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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:In the Fourth Petition, It Is What It Is
Text:LD 50 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Providence
 
Added:2022-05-09
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Deuteronomy 8:1-10

Lesson: Lord’s Day 50

 

IN THE FOURTH PETITION, IT IS WHAT IT IS:

  1. Bread is Bread

  2. God is God

 

  1. Psalm 104: 1, 4, 7

  2. Psalm 37: 1, 10, 11

  3. Psalm 136: 1, 2, 13

  4. Hymn 2

  5. Psalm 127: 1, 2

  6. Hymn 78: 1, 2, 5

 

Words to Listen For: stand-in, poor, arena, beginning, life-hack

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. Why might we be ashamed of being human?

  2. Why might bread NOT mean bread?  Why DOES it mean bread?

  3. What is the slippery slope when it comes to God’s sovereignty?

  4. How should we understand this petition?  Only in light of the other petitions, or something more too?  What do we forget?

  5. How is this petition for us, even if we think we don’t need to pray it?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ our Lord,

Have you ever felt guilty about BEING HUMAN?  I know that I have.  When I sit back and reflect on our relatively short lives, and think about how we spend our time, I feel quite guilty!

And I’m not referring here to the time we WASTE…the time we WASTE watching TV, or on social media…but things that we NEED to do, just because of the fact that we are human.

Think about sleep for example.  Out of the average lifespan of 79 years, a person will spend 26 years of that sleeping, and an additional 7 years TRYING TO GET TO SLEEP.  33 out of 79 years, or 42 percent.  Nearly half of our short life is spent unconscious!

Or think about food.  Though we don’t spend nearly as much time eating as we do sleeping, we still spend an accumulated 4 and a half years eating!  5% of our time and 10% of our income is spent on food.  Something that presents us with very temporary pleasure, and even that, only when the food is good!

We need food, and we need sleep in order to live, but compare such mundane, seemingly useless things with grander and more important things such as thinking the deep thoughts of philosophy, or seeking the all important will of God for our lives, or working to bring about His amazing and everlasting kingdom…

Making these comparisons make me feel guilty, and they make me feel weak

AND THEN, to bring these shameful weaknesses to God in prayer??  It’s one thing to deal with the embarrassment of being a human within yourself, but to bring this before GOD, the Almighty Creator of the Universe who is always working out amazing wonderful important things in His creation?  It seems WRONG.

And yet, there it is, in black and white in your Bibles.  Matthew 6:11 - Give us this day our daily bread.

And so, there have been those who have sought to SPIRITUALIZE the fourth petition.  Bread, bread they say, is a stand-in.  A human metaphor for spiritual things.  After all, Jesus is the manna that came down from heaven.  Jesus is the bread of life.  What our Lord is teaching His disciples, and us today, is to ask for spiritual things.  To ask for HIM.

This comes from the shame that some of us feel in being human.

But let me challenge them, let me challenge myself, and you, if you too feel this shame…

IN THE FOURTH PETITION, IT IS WHAT IT IS:

  1. Bread is Bread

  2. God is God

In the Fourth Petition, it is what is is: Bread is bread!

It is a challenge, for some of us, to not feel any shame about being human.  But take a step back with me - where is the logic about a human feeling shame in being human?  This is foolish - what else would we be?  Fall or not Fall, apple or no apple, human beings would be human beings, and we always will be.

“But aren’t we called to something more?” one of you may ask?  Wasn’t that the third petition?  Your will be done…may we carry out the duties of our office and calling as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.

Ah yes, but look at the wording a bit more closely.  This petition does not require us to transform into God - just for our will to be in line with His.  

This petition doesn’t require us to transform into angels - just for our willingness and obedience to be as faithful as theirs.

Every single day of our lives, not just from “womb to tomb” as we sometimes think, but from womb INTO ETERNITY, we will be human.

Let’s pause here for just a moment.  In heaven…we will still be human.  In heaven, when we are freed from our weakness and sin, even then, we will still be human.  At that time, in our glorified state, when we are LIKE GOD in our holiness, when our bodies are transformed to be like His glorious body…we will still be human.  We do not BECOME GOD in heaven.

And so, as silly as it might seem for those who have never thought about their humanity with any shame, let me say to all of you right now - it’s okay to be human.  You don’t have to apologize for it.  You don’t have to feel private shame over it.

This is how God has created you - pinnacle of His creation.  Human beings are “VERY GOOD.”  It’s okay to be human, and yet, every time that Scripture speaks of something that IS HUMAN, we feel the need to try to spiritualize it.

And this spiritualization is done in two ways.  The first way is in seeing everything as purely spiritual, right off the bat.

Think about how some people interpret the book of Song of Songs - they are uncomfortable with the very real human emotions and desires present in the book and completely spiritualize the whole thing.  This isn’t about a man and a woman, they say, this is about God and the Church!  Marriage and sex are just metaphors for what REALLY MATTERS.  But this isn’t being fair to the clear meaning of Scripture, this isn’t consistent with how God sees mankind - as very good, as the pinnacle of His creation.

