Thursday, April 21, 2011

Singing through the Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day 50

Lord's Day 50

Q & A 125

Q. What does the fourth request mean?

A. "Give us today our daily bread" means,
Do take care of all our physical needs
so that we come to know
that you are the only source of everything good,
and that neither our work and worry
nor your gifts
can do us any good without your blessing.

And so help us to give up our trust in creatures
and to put trust in you alone.


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The early church tended to view “daily bread” as a reference to Jesus Christ, rather than physical bread. I must admit I am sympathetic to this interpretation, and I think the catechism is too. Certainly, “bread” at the surface level is a reference to physical bread, and a synecdoche standing for all of our “physical needs,” as the catechism says. Jesus is teaching us to trust our heavenly Father to meet all our physical needs, which include much more than bread.

We also see Jesus’ concern for the physical well being of his creatures in the Gospels. For example, after Jesus raises Jairus’ daughter from the dead, he “told them to give her something to eat” (Mark 5:43). The Lord showed a similar concern for his disciples who had worked all night fishing, preparing them a meal of bread and fish (John 21:1-14).

But if the surface meaning of daily bread is a reference to all of our physical needs, why must we stop there? Anyone who reads the Gospels knows that Jesus always saw beyond the surface meaning to the deeper meaning. For example, in John 4:31-34, Jesus tells his disciples that he has “food to eat that you do not know about,” and they mistakenly think Jesus is talking about physical bread. This comes on the heels of Jesus telling the Samaritan woman that he gives living water, which she mistakes for physical water from the well. The same mistake occurs in John 6, where Jesus says, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger,” but the people persist in thinking about earthly bread.

The truth is that we need Jesus to be our daily bread, much more that we need physical bread! What good is it to have our physical needs met, if we do not have our deepest spiritual need met in Jesus? The catechism gets at this when it says, “that neither our work and worry nor your gifts can do us any good without your blessing.” If we don’t have Jesus Christ and his favor and blessing, then our physical blessings will end up cursing us rather than blessing us, for we will take those blessings and idolize them!

This is the point of the last sentence of Q&A 125, when it says, “And so help us to give up our trust in creatures and to put trust in you alone.” Here the catechism echoes Martin Luther, who rightly teaches that “to have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart. . . . the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. . . . That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God.”

The only way to avoid the idolatrous use of physical needs and gifts is to know the true daily bread, Jesus Christ. Trusting, enjoying, and worshipping him as our Lord and God each day is the only way to give up our trust and worship of creatures. And, so we pray, “Give us our daily bread.”


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O Lord, You’re Very Great

To the tune: MARION “Rejoice, O Pure in Heart” (http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/UMH/160). Based on Lord’s Day 50 of the Heidelberg Catechism (related Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 104). Words: William Weber, 2010.

v. 1
O Lord, You’re very great,
the Maker of all things.
Sustaining, ruling by Your pow’r,
You are the mighty King.

refrain:
Rejoice, rejoice,
rejoice, give thanks and sing.

v. 2
Dear Father, we ask you,
as children born of grace:
O give to us our temp’ral needs,
and favor of Your face.

refrain:
Rejoice, rejoice,
rejoice, give thanks and sing.

v. 3
Our Father, we depend
for ev’ry breath on You.
You give all skill and give all strength,
all thanks to You is due.

refrain:
Rejoice, rejoice,
rejoice, give thanks and sing.

v. 4
Our Father, help us trust
that we are Yours in Christ,
adopted children, Jesus bought
by His own sacrifice.

refrain:
Rejoice, rejoice,
rejoice, give thanks and sing.

v. 5
Your children look to You,
dear Father, please provide
the things we need in earthly life,
and with them Jesus Christ.

refrain:
Rejoice, rejoice,
rejoice, give thanks and sing.

v. 6
For Jesus is true bread,
without Him hearts will die.
In Him is blessing, favor, life,
by faith we find supply.

refrain:
Rejoice, rejoice,
rejoice, give thanks and sing.


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