In Luke 11, Jesus teaches his disciples the communal Christian prayer—notice the "our" father and "our" daily bread—we call the Lord's prayer. And there's that line, "Give us this day our daily bread." God sustains us in a daily way.
The word in Greek that is translated into the English word "daily" is a very strange word, and in the early church there were arguments about how it should be translated. The Greek word is "epiousion"—"epi" could mean "on" or "on top of" and "ousion" is "substance" or "essence." So we could hear the prayer as saying, "Give us this day our bread that is on top of the essence of this world," "Give us this day our bread from over the substance of this world," give us, in short, heavenly bread. God sustains us with substance that is from beyond this world. God does this in a daily way.
Here's how God has sustained me lately in a daily way.
On the way into San Antonio, there's a Chinese restaurant called Wok Inn. Now, I really like it; my wife Lindsey says it is not that good and is fast food-ish. So I mainly go there when I'm running an errand on the edge of San Antonio. Well, I've been there twice so far. And each time I've wound up in an amazing conversation about God.
The first time was several weeks ago. There I was, eating my food and reading St. Augustine's book On the Trinity, and a woman from a nearby table of women comes over and sits across from me in my booth.
She says, "Hi."
I say, "Hi."
She says, "Sorry to interrupt you, but I saw you reading that book, and I used to be Catholic."
I say, "It's a good book."
She says, "Do you know who wrote it?"
I say, "St. Augustine."
Then she says, "Did you know that the Bible doesn't teach the doctrine of the Trinity?" And the conversation went from there...
She was a Jehovah's Witness, and we had a very good conversation in which she tried to persuade me that the Bible does not teach that Jesus is God. (The Jehovah's Witnesses like to pick on the Greek in the last phrase of John 1:1; the Greek in John 20:28 is far less ambiguous, exactly the grammatical construction we should expect if Jesus is the Most High God. The early church noticed this and preempted the Jehovah's Witness position when it was just called the Arian heresy.)
After our initial conversation we've even followed up on email. Her sincerity and seriousness about matters of truth is a blessing to me; God used it as a surprise to sustain my soul.
Then, today, I went back to the Wok Inn for round two. No, not a conversation with the same woman. (Though the woman I talked to a few weeks ago and the man I talked to today were both named "Pat." Amazing.) But I get into Wok Inn and it is VERY crowded. I order my food and get a table and start enjoying the Hot and Sour Soup while reading a theology book by Paul Griffiths which he writes from a very St. Augustine-influenced viewpoint.
The Wok Inn is so crowded that soon people are sharing tables, as I thought only happened in Europe and in friendly joints in the country. The woman across from me is visiting with her family at the next table. And diagonal from me a man sits down with a book on Jesus by Pope Benedict XVI that I've read reviews of. Even before we start talking I am blown away, since I know we'll have to have a conversation. I'm smiling inwardly: I suspect God is setting me up again.
I say, "I've heard that's a good book." And we start talking. It turns out Pat is a very devout layman from a local Catholic parish. Soon we're talking about God and life and sharing in a very "Emmausy" way. Out of nowhere, by surprise, God sustained my soul with heavenly bread.
How has God sustained you with heavenly bread lately? How is God sustaining you today with substance from above this world?
Clifton Stringer is the pastor of Lakehills United Methodist Church in Lakehills, TX.