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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread (Matthew 6.25-34)

Sermon by: Robert Austell; July 19, 2015
Text: Matthew 6:25-34

:: Sermon Audio (link) 
Click link to open and play in browser; right-click to save. Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes. Search for "Good Shepherd Sermons" or "Robert Austell." 

:: Some Music Used
Song of Praise: "Break Thou the Bread of Life/Come Feed Our Souls (arr. Youngblood)
Song of Praise: "Breathe" (Marie Barnett)
Offering of Music: "The Only Bread I Need" (Jim Terrell)
Hymn of Sending: "His Eye is On the Sparrow" (Martin/Gabriel)
Postlude: Rick Bean

:: Affirmation of Faith ::
from the Westminster Longer Catechism
What do we pray for in the fourth petition, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’?
We acknowledge that in Adam and by our own sin, we have forfeited our right to all the outward blessings of this life.-1 We pray that of God’s free gift we may receive and enjoy a competent portion of those outward and godly blessings.-2
1- Gen. 2:17, Gen. 3:17, Rom. 8:20–22, Jer. 5:25, Deut. 28:15–17; 2- Gen. 43:12–14, Gen. 28:20, Eph. 4:28, 2 Thess. 3:11–12, Phil. 4:6

:: Video - "Lord's Prayer Series"

:: Sermon Manuscript (pdf): 
This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. Some weeks the spoken version varies more than others from the early manuscript. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided for that purpose.

Last week Mariah talked about finding and following God’s will. One way to do that is by not conforming to the thoughts and values of this world. We will pick up on that very theme this week as we turn to the phrase, “Give us this day our daily bread.” In order to help us understand what Jesus meant by this phrase I have chosen his teaching on worry, which speaks to daily needs like food, drink, and clothing. Interestingly enough, we will see that Jesus makes a clear connection between these daily needs and the Kingdom of God, which is also the focus of the preceding phrases in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as in Heaven.”

Three times in these verses Jesus will say, “Do not be worried.” (v. 25, 31, 34) He will also provide three illustrations to help us understand the point he is making. But finally, he will draw our attention to something greater than food, drink, or clothing – something greater even than our worry. That something is the Kingdom of God.

Is Life Not More? (v. 25)

Jesus says, “Do not be worried” for the first time in verse 25. He specifically urges his listeners not to worry about food, drink, and clothing – all what we would consider basic necessities of life, maybe even “daily bread.” But before we get to that, notice how he begins the verse: “For this reason I say to you…” He is building on something that has come earlier. We did not read it, but Jesus has been teaching about money and treasure. He has urged his listeners to store up treasure in Heaven rather than on earth, for heavenly treasure will not tarnish, rust, or be stolen. (v. 20) He goes further, though, saying that our view and understanding of money or wealth is a potential competitor for our worship. He warns, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Wealth (Mammon – a personified ‘god’ of wealth).” (v. 24)

That’s helpful to know as we come into our text for today. Jesus also gets to the same point with a few words in v. 25 – we just might have missed them without knowing what came before. Those words are these: “Is life not more?” (than food…clothing). Easy to say when we have those things in abundance, right? But try asking someone like the homeless some of our mission team served this past week in New Orleans. Those things are essential and not always easy to come by. So is that what Jesus means? Is this a prayer for basic necessities? How or why would you and I pray those words?

Let’s keep that question in mind as we move forward and see what else Jesus has to say about it: “Is life not more?”

Birds and Flowers (vv. 26-30)

Starting in verse 26, Jesus gives several illustrations to make his point.

Birds of the Air – For the first he uses the “birds of the air.” Jesus notes that “they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” (another tie-in to the Lord’s Prayer – and “our Father who art in Heaven”) What is he saying? Those are human things… the planning and planting and saving. They are things that are beyond the capacity of birds. Likewise, he then asks whether our worry can add a single hour to our life. That is something beyond us. Nonetheless, to be clear, planning and planting and care of our bodies are all fine human things to do, but also things we worry and fret over. At some point – perhaps I should ask at what point does planting and planning and self-care turn to worry? At what point does it turn to idolatry and serving something other than God? That’s where I think Jesus is pressing his “Is life not more” question.

Lilies of the Field – He moves to a second illustration, the “lilies of the field.” (v. 28) Like the birds, the lilies are not mindful of the future; they “neither toil nor spin.” And yet God “clothes” the grass of the field with beauty, even though it is of less worth and longevity than human life. God cares about the smallest and the least of His creation! In contrast, Jesus mentions the third illustration…

Solomon in all his glory – Even King Solomon – who was wealthy and powerful by any earthly standard – could not care for himself with the beauty and attention that God gives to the flowers of the field. What a startling statement! Solomon, known for wisdom and success, surely represented the epitome of human achievement and provision for the future. And that’s the whole point! With all that wealth and wisdom, Solomon did not reach the MORE that Jesus mentions. And note that Solomon would be the first to agree with Jesus! The book of Ecclesiastes is Solomon’s reflection on the vanity and frailty of his own massive accomplishments. He concludes that there is MORE to this life and it was not to be found in wealth, wisdom, women, or power. All that, Solomon reflected, was “vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:11) He concluded, “Fear God and keep His commandments”… in other words, seek the Lord. (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

So Jesus repeats (v. 31): “Do not worry then… your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.”

Seek First the Kingdom and His Righteousness (v. 33)

Jesus asked, “Is life not more than food, drink, and clothing?” He illustrated that if the life of the least of creation resides in the loving Father’s hands, all the more human life resides in the same heavenly Father’s care. He now comes to the alternative to worry: “Seek first [God’s] kingdom and His righteousness.” (v. 33) For human life we do need the basics: food, drink, clothing. But there is more to see and know.

I am reminded of the Samaritan woman at the well, whom Jesus told about a kind of water that would quench her thirst and never run out. She responded, “Sir, give me that water!” And he was talking about himself, not earthly water. I am reminded of the people who followed Jesus around the lake after the feeding of the 5,000 to see another miracle with bread. Jesus told them to stop looking for bread from heaven and said, “I AM the bread from heaven.”

We have seen in recent weeks that Jesus was very intent to announce the arrival of the Kingdom of God. It features prominently in the opening lines of the Lord’s Prayer as well as throughout Jesus’ teaching. So here Jesus holds out an alternative to worry: instead of worrying about how you will provide in the future, seek out what God is doing in and around you today. Jesus doesn’t dismiss daily needs; he says “all these things will be added to you.” (v. 33) He is not telling us to live irresponsibly or without concern for consequences or provisions. He’s trying to draw our attention up away from our pre-occupations with money and self and toward God and His Kingdom.

So here are a few thought questions:

It may be that you don’t have to worry about basics – food, water, clothing – what do you worry about? In what way could you “seek the Kingdom and God’s righteousness” in that area?

It may be that you DO have to worry about basics – food, housing, job – those are all important things. In what way could you “seek the Kingdom and God’s righteousness?”

Jesus doesn’t say “don’t pray for daily bread.” He just says “don’t worry about daily bread.” His example in the Lord ’s Prayer is that we, in fact, SHOULD pray for daily bread. That’s the line – “give us this day our daily bread.” His interest is in our ongoing trust and hope in the Heavenly Father whose Kingdom is come among us. His warning is to not let the needs of today – much less the needs of tomorrow – divert our attention from what is “more than life” – a Heavenly Father whose gift to us is living water, bread of life, and a robe of righteousness.

Give us this day our daily bread; I trust you. Amen!

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