Ephesians 3:15-21; Luke 9:11-17
St Barbara’s; 27.03.2022 8am
Rev Tulo Raistrick
Mothering Sunday can be a joyful and special day, but for many it is not always an easy day.
Indeed a regular Gospel reading for Mothering Sunday is when Mary brings Jesus for a blessing in the Temple and is told her son will be unpopular and disliked, and “a sword will pierce her own soul, too.” It is hardly a celebration of the joys of motherhood.
Mothering Sunday can be a joyful day, but for many it can be a sad day too:
- remembering our mothers who have died
- remembering mothers who we never really knew
- remembering those mothers who are not now all they used to be
- remembering a relationship that may not have been easy
- experiencing the pain of not being a mother, when you may have hoped to have been
- experiencing the sadness of losing children you were a mother to
The ups and downs of motherhood, the joys and the anguish, the hopes and the disappointments, show us something of what God the Father must have experienced for his children. The joy of their praise and delight in the goodness of the world; the pain of their turning from him, of rejecting his love; the sacrifice embraced to do anything to care for and win his children back. The trials and tribulations of motherhood we see mirrored on a cosmic scale in the parent-heart of God.
So today is a good day to reflect once more on the God who is both mother and father to us all, who bends over us with tenderness like a mother hen shielding her chicks under the protection of her wings. A day to be grateful for the parent love of God. All of that is encompassed as we pray “Our Father”.
And as we think briefly about our next phrase of the Lord’s Prayer that we come to this week – “give us today our daily bread” – it is captured there too.
For parenthood is about in part meeting and caring for the most essential needs of our children, be that in their needs when they are most dependent on us, for food and sustenance, for warmth and shelter, but throughout their lives too, their need for love and acceptance. And it is a sign of love and trust when our children are able to open up and share with us how things really are, their struggles, their challenges, their joys, and their needs.
And so Jesus teaches his disciples to bring before their father in heaven their needs too.
God wants us to come before him with our needs, small as well as big. Jesus cared about providing wine at the wedding of Cana, of feeding the hungry 5,000, of giving rest to the weary. He wants us to ask for his help too. He cares.
Secondly, what we are encouraged to ask for is very simple: our daily bread. Bread is the most basic of foods. As I was sharing with our Buzz at St B’s congregation last week, we do not pray, “give us today our daily cake”. We are to be content with what we need, not what we may desire or what society may call an “essential luxury”. We are to ask for, and delight in, the most basic of things. And we are to ask for just enough for today. We are encouraged to pray for today’s food, not for food for the months ahead – we are to trust God daily, as the wandering people of Israel had to do when collecting manna in the wilderness.
As I pray, “give us today our daily bread”, I am reminded that God is ultimately the source and giver of all good things. It is easy to take that for granted at times. Saying graces before meals can all too easily become formulaic, but saying grace can be an essential reminder – all good gifts come from God. We are to be a grateful and thankful people. And if that is true of food, it is also true of other things too: my home, my possessions, my family, friends, work. It is an encouragement to be living in thankfulness for all the good gifts we receive in life. Praying for daily bread should prompt not just requests but thanksgiving.
Another aspect of this simple prayer: Jesus was to later call himself the bread of life, the food for our souls. Our prayer to receive daily bread is about praying for daily spiritual sustenance too, about acknowledging that we need God to feed us, to nurture faith and hope and love within us.
And, as we saw two weeks ago, when we considered what it meant to start the Lord’s Prayer with the word “our father”, all that we pray for ourselves, we pray for others too. We pray for our daily bread, not my daily bread. We are to pray this prayer not just for ourselves but also for the millions of hungry around our world, for the millions of those deprived of the most basic essentials of life – housing, shelter, warmth, peace; for the millions who are deprived of families of love and support. We cannot pray these words and remain unmoved by the needs of our brothers and sisters around the world – we are called to respond.
And so these simple words – give us today our daily bread – take us deeper into our relationship with our father God, opening our eyes to our need of him in all things, encouraging faith and gratitude, and moving us to serve him in the world.