Provide bread we need: July 28 lectionary preview

May 26, 2019 by Lee Hinson-Hasty

Editor’s note: Each month, the Presbyterian Foundation asks a PC(USA) teaching elder to provide a lectionary preview for the coming month. The July preview is provided by Rev. Dr. Lee Hinson-Hasty, Senior Director, Theological Education Funds Development at the Presbyterian Foundation. He penned an overview for July, which you can read here. Below is a deeper look at July 21’s lectionary, which centers on Luke 11:1-13. You can read previous entries for July 7 here, July 14 here, and July 21 here.

Theological scholars are always on the lookout for good questions, and I agree with author of Becoming Wise (Penguin, 2016, p. 29) and radio host Krista Tippett, there is such a thing as a better question. Yet another good question drives this Luke story like so many asked in the lections this year from Luke’s Gospel. This time Jesus’ disciples see him praying and essentially and innocently ask, “How do we pray?”

His response is what generations of Christians have learned by heart in one form or another and often call, “The Lord’s Prayer.” Most of us learn Matthew’s version of the prayer, because Luke’s is abbreviated. In verse 5, Jesus shifts to a parable about three loaves of bread, asking, knocking, and providing what is needed.

Numerous commentaries and at least one book point out that much more frequently than the other Gospels, Jesus is found eating in Luke. Justo Gonzales observes in his book, The Story Luke Tells (Eerdmans, 2015, p. 77) that as many as 60 references have been noted. Often these meals relate to celebrations. Think about the feast for the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), the last supper and institution of the Lord’s supper (Luke 22:7-38) among others. As Gonzales puts it,

In ancient times, meals were also occasions during which to discuss the most profound of subjects. Today we have lost much of this meaning in our meals, mostly for two reasons, both rooted in haste. …Things were very different in antiquity. In classical Greece, it was customary to celebrate symposia. …The Greek particle syn, which means “jointly”- suggested today by words like synergy. The second root is a verb meaning “to drink,” potizein, which is the root of our word potable. These words hint at what a symposium used to be: a gathering in which a group of guests, reclining as they ate and drank, discussed a philosophical subject. (Eerdmans, 2015, p. 79)

As many have noted before me, the prayer is not about what I need or you need, but what we as a human family need. We pray “Give us this day our daily bread.” Not “give me this day my daily bread.”

If stewardship is about anything, it is about making clear through our actions that we are a part of a larger community of interrelated relationships. What if we took the time in the summer months to stop, eat, think, discuss, pray, and begin to live into a new way of sharing? It may even be a good time for a symposium, of sorts, on deeper, often delayed conversations about estate plans and event planned gifts, where most of the wealth in our country is transferred. A great facilitation tool for simplifying planned giving for individuals and congregations is provided by the Presbyterian Foundation known as the Planned Giving Navigator.

Clifton Black, professor of Biblical Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, points out in his landmark 2018 book on The Lord’s Prayer, that The Gospel of Luke emphasizes and is bookended by prayer. (WJK, 2018, p. 38) It begins with “All the people who gather to worship were praying outside [the temple] during this hour of the incense offering.” (Luke 1:10) To close Luke’s Gospel Jesus’ disciples “worshiped (Jesus) and returned to Jerusalem overwhelmed with joy. And they were continuously in the temple praising God.”

Black goes on to show how the translation matters. The Common English Bible translates verse three in a way that demands we define need. “Give us the bread we need for today.” Syriac churches translate this “bread for our need.” Gregory of Nyssa and John Chrysostom preferred “Bread for the present day.” Jerome and others translated “bread today for the day to come” or “future bread.”

Western society perpetuates what global activist Lynn Twist author of The Soul of Money (Norton, 2017, p. 43) calls “The Great Lie: Scarcity.” Instead she proposes “The Surprising Truth: Sufficiency.” In her 2003 book recently revised and released, she describes her encounters with the Achuar indigenous people of Ecuador. “They love in the experience and expression of enough, or what I call sufficiency. Instead of seeking more, they treasure and steward thoughtfully what is already there.” Yes, there are places in great and real need. However, there are too many places with enough that do not yet treasure and faithful steward thoughtfully all the many gifts they have.

“For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 10:10)

May that be our aim.

Amen.

How have your needs been met when you asked? How have you been an answer to prayer today?