“The Lord’s Prayer in the Lord’s Passion”: The Fourth Petition

“The Lord’s Prayer in the Lord’s Passion” is the theme of the Lenten devotion that Steadfast Lutherans has put together this year. The following sermon addresses the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer. For further reflection, read The Large Catechism, III. 71-84 (The Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer), II. 9-24 (First Article of the Creed), and I. 4, 13-15, 26-27 (First Commandment).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

This evening Jesus teaches us the Fourth Petition, “Give us this day our daily bread.” We’ll consider two questions: What is meant by daily bread? And on what basis does God give us our daily bread?

First, what is meant by daily bread? Picture a loaf of bread sitting on the dinner table. What went into that loaf of bread? First, there’s the grain. That grain exists because of the Word of God. On the third day, God said, “‘Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.’ And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind.”

Therefore, when we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” the first thing we’re asking is that God will cause his Word to stand. His Word is not only necessary for eternal life, but it is also the thing most necessary for earthly life. Without his Word, we might plant a grain of corn and it would grow a cactus; except that without his Word, seeds wouldn’t grow anything; except that without his Word, plants wouldn’t make seeds; except that without his Word there wouldn’t be any plants in the first place. This is why we pray the Fourth Petition to God and not to our bosses or paychecks, or our own selves, “The eyes of all look to you, O Lord, and you give them their food at the proper time” (Ps. 145:15, Asking a Blessing).

So the Word of God goes into that loaf of bread because the fruit of the earth that exists because of that Word goes into that loaf of bread. What else goes into the loaf? Good weather, which is another gift of God. Without good weather, crops die or don’t grow, whereas with good weather God makes grain and oil and wine abound.

But more goes into the loaf than the direct gifts of God. He also works through farmers who plant and tend and harvest the crops. He works through millers who grind the grain and bakers and devout husbands and wives who make the loaf. All of these vocations require tools, and they all require transportation. Therefore we must add miners, stonecutters, craftsmen, architects, engineers. We must add construction workers, truck drivers, repairmen. All of this requires buying and selling and therefore merchants.

If you’d like to eat the bread in a house, at a table, then we must add the Lord’s trees, his woodsmen and carpenters. And if you’d like butter or jam on your bread, or clothes on while you eat, then we must include many other vocations as well.

And over all of this is the gift of earthly peace, which God upholds and maintains through good government. So necessary is good government for daily bread that Luther advises princes in the Large Catechism to make their royal seals a picture of a loaf of bread. And in another sermon, Luther said that loaves of bread should be stamped with a portrait of the ruler. As much as we may have to say about our government, we can’t deny that through our government God provides the earthly peace necessary for making all the ingredients and vocations of the loaf come together.

So in short, as it says in the Small Catechism, “Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body.” When Jesus teaches us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” he teaches us not only to ask for the moon, but the earth, the whole universe, and the God who created it.

And this prompts the second question: On what grounds do we expect that God is actually going to do this for us? God gave us the whole universe in the beginning except for one tree. And we forfeited the whole universe in order to have that one tree. It was the worst exchange anyone could ever make: We rejected God and his order and his creation so that we could instead die.

So the question stands: On what grounds do we expect that God is going to give us our daily bread? Certainly not on our account. But the answer to this question is the same answer we get when we ask, “Why did God create us and give us the whole world in the first place?” The answer can’t have anything to do with us. We didn’t exist to do anything – good or bad – when God was creating the world. The answer must, therefore, be entirely about him and his nature. God created the world out of love, because that is his nature, as it says in 1 John 4:8, “God is love.” And we receive our daily bread on the same basis: because God is love.

And so Luther hits the nail on the head when he explains the First Article of the Creed in the Small Catechism. God has created us, he sustains us and defends us. And then it says, “All this he does only out of fatherly divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.”

So God gives us our daily bread because he is a loving Father. But that’s not the full story. God is not Father because he was first our Father. Rather, God is Father because he is Father of his divine Son. He is only our Father through the Son. The Son of God is “the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world,” as it says in Revelation 13:8. That means from eternity he is the one who brings God and man together, who makes his Father our Father. From eternity the Son of God was the one who would take the thorns and thistles of our curse and suffer them to pierce his own head. From eternity the Son of God was the one who would thirst from the cross and receive nothing but sour wine. And therefore we sing in the hymn, “Almighty Father, in Your Son You loved us when not yet begun was this old earth’s foundation” (“O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright”).

And Jesus continues to be the guarantee of our daily bread. He has instituted the Sacrament of the Altar and promised to be with us always in this way. And his Holy Supper, of which he will never deprive us, requires bread. Therefore, both because the Father loves us in his Son, and because the Son has given us the Sacrament, we can be confident of receiving our daily bread. Amen.

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