Or, there are those who spiritualize the birds that Noah sent out of the ark.  The raven represented the law, and came back empty, whereas the dove representing the gospel brought salvation.  Sometimes…a raven is just a raven.

And the same is true for this petition.  Bread can’t just mean bread they say!  After all, look at its position in the Lord’s Prayer.  How can BREAD come before FORGIVENESS?  How can BREAD come before STRENGTH TO STAND UP UNDER TEMPTATION!  After all, doesn’t Jesus Himself say “Man cannot live by bread alone?”

Well, let’s examine this claim together.

Firstly: Bread can’t just mean bread…because of the order of the petitions.

Well, here we must be careful not to make too much of the order.  After all, are we expecting that each petition is LESS IMPORTANT than the one that comes before?  Where do we get this idea from?  Do we apply this to, say, the beatitudes?  That the poor in spirit are MORE BLESSED than those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake?

Do we apply this to the 10 commandments, that stealing is worse than lying just because stealing is commandment 8 and lying is commandment 9?

To be fair, Jesus isn’t putting these petitions in a random order, but we shouldn’t assume that they are from most important to least important either.

 

And Secondly: Bread can’t just mean bread…because man cannot live by bread alone.

While it is true that man cannot live by bread alone…it is also true that man cannot live WITHOUT BREAD.  We heard the context of this quotation by Jesus in our reading.  The context of man not living by bread alone is in God explaining how He provided them with bread!  It’s not JUST BREAD - He gave them His law, but it IS ALSO BREAD!

Now, if the entire Lord’s prayer was the fourth petition, this argument would carry some weight to it.  We clearly need God for more than just bread.  Bread is not the be-all-and-end-all of our lives here!  But it is an important aspect to them.

There is the danger of spiritualizing right off the bat, seeing everything as purely spiritual.  But the other danger is that we spiritualize the results.  We spiritualize the motivation for physical things.

And here, we must be careful, because there is SOME TRUTH to this.  It can rightly be said that, “through our daily bread, our Heavenly Father gives us the strength to Hallow His Name, Advance His Kingdom, and Do His Will.”  If we did not have these physical things, we could not have the energy or the ability to do any of these other things.

But where we make a mistake is when we have such a firm separation between what is earthly, and what is from God.  What is valued by God.  What is supernaturally worked out by Him.  What exactly is it that makes our daily bread more human, more ordinary, than the forgiveness of sins?  Is it not the same God who created your body, as well as your soul?  Is the growing of food through photosynthesis any less of a miracle than all the others?

Where we get this wrong is that we think that, even without praying for food, we will receive food.  After all, we can easily plant gardens of our own.  After all, we can go to the grocery store.  After all, we can go to a restaurant.  What does God have to do with any of those things?

EVERYTHING.  He has EVERYTHING to do with all of these things.  And this petition is meant to remind us of that.  We must pray for our daily bread so that we remind ourselves where it ultimately comes from.

For who is it that sends rain and sunshine on the earth?  Who is the one who causes the plants to grow?  Who is the one who empowers the farmers, the harvesters, the grocers?  All this is from God, and just because He does it so consistently, just because He has done it from the background, doesn’t mean that we could do it without Him.

But so easily we forget.  So easily we proclaim our own independence and strength.  We tell God - I need you for these spiritual things…I can’t earn forgiveness for myself…but the food thing…don’t worry God, I’ve got that one.  Take the day off.

But to divide up our lives like this, to divide up our needs…you are saying, in effect, God, you are sovereign only over half my life - what is spiritual.  Leave me alone when it comes to the human stuff.  And how quickly the human part can expand.

We can easily make arguments that everything to do with food and shelter is in “our arena.”  

And from that, we can make the little leap to arguing that, not only our houses belong to what is earthly, but everyone living in our houses.

My marriage?  That’s a human thing.

My children?  Naturally produced.

And then, what is to stop us from claiming 6 days a week for ourselves - only Sundays are for God.

And our money - what is to stop us from claiming 90% for ourselves - only a tithe belongs to God.

And soon, we have slid all the way down that very slippery slope by assuming that God is not sovereign over every single aspect of our lives.  When we give ourselves an inch, we will so quickly take a mile.

And so, it is so very important to remember and acknowledge that this prayer is indeed about what is physical - our catechism is exactly right when it says:

Provide us with all our bodily needs

so that we may acknowledge

that you are the only fountain of all good

and that our care and labour,

and also your gifts

cannot do us any good

without your blessing

Our God is the God over the spiritual and the physical…and such qualifiers aren’t nearly as useful as we think them to be.

When we pray this prayer, we pray so that we would acknowledge our need, and we pray so that we would acknowledge our God.  Our second point.

Let’s examine our reading once more.  Deuteronomy 8:10 - And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land He has given you.

The gift of physical things from the hand of our God not only reminds us of our need, as well as our need to trust in Him FOR our need, but it is also meant to remind us of WHO HE IS.

And who is our God?

As you can tell in the wording of the second point here, this isn’t a difficult question.  God is God.  It’s simple, and yet, sometimes it is the hardest thing in the world.

