not so self-sufficient after all. Isn’t that what we have realised through this global pandemic that has touched all of our lives no matter who we are or where we are living.
But what we are declaring when we pray this prayer is that the only source for all of our needs is from God himself. You see one of the biggest challenges that we face in the Western world today, is that we have so much stuff. We live in a world of materialism, commercialism and industry. Everything is easily made, obtainable and replaceable, or so we thought until Covid 19 appeared.
And so we are inclined to overlook the giver of our daily bread and to forget our dependence on him. And so when we pray this prayer, we are looking to God and to no one or nothing else, not even ourselves to meet our material and physical needs. Friends that takes humility, genuine humility to say and to pray that we need God to take care of us.
So when we pray give us today our daily bread we are confessing before our almighty God that all that we have and all that we are, and all that we ever will be, is ours only through the provision of His mercy and grace. The apostle Paul said to the Christians at Corinth “What did you have that you did not receive”. 1Cor. 4v7. So this part of the Lord’s prayer reminds us that you and I owe everything we have to God. It reminds us that we need our God.
But more than that and this is our second point and a very simple observation, but again it is a very important observation. We pray for bread daily because we need God daily. You see not only are we being taught through the Lord’s prayer to depend on God for everything, but we are to do so every single day. We are told to pray, give us today, this day, our daily bread which implies a daily prayer.
The word translated daily here is found only in the Lord’s Prayer and nowhere else in the New Testament. So whether you realise it or not here in the Lord’s prayer, Jesus is teaching us to pray daily. You see, Jesus could have taught us to pray yearly, and that would have been the annual prayer done. Or he could have taught us to pray monthly or weekly.
Give us this week the bread for the coming week makes sense, but Jesus teaches daily prayer so that we pray to and relate to and rely on God daily. Whether we actually use the words of the Lords prayer exactly every day is up to you, but what we are being encouraged in, is a daily relationship, a daily walk with God. Because we are needy people and because we eat daily, Jesus is encouraging us to pray daily.
Why so that we come to the place of daily dependence upon the sustaining power of God. But what if our cupboards and fridges and larders are full. How can Jesus be telling us to ask for what we already have? It is sometimes hard for us to see and understand how we are to depend upon God for all our needs when here in this part of the world we generally have all that we need.
Or we thought we had until Covid 19 arrived. But here Jesus is telling us and reminding us, that unless God provides for us and we acknowledge that, then no amount of food or money or things or stuff that we have will mean anything to us. We will take it all for granted. Isn’t that what we were doing before the CV.
Daily prayer for daily bread means we recognise and continually depend upon God for all that we need. So Jesus is teaching us to pray daily, but also Jesus is teaching us to live one day at a time. Isn’t that what we are having to do more and more in these days. In the days that Jesus lived upon this earth, most workers received only a day’s wage at a time. Today in the Middle East, most of the manual workers still only receive a day’s wage at a time.
The parable of the workers in the vineyard that Jesus speaks of highlights this. Matthew 20 vs 1&2 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.” So most workers were within a day or two of disaster if because of illness or accident or family problems they could not work, their family would not eat.
This is still true today in the Middle East. Jesus is teaching people then and us today to ask for today what we need and to trust him for the future. Now that doesn’t mean that we don’t plan for the future, neither does it mean that we don’t work to save for the future. Prayer is not a replacement for planning or for work. But what it does mean is that we are not to allow ourselves to be consumed by worrying about the future.
Matthew 6v34 are the words of Jesus to his disciples.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” And so the Lord’s prayer is worded in such a way that we are not encouraged to seek a week’s supply of shopping and then forget about God, rather it teaches us not only to pray daily but to depend on God daily, as we live one day at a time.
And that has been our challenge in the 21st Century hasn’t it, because we do we have so much, and we live in a world that promotes buying power, it’s all about quantity and quality and the latest model, the world screams independence, individuality, strength, power and do it yourself. But all of that has changed in recent weeks hasn’t it. These things have become less important in our lives, haven’t they?
The writer of Proverbs had got it right when he says “…give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’” Prov. 30:8, 9. So we pray for bread because it reminds us that we need our God. We pray for bread because we need God daily. And the result is that we learn to pray daily and we learn to live one day at a time, and finally and briefly, Jesus is teaching us to pray for others.
The words Jesus chooses are careful and clear. Our Father in heaven give us today our daily bread. So we are praying not just for ourselves but for others. We are to think of others as we pray. Recently I read an article in the Belfast Telegraph, which by the way I only read on Saturdays, in case your wondering if I have shares with them.
This article was written by a journalist, and it wasn’t even in the Church section. It was about the Corona Virus, and it was entitled… “If one good thing comes out of this crisis, it’s that we think a bit more about ‘us’ and a bit less about ‘me’. The writer goes on to say “queuing to enter the supermarket has become routine and studiously avoiding one another on the footpath has become a courtesy, rather than hostility.
He continues… But, when all is said and done, will Covid-19 have a more profound effect on the way we live our lives? When this pandemic passes – for it will pass – how will our world have changed? And how will we relate to one another in a post-virus world? He answers by saying… Well one place where we would do well to start would be to think a bit more about others and a bit less about ourselves.
He suggests… When you think about it, the behaviour that this pestilence asks of us goes against almost everything that our modern culture tells us will make us happy. Our book shops when they were open were filled with self-help books; everything from revolutionary diets to change one’s life, to others promising to contain the secret to happiness.
And yet Coronavirus has forced our collective imagination to think more about the ‘us’ of society. We are being asked to put the needs of others ahead of our own desires. Now that is what I call an interesting article, in a secular newspaper! But that’s exactly what Jesus is asking us to do when he asks us to pray ‘give us this day our daily bread.
It seems here that Jesus is not allowing us to pray give me my daily bread because God gives us bread not so that we would keep it all to ourselves but rather that we may share it with others. Friends we have been doing a lot of things in the last 4 years overseas, and some of those things have been praying for others, helping others, giving to others, supporting others, crying with others.
And all that we have been doing has been an extension of the ministry here in Shore Street, which is loving Jesus and loving others. God gives us everything we need so that there will be not only enough for our own wants, but enough to help supply what others need. Friends our bread, is bread to be shared and the result is blessing for both the giver and the receiver.
Proverbs 22v9 “A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.” Friends as we finish, we pray for bread because it reminds us that we need our God. We pray for bread because we need God daily. And the result is that we learn to pray daily and we learn to live one day at a time, looking all around us so that we might pray for and help others.
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