Seventh Sunday after Pentecost - Vicar Ethan Bergman preaching

Grace to you and Peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who along with the Holy Spirit provides us all with our Daily Bread. Amen.

I am a Seminary student at Luther Seminary in St. Paul Minnesota. It normally takes a student about 4 years to complete a Master of Divinity degree at Luther Seminary. I started seminary in 1976. 

My friend Joe Medley and I drove our rusty green station wagon the nearly 2000 miles from Oregon to St.Paul, MN in August of 1976.  If God would have given me the revelation that “Ethan, you will start Seminary now, in 1976 and finish in 2021, “ I probably would have turned around and headed back to Oregon.

My 45 year plan isn’t advertised in the Seminary catalog. Of course, I wasn’t a seminary student that entire time. Many other life experiences happened. 

Carla and I got married. We have three adult children. We taught 5 years in Alaska. I went to graduate school at WSU in Nutrition.

I became a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. 

I have taught nutrition at CWU for 33 years. 

And I think that is God’s point in my life and in our universal calling as children of God. We all bring our entire lives when we serve God. I believe we are all theologians and we bring our life experiences into our call in life, whatever that happens to be.

So I have a lens on life and theology that includes food and nutrition and hunger issues. 

True confessions, I can turn almost any scripture into a homily about food and hunger issues.

And this week’s lesson plays right into that wheelhouse because food and daily bread are central to Luke’s Gospel reading!

1. Lord’s Prayer: Luke’s Version

The disciples requested that their teacher, Jesus, teach them to pray.

Jesus responded with the Lord’s Prayer. 

Jesus instructs the disciples to ask for something pretty simple: Give us this day our daily bread.

Some things to consider here: As we contemplate the Lord’s Prayer, notice the plural nature of the request: Give Us Today Our Daily Bread.

This is a universal, communal Us.

The request is asking God to provide Daily Bread to all of us; all of God’s creation.

Also, this is a petition for this day, today. Not tomorrow or next week. When a person requires food or water it is an essential need.

Daily Bread goes beyond food alone.

In Luther’s explanation of the Fourth Petition, Give Us today our Daily Bread, Luther asks what does this mean? 

Luther thinks Daily Bread is much more than simply something to eat.

Luther expands this list to include all daily needs incorporating clothing, shoes, house, farm, field, livestock, money, property, and even an upright spouse, upright and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, decency, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors. 

There are no conditions set here such as where they live, or if they are mentally and physically able to help themselves. 

Jesus is instructing His Disciples to pray that all people in all times and all places have the necessities of life. 

After Jesus finishes with the instruction to His Disciples about how to pray, he weaves a story that includes daily bread as a central component.

2. Parable about a man in need of daily bread

We probably have all had a long lost friend show up at our doorstep and say something like, “I was in the neighborhood so I thought I’d drop over.”

People drop over unannounced and we might consider that as an interruption.

Henry Nouwen gives a different perspective on interruptions.

Henry Nouwen was a Dutch priest, professor, writer and theologian. 

Nouwen said this about interruptions:

“While visiting the University of Notre Dame, where I had been a teacher for a few years, I met an older experienced professor who had spent most of his life there. 

And while we strolled over the beautiful campus, he said with a certain melancholy in his voice, "You know . . . my whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered that my interruptions were my work."

What if we all saw interruptions as a gift? What if, instead of resisting them out of frustration, we saw them as an opportunity to be open to God and to build community.

So in today’s parable, Jesus sets up such a hypothetical scenario that considers our reactions when we have an unexpected interruption and how those interruptions help build community.

In this proposed situation, Jesus said to His Disciples, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, "Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.'

Today, we have quite a few choices when we need something to eat late at night if we have the means to purchase the food we need. 

I noticed that the McDonalds in Ellensburg is open 24 hours.

Yet another option is to ask a friend to help. 

In verse 8 we hear : I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his  friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

The Greek word that is translated as ‘persistence’ may also be translated as ‘shamelessness’ or ‘impudence’ or ‘perseverance.’ Sometimes persistence or perseverance or shameless asking may be required to get something done.

The man in this parable was shameless and bold in asking his neighbor to help meet the need for Daily Bread even though it was an inopportune time. 

If we personalize this a bit and put ourselves in this situation, we are often given the opportunity to help those in need.

3. How do we respond to requests when they surface in our own lives and in the lives of our sisters and brothers? 

Jesus poses two somewhat outrageous questions: If your child asks for an egg do you give her a scorpion? If your child asks for a fish do you give him a snake?

We are asked to give the uninvited guest their daily bread.

This reaching out and helping that provides daily bread for one another helps build community. It helps build a healthy dependence on one another to know there are children of God who love and support each other.

This is an invitation for us to consider: 

How do we respond to our sisters and brothers who have daily bread requirements that aren’t being met? Even in times that aren’t convenient for us. 

Are we willing to shamelessly and boldly ask our neighbors to join with us to help meet the essentials of those in our universal community who require good nutrition, clothing, a livable wage, or safe housing?

Jesus died on the cross and all of our sins were nailed to the cross with Him. We have the happy exchange of our sins for freedom and salvation so that we are free to live a life devoted to God and His creation. We are free to serve our sisters and brothers.

We are each put in our life situations to serve our Creator and all that He created. 

This place in life is different for each one of us. We are given opportunities to see Christ in our brothers and sisters and help provide the daily bread essential for each person.

This daily bread may take the form of advocacy for those who don’t have adequate housing or clothing or a safe environment to live.

This daily bread may be in the form of donated food.  

Like someone served by ELCA World Hunger when we contribute to meet the needs of people all over the world. 

Dave Hellerich and I attended the ELCA World Hunger Gathering in Minneapolis last weekend. There are still 1 in 10 people who are hungry in the world.  That is about 820 million people including hungry people in every US zip code.

Or this person we are helping may be in Yakima when we contribute to the local agencies such as Northwest Harvest or Camp Hope.

Or this daily bread may be in offering a listening ear when a person feels distraught. 

Or this daily bread may be in helping with yard work or other household chores when a sister or brother is not up to the task.

Lord, as we enter this coming week, we ask you to help us to provide daily bread and to do your work with our hands.