Sermon; 8-21-2016‘Giving and Forgiving’
Matthew 6:9-14 NRSV
Dennis, Matthew & Sheila Fabricant Linn, Sleeping with Bread, Paulist Press, 1995.
Paul Buckley, Owning the Lord’s Prayer, Friends Journal Vol. 51, No. 2, February 2005, Friends Publishing Corporation, pps. 6-13.
‘Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us.’
“During the bombing raids of WWII, thousands of children were orphaned and left to starve. The fortunate ones were rescued and placed in refugee camps where they received food and good care. But many of these children could not sleep at night, fearing waking up to find themselves once again homeless and without food. Finally, someone hit upon the idea of giving each child a piece of bread to hold at bedtime. Holding their bread, these children could finally sleep in peace. All through the night the bread reminded them, ‘Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow.’” Sleeping with Bread, p. 1
Sleeping with bread, fulfilling the need for daily nourishment, the sense of safety and security… that we will wake up in abundance, rather than want. This is our prayer, when we ask God to ‘give us this day our daily bread.’
Paul Buckley, in his article ‘Owning the Lord’s Prayer’ writes, ‘In considering this petition, I have learned not to be too literal – in both Greek and Hebrew the word for bread can mean any kind of food. More than that, I have come to read it as a metaphor for all the things a person needs to live. Looked at in this way, the phrase can be read as, “Give us what we need today.” Why specify ‘this day’ or include the word ‘daily’? Both seem unnecessary. God provides what we need today and every day.’
Do you remember the story told in Exodus [Chapter 16] about the Israelites need for food – for ‘daily bread’, and God’s provision of manna and quail in the desert? Every day, enough for each day. People had to trust God for what they needed, each day, and no more. Daily bread – daily trust.
‘Give us this – give us that… give us what is needed…’ The Israelites always wanted more, and so do we. They and we, become bored and dissatisfied with what we have. How many ways can you cook, bake, fry, or roast, quail and manna? God gave and continues to give daily bread… what we need for this day, and asks us to trust God absolutely. Jesus teaches us to ask God for our needs, not selfishly, not with greed, but with trust that God cares and provides for us each and every day.
Christ took this a step further when he taught us this lesson: ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:37-38If God gives us all we need, then we, without judgement or condemnation, are called to incarnate God for others... we are commanded to give as God has given to us. Can you imagine the reward those refugee workers in Europe felt when the children were able to sleep; when their fears were calmed; when they knew they were cared for? Giving is receiving, both for God and for us.
Giving is also forgiving. Forgiving is for giving… not just a daily practice or need, but an everlasting, enduring gift we offer to ourselves first, and then to others. When we forgive someone, we first have come to a place of forgiveness in ourselves – that we are flawed, that we aren’t perfect, that we make mistakes, that we don’t always succeed or accomplish what we had hoped to. The list goes on and on.
Once we have realized this about ourselves, we begin to see these same things about the other – the other person, the other nation, the other organization, the other family. And then… we are made ready to forgive.
The gift of forgiveness is not neatly wrapped. It may look more like an arrow flying through the air, rather than a pretty package tied up with a bow. The arc of forgiveness may take a long time to meet its mark, but the important thing is that the arrow has been released and that it flies with purpose. I am ready. I have found it right to pull the arrow from the quiver, and send it flying. I forgive. I forgive. I forgive...
It takes strength and agility to shoot an arrow. You must be able to pull the string back. You must be certain of your target, with clear eye and full intention. You must be steady, so as not to miss the mark. You must be prepared. Practice. Think. Set your feet. Wait. Deep breath… let it fly.
Are you unsure of yourself? Here’s some advice from ‘raisedhunting.com’: “Looking for a simple solution? Start your bow practice now so you can have enough time to truly get proficient again without sacrificing your health or form. Regular archery practice builds muscle memory, so that shooting a bow becomes second nature to you. When the moment of truth comes, you can simply focus on the [target] instead of all the micro-decisions about your form and where to aim the pin. As you’ve heard before, only perfect practice makes perfect.”
Forgiveness is something that comes more easily to us when we’re in good shape, when we’ve practiced shooting short distances, and then steadily increased the strength and precision of our intention. And more than anything, we are empowered when we remember that we weren’t the first to shoot the arrow of forgiveness… that we have received mercy, that we ourselves, were the mark for that arrow. How can we not forgive another, when we ourselves have been forgiven? How can we withhold mercy, when God has been so merciful to us?
The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I; William Shakespeare, 1564 – 1616
The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown:
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
‘Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us.’ Amen.