[Rector]

Daily bread

 

During the Second World War a young soldier was captured and ended up as a prisoner in Poland. As the Russians were beginning to break through the German lines, the prison camps were abandoned and the men forced to march back to Germany. He called it a "death march" because anyone who was unable to continue on the march was shot. At the beginning of the march, most of the men tried carrying all their possessions. Within a few days the road was littered with debris.

One of the few possessions this bloke left behind was a Readers Digest. He had received it in a Red Cross parcel and so it was a well-read little edition. He told me that in that particular edition there was an article on the Lord's Prayer. The Readers Digest always used to have a few Christian articles in their publications in those days. He remembered the article well. It was written by a clergyman. In fact, it was probably the text of a sermon.

The particular piece that had grabbed his attention was the explanation of the phrase, "give us this day our daily bread". Instead of seeing the "bread" in physical terms, actual food, the minister had described it as the "bread of encouragement", the "bread of strength"....... The minister had taken the time to find in the Bible those things God promises his children. He never promised to give us a full belly, but he does promise to be with us always, to encourage and strengthen us through life's journey. He will never leave us alone. There are many such promises in the Bible and it was these the minister had included within the term "daily bread".

For a person in a prison camp, watching death and destruction all around him, it was a wonderful help to actually understand what "daily bread" meant. It would have been devastating to say the Lord's Prayer, expecting food for a full belly, and then watch a seeming total disinterest by God in the physical welfare of the prisoners.

While on the death march he remembered praying for his "daily bread" - the bread of strength, the bread of encouragement. As he marched he remembered feeling a weight lifted from him. It was truly as if the Lord Jesus was beside him holding his arm, even carrying him. The pain was there, the empty belly, the death and violence of it all, but Jesus was there too.