It is difficult, almost unfathomable, for those of us brought up in the shadow of consumerism to understand Jesus challenge to people of his own era when it came to money, possessions and greed. We live with the dream of owning our own home and filling it with things. It is our way of life, it is expected. It is how I live too. But what are we really spending. In this brilliant reflection from the documentary Human Jose Mujica gives us some perspective on the issue: “When you buy something you’re not paying with money. You are paying with the hours of your life you had to spend earning that money.” You cannot get those hours back. He does not advocate for poverty but for sobriety – for balance. If we are to be people of the coming kingdom now what does it mean for you and I to live a more balanced existence in a world obsessed with buying and owning more and more and more?
For those churches who still follow the practice of saying the Lord’s Prayer each week we pray “give us this day our daily bread.” As a child I can recall thinking this was about me getting lunch, almost another version of saying grace before a meal. But it was a prayer about me and my hunger.
As I grew up I came to a new understanding that bread was also a symbol of life and gradually the words came to be about God’s providence of the basic necessities of life: food + water + shelter = bread! In the Western culture in which I am embedded I have no doubt that this prayer of providence was shaped by what else I thought I might need to operate as a citizen in the affluent culture. The words expanded in their meaning and I possibly thought they applied to the others who prayed them with me but really it was about me.
As me spiritual understanding deepened a new layer of meaning was added to the words when I began to think about Jesus words to his disciples “I am the bread of life.” Give us this day Jesus?! The appeal for daily bread was an appeal for sustenance in life that was both physical and spiritual. Layers of meaning being added on and my insights were growing. The connection of bread to Jesus and sustenance also began to have an overtone of communion when we share the bread and wine as signs of Jesus presence.
Yet still God had more to teach me about this prayer as I stopped being focussed on the word bread in the prayer and began to toy with who the ‘us’ might be. Jesus presence in the world is all about breaking down barriers, it is as Paul says about the “reconciliation of all things in Christ.” Who is the ‘us’? Not just those who pray the prayer because we are called to priests, intercessors, a light to the nations. Surely the ‘us’ is everyone, all people, all religions, all places, all times. “Give us this day our daily bread” becomes a petition for physical and spiritual sustenance for everyone.
How important are these words in a world where the consequences of physical and spiritual hunger can be dire? How important is it to understand when we receive that bread, spiritual or physical, that it is there to be shared with others not simply protected? Is the prayer not also a call to share our daily bread as well?!
Think about the tensions in our globe and in our communities. How often can war, violence, fear, prejudice, discrimination, protectionism, ignorance be attributed to a lack of bread?
Let us pray “Give us this day our daily bread” give us all, everyone, bread for our bodies and our souls. Amen
“When I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.” Amos 8:11
During the week a new craze has swept across Australia called Pokemon Go! The speed at which this new game has been picked up is astonishing. It is what is known as an altered reality game. As you look through the camera on your phone or tablet Pokemon, which is a shortening of the phrase ‘pocket monsters’, appear on your screen for you to capture.
The thing which stands out to me about this concept is the game promotes an altered view of reality, a notion that that there is a hidden world or life going on around us we cannot see. It suggests that there is something more to this world than meets the eye.
For me it raises memories of books and films that have a similar idea of a hidden world around us. Films like “The Sixth Sense” which has a boy able to see dead people – ghosts everywhere around him. Teen books including the Harry Potter series and “The Spiderwick Chronicles”. Fantasy novels like “Faerie Tale” by Stephen Donaldson or “The Magicians” by Lev Grossman. There is a sense in all of these things that we want there to be more, we want a mystery to life.
For me it recognises a spiritual hunger that continues to lie within people. In a world dominated by science and logic, a demythologised world, people continue to seek new myths.
As Christians we believe in the presence of God and the work of the Holy Spirit in the world. We hold to a revelation and belief of there being something more. Yet at the same time the incarnation of God in the person of Jesus affirms our earthly mundane lives (sometimes our drab, difficult, and/or boring existence). In world where people are hungry for something more, for mystery, how do we continue to both affirm life as it is, as well as point people to the promise of a life beyond our current experience? What markers of our faith matter in this life and what promises can be offered as an alternate reality?