Sunday, March 15, 2020 “Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread…”
The message for Sunday, March 15, 2020, “Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread…”” by Pastor Erik Goehner
Give Us Today our Daily Bread
As concerns about the coronavirus worsen, people are beginning to stock up on grocery items in order to be prepared in case they need to stay home for days at a time. One unlikely item has become particularly popular. It seems that people are especially buying up toilet paper. This is happening all over the world. In Australia, there has been such a rush on toilet paper that the internet is showing supermarket shelves literally stripped bare. Some people on-line have made fun of the Australians for going to such extremes over the bathroom product. A meme is an image on the internet that has some kind of caption written on top of it. Here are a few of the memes people have made about the situation in Australia.
This one says, “How I prepare for an emergency” it shows rolls stacked up around a toilet.
[next slide] And another has the caption, “The Australian government’s response to the coronavirus revealed”
It shows a house and yard t-p’ed– completely covered in toilet paper.
So why the panic around this bathroom essential? Vice news reports that toilet paper hoarding started in Hong Kong in early February. A false rumor spread that China would stop exporting toilet paper to the island, which spurred people on to stockpile the product. Photos of the panic-buying in Hong Kong were then seen all over the world, inducing a global toilet paper hysteria.
This psychology behind this phenomenon is sometimes called “FOMO” or “fear of missing out.” It is another way of describing “herd mentality.” An associate professor of sociology at the National University of Singapore said, “When people face uncertainties about the future, they look for information and clues with reference to others. When people start panic-buying, others tend to follow suit, for fear of not getting any of the product themselves, especially products considered essential.” The United States, Japan, Singapore and Australia have all fallen victim to bathroom tissue hoarding. Another theory suggests that stockpiling also gives people a sense of control in the midst of a public health crisis, during which they are mostly helpless.
Certainly in these days we are feeling helpless as we face a threat which has maybe not affected us personally yet, but we know is real and could get worse very quickly. The unknown surrounding this global pandemic and the lack of treatments make it a scary possibility which feels out of our control. So I can understand why people are feeling anxious. I can understand why people are looking for ways to feel more prepared or feel more in control.
Thousands of years ago God’s people had a similar issue of hoarding more than they needed during a time of great uncertainty. Although it was not a bathroom product they were stockpiling, it was a bread product. Specifically, it was bread that miraculously came from heaven, called “manna.” God’s people, the Israelites had been freed from slavery in Egypt, but then, they had to face the unknown of the wilderness. It was a scary time when they didn’t know exactly where they were going or how long it was going to take to get there. Friends and family members died of heat exhaustion, snake bites, or illness. Hunger was a constant issue and at one point the people were so worried and hungry they cried out to Moses, “If only we had died in Egypt! At least there we had food. But you have brought us out into the desert to die.”
God responds to the people by telling them that bread will rain down from heaven and they will have something to eat. The next day the Israelites find a white, flaky substance clinging to the grass and bushes that looks like pieces of bread and tastes sweet. They call it manna, which literally means, “what is it?” They are told to gather what they need, but Moses warns them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” In other words, they are not to save it up or stockpile it. They are to trust that God will provide. Of course, some of the people are afraid there won’t be enough the next day, so they keep it overnight. But when they go to get the leftover bread it is filled with worms and is rotten. When the people take too much, things go bad.
During this season of Lent we are looking at the Lord’s Prayer. The part that is our focus today is “Give us this day our daily bread.” Like Moses and the Israelites, Jesus calls his followers to trust that God can provide bread, God can provide for daily needs. It is interesting that Jesus does not say, “Give us today our yearly bread” or, “our lifelong bread” but, “our daily bread.” In this prayer we ask God to give us what we need in the present time.
That is not to say that God isn’t concerned with the future. It is just that God wants to be the one trusted to hold the future. The Greek word for “daily” is sometimes translated as, “the coming day or sufficient for the day.” So another way to look at today’s phrase from the Lord’s prayer would be to say, “Lord, give us bread sufficient for the day, but also with an assurance of the same for the coming day.” It is a request that having enough bread for each day can never again be exceptional or conditional, like it has been in the past for many people, but instead something that is normal or unconditional in the present and in the future. (The Greatest Prayer, John Crossan, p. 138)
The other important aspect of this section of the Lord’s prayer is that it gives reference to fulfilling the daily needs of not just individuals, but of the community. Notice that we pray, “Give us today our daily bread.” It is not my bread only for me. It is our bread for us. There is a sense that, as Jesus teaches his followers to pray this prayer, he wants them to not only think about themselves, but to also have in the mind the greater good of the community. God wants to provide for everyone.
God’s care for the people and the call for them to be a part of that caring process was something that the disciples learned time and again as they journeyed with Jesus. One of those times came after Jesus had been teaching the crowds, and it was getting late. The disciples wanted to send the crowds away so they could get some food. But when they approached Jesus he tells them, “You give them something to eat.” The disciples thought there was no way they had enough to feed all the people. They may have even been a little nervous and afraid that they could have a riot on their hands if the crowd got too hungry. They only have a few loaves of bread and some fish. It doesn’t seem like much, but when they let go of their fear of scarcity and give what they have into the hands of Jesus, he is able to multiply it so they all have enough.
As people today make a rush on items from hand sanitizer to toilet paper, this is a lesson we can learn from Jesus as we face this challenge of the coronavirus. If people let fear drive them to take more than they need, there will not be enough for all. But if we can stay calm and only take what is necessary, there will be enough for everyone. Can our faith in God help us keep this perspective in the midst of our anxiety?
The prayer for daily bread is really one of stewardship. It really is a reminder that it is God’s food in God’s world for God’s people. Bread and the essentials of life are not for us to own, but for us to manage so each person gets what they need and we don’t take advantage of each other. Something that makes me angry is when there is price gouging during a time of an emergency—when some people try to profit off a crisis by charging hundreds of dollars for something like hand sanitizer. I get the economics of supply and demand, but Jesus calls us to rely on God’s hand—to take what we need without taking too much—to remember who really is the true giver of daily bread.
The author John Crossan points out that the Eucharistic meal, which we also call communion, recalls that Jesus not only lived for the just distribution of food and drink, but he died for insisting on the same thing. Jesus wasn’t just demanding charity, generosity, or even hospitality. The Roman Empire did not crucify people for those kinds of things. Jesus was insisting that the world and its food—summarized as bread and wine—belonged to God and not to Rome. For that he was put on the cross—so a statement about bread and wine led to the giving of his body and blood. It follows, therefore, that Christians are called to participate with the justice of God as revealed in the life and death of Christ. (The Greatest Prayer, by, John Crossan, p. 135)
O Lord, give us bread sufficient for this day, help us trust in your assurance that we will have bread tomorrow, and give us courage to share our bread when we are able.