Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What is our Daily Bread?

Fr. Dale Matson

In our Lectionary Gospel Lesson for Wednesday in the third week of Easter Christ states, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” (John 6:35, NASB). “Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." (John 6:49-51)

What is our daily bread? In Luther’s catechism speaking on our Lord’s Prayer, Luther defines it thus:

What is meant by daily bread?--Answer. Everything that belongs to the support and wants of the body, such as meat, drink, clothing, shoes, house, homestead, field, cattle, money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children, pious servants, pious and faithful magistrates good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.

I believe it is here that Luther misunderstands what Jesus is teaching us in the Lord’s Prayer by understanding our daily bread as support for the body. That is the kingdom of this world. Luther is interpreting our daily bread in the sense of the Old Testament wilderness experience of the manna God provided daily for sustenance for the Israelites. That is not however what Christ is referring to.

In Matthew chapter 6, Christ provides both His prayer and the context for understanding our daily bread. Following his presentation of the prayer (6:9-13), He then discusses the unnecessary and material concerns of the world in verses 19-32. “So, do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. These are the material concerns that Luther incorrectly refers to as our daily bread. In verse 6:33 Christ states, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” The daily bread Christ is referring to is the daily bread required for sustenance in the Kingdom of God. He is referring to Himself.

“Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever." (John 6:57-58).

My brothers and sisters, there is no purer gospel than this. Christ has brought us back into the Garden of Eden. We again may partake of the tree of life. He continues to feed His people the church with His body and blood and has done so for two thousand years. In the Eucharist, we are given the bread with these words spoken, “The body of Christ; the bread of heaven.” When we are given the chalice, we are told, “The blood of Christ; the cup of salvation.” In Him we have eternal life and in Him we are more than conquerors. Just as Yahweh provided daily manna in the wilderness to the Israelites, Christ offers himself as our bread daily in the Kingdom of God. Lord, give us this day our daily bread. Amen


Sibyl said...

Fr. Matson,

In his first temptation, Jesus said, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God'

The temptation presented to Him was to turn stones into bread and feed Himself. But Jesus came to BE bread, to feed us, not Himself...that is why He was symbolically laid in a manger, a feeding trough for creatures.

So, God's Word is food and Jesus is also our food as He later revealed in the upper room.

In John 4, Jesus said His food was to do the will of the Father.
So it is for us, doing God's will is also our food.

Paul said, we being many are one loaf...to be broken and given by the Lord to feed the Word and the Lord and the word our testimonies/witness to the world.

Dale Matson said...

Sometimes I think the people who respond to my posts should be writing the posts. You have a depth of spiritual understanding that is beyond mine. I am edified!

Sibyl said...

Forgot to say that I read that in olde English, the word Lord means, 'keeper of the loaf.'

I don't have a lot of spiritual understanding per se, but I have studied bread and food in Scripture because I was interested and used to bake/cook a lot of it!

I really enjoy your writing and spiritual insights, Fr. Matson. Hope you will write a book of devotions.

Dale Matson said...

I have written a book of devotions. http://sanjoaquinsoundings.blogspot.com/2011/01/meditations-of-plumber-priest.html.

Michael said...

Do you understand the 4th Cup?

After the beginning of Jesus’ Last Passover Supper (Seder) Judas Iscariot left to do what he had to do. The twelve left in the room were at the point where the second of four traditional cups was about to be drunk.

(The first is at the beginning of the Seder meal.) Jesus took the cup and gave thanks and gave it to them and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes.”

More of the lamb meal was consumed. During that He took a loaf of unleavened bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to His disciples saying, “This IS my body given for you; do this to recall me.” (“Recall” is a better translation of the Greek “anamnesis” than “remember”.)

After the supper He took the third cup saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This IS my blood of the NEW and everlasting covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

A hymn was sung, which is a combination of several psalms called The Great Hallel, and they went out to the Mount of Olives.

What happened? The Passover ceremony and ritual was not complete. There was no fourth cup. There was no announcement that it was finished. Could it be that Jesus was so upset with what He knew was about to happen that He forgot? Doubtful!

Not only Jesus, but also the 11 others had participated in the Passover Seder every year of their lives. No, this was done on purpose. The last supper of Jesus was not over.

On the Mount of Olives, in the Garden of Gethsemane, the disciples slept while Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.”

He prayed that three times. Then Jesus was arrested, illegally put on trial by the Sanhedrin, then by Pontius Pilate, sentenced and crucified.

While on the cross He wept. Jesus, who was in excruciating agony, was so merciful that He prayed for the forgiveness of His executioners. He was offered some wine with a pain killer, myrrh, in it. He refused it.

“Later, knowing that all was now complete, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled and the kingdom established, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.‘” A man dipped a sponge into sour wine; he placed it on a hyssop branch and lifted it up to Jesus lips.

He drank. (We recall that it was the hyssop branch which was used to paint lambs blood around the Hebrew’s door for the Passover of the angel of death.)

It was then that Jesus said, “It is finished.” He then bowed His head and gave up the spirit to His Father.

The fourth cup now represented the lamb’s blood of the first Passover, a saving signal to the angel of death.

The Lamb of God was now sacrificed. The last Passover supper of Jesus Christ was now complete with the fourth cup. It was finished.

The tie in with the Passover is unmistakable.

The Lamb of God was sacrifice and death was about to be passed over come Easter day.

The promise of eternal life for many was about to be fulfilled.

Dale Matson said...

Thanks for your comment and the additional depth it brings to our understanding.I think the continuity of the Easter Triduum from Maundy Thursday to Evening Prayer on Easter Sunday reflect this idea too.