sermon notes from the Vineyard Church of Milan 11/18/2012
video available now at www.sundaystreams.com/go/MilanVineyard/ondemand and audio available via RSS feed (see previous post) or iTunes podcast https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/vineyard-church-of-milan/id562567379
When you bring a baby home for the first time, you learn about needs and desires. On the one hand, your baby's needs and desires are very simple. They need food, and want to eat. They need a relief valve for gas build up, and want to burp. They get a certain squishy discomfort and need their diapers changed. And they get tired and cranky and need sleep. Sure, they need to breathe, and they need love, shelter, etc., but really you're focused most of the time on the big four: food, burping, diapers, and sleep. For you as a parent, it's a little like whack a mole. The different needs and desires keep popping up, and you're life at first is consumed with meeting them. Your baby cries, and the game begins. What is it? Food? Whack. Cry. Burp? Whack. Cry. A new diaper? Oh yeah, nice work buddy. Whack. Another cry. Sleep? Oh, oh. This one's the toughie. How do you whack this one, again? Something about the 5 S's? Swaddle, Side, Shush, Swing, Suck. Whack. So simple, needs and desires. Except. Except for one thing. Your baby is going to wake up soon. She's going to get hungry again. He's going to fill his diaper. And then she's going to start getting teeth. And a diaper rash. And outgrow his clothes. And eat 4 bowls of cereal for breakfast. And start playing hockey and break his arm. And want a cell phone to text her friends. And Well, you get the picture... Needs and desires are like bill collectors. They never stop calling. You can only put them off so long. [Frisbee & socks...?] Needs and desires keep on keeping on, like dandelions in your lawn. Jesus knows what it means to wake up with needs and desires staring you in the face. He lived in a sea of needs. A place to sleep the next night. Food, for him, for his disciples, for the crowds that followed him. Angry mobs. A counterintuitive, mission-critical message to deliver to people attached to a different way of looking at things, and doing things. He knows what it means to look around and not know how, or if, your needs are going to be met, if your desires will ever be fulfilled. So he teaches us to pray, from that place of uncertainty: "Our Father....give us today our daily bread." Which means, give us today the things we need for today. Not, give us today the things we need for the rest of our lives or the rest of the month or the rest of the week. The things we need for today. “God, as best as I can see it, this is where I’m at today and here’s what I’ll be needing. If you can think of anything else I might need today, I’ll count on you to provide that too.” Thesis: Because we are unconsciously ruled by our needs and desires, actively trusting our Father (the one in the heavens) to meet today's needs as we bring them to him in prayer can transform our experience of life. Specifically, by transforming our neediness from our master into our servant. Awareness of our needs is meant to serve us, not rule us. It is meant to lead us to life, not enslave us to things that only suck the life from us, leaving us for dead. We’ll unpack that in a minute, but first, consider this. All of our needs and desires are ultimately pointing at what we might call capital-letters LIFE. We may each define LIFE a little differently – for the extroverts, it’s fed by the social world around them, for the introverts by the internal world of their minds, for the teenage boy it’s fed by stimulation and action!, for the aging grandmother its fed by the wonder and beauty of her family thriving. [Colin’s observation about adults and kids physical play…] But no matter how we fine tune our definitions of LIFE, each of our needs and desires is in some kind of orbit around it, urging us towards it, more or less, depending on how well calibrated they are [the craving for a late night snack, for example…]. Love is the ultimate source of all true life. LIFE comes from love. From God, who is Love. From our participation in God's love. From loving others. From receiving love. We were made for love and out of love. Without love, the universe is a cold dead place. Without love, there is no true life. The universe is a massive self-giving love machine. The sun burns up to give us light and heat. The plants take it in and take nutrients from dead things to make oxygen and become food for other living things. The sun's heat evaporates water to move into the air, where it can be drawn together and moved around the globe, satisfying the thirst of living things everywhere. Giving and receiving, over and over and over, everywhere there is life. Love, love, love in action. God sacrificially gives of himself to give us life, so that love might be multiplied. So that we can give of ourselves in sacrificial obedience to and imitation of him, so that others and all of creation might have life. And in our obedience, we are caught up in his life, and love is multiplied and life blossoms. Giving and receiving, over and over, everywhere there is life. Love, love, love in action. Awareness of our needs is meant to call us to the intersection of giving and receiving, that place where love burns hottest and life blossoms. Your hunger is meant to lead you to food, so that from it you can have energy to love, to give of yourself. Your thirst is meant to lead you to water so that from it you can have life in order to love, to give of yourself. Every need that we have awareness of is meant to lead us to the place of intersection between giving and receiving where life happens. But for many of us, much of the time, our awareness of our need has ceased to function as a reliable servant leading us to life. Instead, the awareness of our need has become undisciplined, and too big for its britches, and it becomes an ogre ruling our life. It makes us worry, not trust... It makes us hoard, not give... And as a result, we stop obeying and imitating God in love; instead we retreat to the slave masters that falsely promise to provide for our needs, even though we know they have no interest in giving us life... Jesus wants to liberate his followers from that ogre of need-awareness run amok, and set things right in us so that we can receive life again and participate in love again. And it starts as we pray, "Give us today our daily bread." Background... When Jesus' first students heard him teach about praying for daily bread, they would have thought not about wonder bread or cinnamon toast or eggo waffles, but about manna. [exodus from Egypt ...unleavened bread running out, worry setting in ...if only we had died! ... promise of meat & bread. . . ] Exodus 16:13-31(3 clicks) God doesn't give them all these restrictions on how much and when, etc. because he wants to control his kids with arbitrary rules. No, in fact, God gives them these specific instructions not to control them, but to set them free. God is teaching his kids a truth about daily bread that will set them free from the worry that produced their complaint, from the fear that