Give us this day…

July 24, 2016

Bible Text: Luke 11:1-13 |

The Lord’s Prayer.

Whether the traditional version we pray here at St. John’s or the more contemporary, I would venture to say it is the most ubiquitous prayer offered in Christendom.
For as long as I can remember, when the words refuse to be found, or when my heart doesn’t even know for what to ask, this is the prayer that will come to my lips.

It is the prayer I turn to to comfort myself after a bad dream, and for years it was my final utterance before I fell asleep. Before I studied it; before I dissected what it meant to say, “Our Father” and “daily bread” I recognized the power in the bidding and the effect it had on me each time the words formed in my mouth and echoed in my soul; the prayer redirects my longings and my priorities. It reminds me that I’m not in control even though, as God’s child, I am charged with assisting my parent in bringing about the kingdom by bending my will to God’s; and by forgiving my brothers and sisters even as I am forgiven.

This prayer realigns me, and when I give myself fully to its petitions, the lines dividing you and me; and them and us dissolve and I am able to more fully love and be loved in return.

However, in my reflections of the prayer this last week, it is the third line in Luke’s version that has captured my attention,

“Give us each our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.”

Now, I don’t know how each of you is feeling with regard to what’s going on in the country and the world, but I know I have some anxiety about the current state of affairs and it doesn’t take much for my mind to begin projecting too far afield. Before I know it, I’ve spent a good amount of time-too much time-- creating worst-case scenarios for the future.

Or, on a smaller scale, I’ll start thinking about this fall and Eric’s sabbatical. What will that be like? What will it be like to navigate stewardship season, and Advent, and Christmas as the lone priest? What will it be like to have Chris as the new musical director?

Please note, most of the time, I’m excited at the prospect – I know I am supported here, and I have every confidence in the staff. Still, there are a lot of unknowns waiting patiently on the horizon and I can traipse around in the world of what-ifs effortlessly.

And then I pray the Lord’s Prayer and that third line, like a patient yet firm, teacher, ever so gently brings me back and grounds me in the present.

Give us each our daily bread. And I remember the gift of today.

The prayer isn’t a bidding for a long, healthy, worry-free life nor is it a plea for peaceful, untroubled times. It is, instead, a reorientation—a reminder that we are completely dependent upon God for our lives today. For our sustenance, today; and my friends, today is all we have.

I am certain you each know how life can change on a dime. How a day can begin as benign and normal as any other and then….and then…. Suddenly what you held as a certainty in the morning is no longer come afternoon or evening.

I often listen to podcasts before bed, and I recently listened to an episode of Snap Judgment in which several people began telling a shared story; to a person, they said, “It was a beautiful day and I was on my way to work,” or “running errands,” or “going to school”; the story concluded with all of them—twenty four in all—huddled in a walk in cooler in a convenience store while a tornado erased all traces of normality around them.

They each thought they would die, there in the beer cooler, surrounded by strangers. The entire ordeal was recorded by one of the people and on the recording you can hear one young man, who was there with his friend, tell him he loved him, and then he said, “I love you all!” Soon everyone was professing their love for one another even as they held on—arms wrapped around each other, covering the most vulnerable with their bodies, hanging on to the shelving and whatever they could.

“Forgive us our sins as we forgive everyone who is indebted to us,” Jesus teaches us.

And this is what forgiveness is finally all about. When we reach those moments in our lives where our priorities align with a crystal clarity never before realized; when whatever is right in front of us dwarfs the slights we may have received and reduces the mountains of our resentments to appropriately-sized mole hills, then all we have left, the elemental gift given to us to share, is love.

These folks in the cooler didn’t know one another from Adam’s off ox. They had all just run into the store to pick up something – a drink, a snack, cigarettes. Still, when they knew the end was in sight; when they were convinced they would shortly breathe their last breath, it was ‘love’ that was on their lips…not political slogans or religious dogma; not righteous indignation or psycho speak ---just love.

When the storm had passed, they climbed out of the cooler where the ceiling had separated from the wall. The convenience store was gone; cars were in trees, fires burned around them and that section of Joplin, Missouri resembled a warzone more than anything that had ever been inhabitable.

The totality of their experience likely lasted no more than a few minutes—tornadoes are swift in their destruction—but the bonds between them, their shared experience of fear, and determination and love, will stay with them for a lifetime.

Life is short and there are no guarantees for any of us. And so we give ourselves over to our faith in the God who formed us and calls us each by name each and every day.

Don’t fall victim to the lure of the unknown; please don’t allow yourselves to be hooked by the fear and uncertainty of the future. Today is enough for anyone—this moment. And in this moment, you are loved. You are held in the embrace of the Holy One, the Timeless, Infinite One who placed within you a bit of infinity as well.

Rejoice in this day God has added to your life and bring to it your full attention. Live it as if it were your first, your only, and your last, and you will be sustained with the bread of life and the love of forgiveness.

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