Do you like bread? I like bread. Probably too much. I like a good sandwich, especially a simple cheese and lettuce. Or a grilled cheese. You don’t want to add too much because it takes away from the bread and that’s the most important part. I like a good whole wheat especially. You just can't beat a freshly baked loaf of whole wheat, fresh from the oven. It's practically a comfort food.
How lucky some of us are to be able to think of bread that way, with an appreciation, a sense of thankfulness for something abundant, enjoyed abundantly.
But not everyone gets to see it that way. Many in the world wonder if there will be any food at all on their table today. Their daily experience isn't abundance, it's survival. I bet the first century listeners hearing Jesus pray "give us this day our daily bread" would have felt that way, too. Their's would be less likely a prayer of thankfulness they knew would be fulfilled, but rather a prayer of desperation and an intense longing for the security of "daily" bread.
I think these would also have been people who understood "daily bread" with the unique perspective of the exodus experience. Hungry in the wilderness, God fed those freed from slavery in Egypt with manna, bread from heaven (Exodus 16:1-36). This bread came daily and "morning by morning they gathered it, as much as each needed," and only what they needed for each day. Any they tried to save went rotten, except on the sixth day when they collected enough for the sabbath also.
So God provides what nourishment was needed. There was enough for each according to their need, no more and no less, and those who could not gather were provided for by those who could. So the story reminds us what's important: according to our need, that we are all equal in need and that our participation is required.
Yes, our participation is required. We still have to gather and share. We still have to be good stewards of the creation that feeds us. And all of that can be challenging and worrisome, especially in today’s world.
Remember how Jesus tells the people not to worry about food and clothing, because God will provide it, just as for the birds in the air and the lilies in the field? (Matt. 6:25-34) They are provided for, according to their need, but they still have to participate, they still have to do work. They still do what birds do and flowers do, they do what each part of creation does, by being what it is meant to be. We are a part of that creation.
And what is our “work?” What are we meant to be? Perhaps we can learn that in another way in which we are fed our daily bread. In John’s gospel, Jesus describes himself as the Bread of Life. “Whoever comes to me will never be hungry,” he says (John 6:35) This isn’t only spiritual nourishment, but the life of Jesus, himself, which shows us how to live into what we are meant to be. It’s a life that shows us how to live with ourselves, with each other and with creation in a relationship that feeds us all. The wholeness of that relationship is our daily bread, food for body, mind and spirit.