As we continue to go through our prayer, praying:

Hallowed be Your Name - our thoughts dwell on God’s holiness.  His complete and total “otherness.”  His distance from us.

When we pray Your Kingdom Come - our thoughts dwell on God’s Kingly majesty.  His complete and total “otherness.”  His distance from us.

When we pray Your Will Be Done - our thoughts dwell on God’s wisdom.  As far as the heavens are above the earth - His total “otherness.”  His distance from us.

And this is why it seems so out of place for us then to follow this with Give us this day our daily bread.

Not only because our minds are in that higher, heavenly place, praying for spiritual things…but because our conception of God is in that higher heavenly place too.

Why would a completely holy God listen to the plea of a sinner like me?

Why would a completely majestic God listen to the prayer of a commoner like me?

Why would a completely wise God listen to the prayer of a fool like me?

But in all of this, have we forgotten who we are praying to?  Our God is completely holy, majestic, and wise…it is true.  But how did we address Him at the beginning of our prayer?

He is OUR FATHER!  And our catechism explains this beautifully:

God has become our Father through Christ

and will much less deny us

what we ask of Him in faith

than our fathers would

refuse us earthly things

We see this through the example of Israel in the wilderness.

Though His holiness required punishment for His wayward people, His love demanded discipline.  Discipline, teaching, discipling.  And all this was done in grace and mercy, in love and compassion.

Verse 2 - And you shall remember the whole way the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.  And He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know…

And again, verse 4 - your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years.

For forty years, even as He rebuked them, even as He punished them in the wilderness, He provided for their physical needs, not looking down on them because they were human, but looking on them as a Father looks on His children.

He did this to teach them that He will provide for their needs.  He provided for their spiritual needs with His law, and for their physical needs with water and manna and quail.  Constantly, from His hand.

And then the blessings increased - after the 40 years of loving care in the wilderness, God brought His people into the land.

Verse 7 - For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper.  And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land He has given you.

And this is the position where we are, generally, right now.  Though Canada is not literally the Promised Land, we have been very blessed as a federation of churches.  We truly have been.  

And in these blessings, we have to be careful.  We have to be careful to not put the blessings above the Blesser.  Put the gifts above the Giver.

When God has blessed us so richly, we can easily forget that we still have to pray this petition.

In many ways, it was EASIER for the Israelites in the wilderness than in the Promised Land.   And look at their history.  You can see this!  Though the wilderness had a GRUMBLING Israel, the Promised Land had a GODLESS Israel.  In the wilderness, they questioned God’s goodness to them, but in the Land they questioned His existence.  They turned and served other gods, they made a show of their religion.  In the wilderness, they never forgot about God, but in the land, they did nothing BUT forget.

And we have to be on guard against this as well.  Just like God gave Israel the Promised Land, our God has given us, here in Canada an embarrassment of blessings.  An absolute EMBARRASSMENT of blessings.

And so, because we are so weak in ourselves, because, so often we do not pray this petition…we forget. 

Because many of us don’t have to live paycheck to paycheck, we begin to trust in our bank accounts a little too much.

Because, for many of us, our fridges and freezers and pantries are stocked full of food, and we don’t have to gather food for the day, we think that somehow we have escaped the day to day life of a human being.

I worry that somehow we think that we have found a “life-hack” so that we don’t need to pray this petition.

Oh this petition is good for citizens of the Ukraine in their crisis.

Oh this petition is good for those who are sick in the hospital.

Oh this petition is good for the people on welfare.

But **I** am ABOVE all of that.

 

But here’s the thing - you aren’t!  You aren’t “above all that” and so, whether you think you need to pray this petition or not, it is important that you pray it!

It is, as the catechism so rightly concludes this Lord’s Day:

Grant, therefore, that we may

    withdraw our trust

    from all creatures

    and place it only in you.

  • These aren’t words just for pagans - withdraw your trust from Baal and put it in Yahweh.

  • These words aren’t just for Roman Catholics - withdraw your trust from the saints and put it in your Heavenly Father.

These are words for us too!

Withdraw your trust from…yourself!  And put it in your God!

You might be an amazing businessman…but you’re not God!

You might be an expert saver, savvy with the stock market, knowing the bear from the bull…but you’re not God!

Because who is this God that we are praying to?  Who exactly is this God who we are depending upon?  He is who He always has been.

  • The God who hand-fashioned Adam and Eve is the God who watches over you, day by day.

  • The God who called Abram and led him to a foreign land is the God who calls you to trust in Him as He leads you through this life.

  • The God who rained down manna and quail for the Israelites is the God who rains down blessings on you constantly, whether you recognize them or not.

  • The God who protected and preserved His church from the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, and the Romans is protecting and preserving you even now.

Beloved, we do not have to be ashamed of being human.  We do not have to worry about being human, because we know that our God is - and always will be - God.  His care for His people will not wane or waver.  As God, He will continue to provide for us, day by day, and as His people, it is we are to continue to trust Him, day by day - for the big as well as the small.  And our trust will not be in vain, for His steadfast love is sure, it shall evermore endure.

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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