almost drove them back into slavery. God knows that Israel's problem wasn't a lack of food. They had plenty - sheep, goats, etc. Their problem was their relationship to the food they had. They were depending on it for life. And when they saw that they only had a limited amount, they worried about would happen if it ran out. They were so afraid that they would be stuck in the desert with nothing that they almost turned back to Egypt. Their awareness of their needs had become an ogre that convinced them that their life depended on their limited supply of food. The ogre was lying to them. You can't depend on stuff for life. Stuff doesn't love you. And stuff isn't dependable. Life doesn't come from stuff. You'll never get the life you need if you're trying to get it from stuff. And you'll never be able to rest, either, because you can never ever have enough of something that might run out and isn't capable of satisfying you anyway. The truth God was teaching Israel through the manna was that Life comes from him, and him alone. If you put your trust in God instead of stuff, you’ll always wake up to enough from God. And you’ll be free to rest, too, because he’ll miraculously preserve what he’s given you so that it keeps fresh while you’re resting, as long as you’re receiving and resting in obedience to him. [day off freedom] So, in effect, Jesus is saying to his students, Remember how Israel depended on YHWH for provision in the wilderness, before they entered the promised land? That’s how you are to depend on him now for provision as you learn to live as God’s children, as disciples with me on this kingdom mission. Some religions teach that desires lead to death, and we are meant to grow beyond desires, or that desires are inherently bad and should be annihilated. Buddha: desire, then, is like a tree whose branches are greed, bad will, and anger. The tree's fruit is suffering...removing desire from our lives is one step on the path to Nirvana. Jesus is teaching his students something different; our desires are meant to lead us to our heavenly Father in prayer. If our desires lead us to the Father, we can rest with our desires in his hands. Our Father is totally dependable. We can place all of our confidence in him. Our confidence does not, of course, come from any natural abundance we see around us. Like the Israelites, we are surrounded by wilderness. Uncertain employment, cars that could break down at any moment, health that seems fragile at best, college tuition that will surely break the bank, bills that keep on going like the energizer bunny, friends or family that may move to another part of the country any day. Our confidence comes very simply from practicing dependence on a Father who loves us. We asked him to meet our needs yesterday. He did, didn't he? Well Father, here we are again today. Give us today our daily bread. Practical Tips: 1. Make a daily "shopping list" that includes all your needs and desires for the day. Write down everything that comes to mind that if God provided it for you that day, you'd go to bed with a full stomach, metaphorically speaking. Jesus means daily bread representatively - he wants us to ask for more than just food, for everything that we might need. And then pray, while holding it, very simply, "Give us today our daily bread." Use the plural us, as a reminder that your needs are just a part of the needs of all of God's kids, so that your desires always find their place in the context of community, not divorced from it. Your needs joined together with your neighbors' needs. God's provision to you also his provision to them. Optional [We don’t have to clean them up before we present them, either. He’ll clean them up as he receives them, and as he satisfies them. Our heavenly Father will satisfy them in his way, in his time. That's the trust part of the thing. Certainly, it’s a foreign way of life for most of us, and raises some questions. For example, what about the stuff we’ll need for tomorrow? The future may be uncertain, but we generally know enough about it to have a laundry list of short term and long term needs, don’t we? There are certainly things that would really be nice for God to provide now, so that I don’t have to worry about them tomorrow, and so that I can make some decisions today that depend on what tomorrow is going to look like. Ah, but now we’re getting right back to where we started from. Today we have a loving Father. He will take care of today’s needs for us today. Nothing about tomorrow is secure for us, nothing except the unchanging fact that tomorrow we will have a loving Father. Tomorrow he will take care of tomorrow’s needs. So what things are off limit to ask God for, and what stuff is O.K., and what if we forget to ask him for something? Jesus doesn’t say. I think he doesn’t say on purpose, because prayer is primarily about relationship, not about finding the right formula so that it works. Enter the place of prayer as we’ve described, “our father in the heavens…” and offer to the Father every desire you still find in your heart by the time you get to the daily bread part. It’s not about technicalities. Should you have insurance? How about groceries for the rest of the week? What about 3 months savings? Retirement savings? Probably all those things are good things to have as you are able. Has God provided for you to be generous towards people in need and do those things as well? If so, then do them. But are you depending on those things you’re accumulating instead of depending on God? If so, very simply you’re missing out on the freedom of life in the kingdom.] 2. Do some liposuction. Identify something you have today that you don't need and give it away. Become part of the Father's answer to someone else's prayer. Do that every day for a week as you pray this prayer. 3. Shift your dependence from money to Papa. Give away some of tomorrow's money today. If you have any. Extra money that is. By extra, I mean the money you have set aside for unforeseen circumstances. The money that is supposed to make you feel safer in the face of an uncertain future. Not the money you already have a specific plan for, or that you've already committed to some purpose. Money that's just there for "in case you need it tomorrow." See how much that is, and ask Jesus how much he would have you give away next Sunday at church as an act of dependence on God's desire and ability to give you today what you need for today. Then write a check to the church, write "daily bread" in the memo line, and bring it next weekend. We'll collect it during the offering, and give it to Agape Apostolic Church for their needs. Or, if you're too new to the church to trust the church with your money, go to the grocery store after church and buy someone else's groceries for them. Maybe especially someone who looks like they could use it. Their whole shopping cart. Whatever it costs. If they ask why, tell them it's because God gave you some extra money today that he meant for you to use to buy their groceries. Because he loves them. Or maybe you want to do both. It won't hurt. If it does, it's just the ogre dying. It's just the growing pains of your soul stretching out to God.