“As our souls make a sojourn through this great prayer [the Lord’s Prayer], we are aware of our dependence on God,” the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock said to begin “Give Us and Forgive Us,” his sermon for the morning worship service at 9:15 a.m. Wednesday. “This prayer is not a declaration of independence, but a declaration of dependence. With our head and heart and lips and life, we confess that in the final analysis, we need God.”
Warnock’s selected Scriptures were Matthew 6:11-12 and Luke 11:3-4.
“I came to worship today to declare my dependence on God — every day and every hour — when I am weak and especially when I am strong. Guide my feet that I can walk right and give right because in my falling and in my rising. I need God. All of us need God — whether we know it or not,” he said.
The people of faith are not perfect, he continued, and told a story of the Riverside Church preacher William Sloane Coffin, who was confronted by a person who said that church was just a crutch. Coffin replied, “Yes it is, and who told you you don’t have a limp?”
“We have human agency,” Warnock said, “but we walk with a limp. There is brokenness in the best of us. We have a hollow place that only God can fill. We are roaming the world with a hungry heart. Jacob, after a night of wrestling with an angel, became Israel, but he had a limp. We march toward the sunrise with a limp.”
He continued, “We need the grace and goodness of our Father in Heaven, and the good news is that God is glad to give it to us. Jesus said ‘be not afraid, little sheep, it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.’ ”
The Kingdom of God, he said, is God’s highest dream, God’s agenda for humanity. The Lord’s Prayer “takes a definitive turn with these verses. The first half is focused on God, and the second half is focused on us. The first half is about God’s name, God’s kingdom and God’s will. The second half is about us and our need for God.”
“What I like about this prayer is that it is very practical, very nitty-gritty and down to earth,” Warnock continued. “In the United States, we live in relative affluence and we tend to assume that this is spiritual bread, but the peasants Jesus preached to couldn’t take their daily bread for granted.
“There is living bread and daily bread, bread we live by and bread we live on. We are not all spirit and not all body. We are sod and sky and we need all kinds of bread.”
Warnock reminded the congregation that Jesus told the devil that humans do not live by bread alone, but “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
“We need all kinds of bread,” he said. “We need bread, but we can’t live by bread alone. As I went through college and graduate school, I was not so sure I believed in the devil. Then I became a pastor.”
Jesus resisted turning a single stone into a loaf of bread, Warnock said, not because he had a problem with making bread but the premise of making bread just for himself.
“He was saying no, not to the proposition, but to the prince [of darkness]. Jesus makes enough bread to feed everybody. We can’t live by bread alone, but we need bread to live by and live on and there are ways we are fed when we feed each other.”
In the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus showed that his ministry was more than narcissism dressed up in religious language. When the Disciples wanted to send the crowd away to get food, Jesus told them to give the crowd something to eat.
“Jesus had just given them bread to live by,” Warnock said. “Now the crowd needed bread to live on. We depend on God and each other. We can’t live alone with bread. Jesus tells them to organize the people. People are hungry in this world not because there aren’t enough resources, but because we have not organized the world to care for one another. We are Balkanized and backward and people are foolishly dying. Jesus was the first community organizer. He created a community of mutual caring and consideration.”
The Disciples went through the crowd collecting resources that they gave to Jesus, who gave the resources back to the Disciples, who gave the resources to the people.
“This is how to expand the church, this is how to live your life,” Warnock said. “Whatever you have, give it to God, who gives it back to you to share with others. The God who has given us sufficient bread for today will be faithful tomorrow.”
He continued, “And — forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors. What is the connection? Why are these two tied together? We need the same God who gives to us to forgive us. We can’t have one without the other. We have a tendency to hoard and to meet our hunger with things that can’t satisfy.”
Warnock spoke of the Prodigal Son, who had his daily bread but asked his father for his inheritance all at once.
“You know how a dog chases its tail — it is chasing after something which it already has,” he said.
Only when he had spent all his inheritance did the young man realize all that he had lost. He knew his father’s hired hands had more than enough bread, and so he decided to return to his father.
“He was going to ask his father to forgive him and to give him his daily bread as a servant. Before he could speak his father had given him a robe, shoes, food and a ring — the brother had bread and bling,” Warnock said.
But his elder brother could not forgive him.
“He was an elder in his church, but he had not taken seriously ‘forgive us as we forgive,’ ” he said. “He did not embrace the bread to live by — to forgive others. What do we gain by hanging onto resentment? It is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
“I am here as a living witness that God will give you what you need,” Warnock said. He had decided to go to Morehouse College, but his family could not afford to send him. He is the 11th of 12 children, but he was determined to go to college and become all that God called him to be.
“I walked with a limp toward the sunrise of higher education,” Warnock said. “My parents had given me bread to live by. They walked with God and spoke like the King James’ English. I arrived at Morehouse without enough money to get through the first semester. My parents gave me a big hug and my father said, ‘Son, gold and silver hath we none. [As an aside, Warnock said, ‘Who talks like that?’] But such as I have I give unto thee. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be unto you.’”
Warnock concluded: “God’s bread is sufficient, and after four degrees and preaching all over the world and at Chautauqua, I am here to say there is a God who will give you what you need. While you walk with a limp, he will give you bread and it will be sufficient. Give us this day our daily bread.”
Many in the congregation rose to give Warnock a standing ovation.
The Rev. George Wirth presided.
Patricia “Trish” Pritchard read the Scripture. Pritchard is from Washington, West Virginia, and is a leadership and development specialist for Dupont. She has worked with the IOKDS Chautauqua Scholarship Program for several years.
The Motet Choir sang “Lord of the Dance,” a Maine Shaker hymn adapted by Sydney Carter and arranged by John Ferguson. Jared Jacobsen, organist and worship coordinator, conducted the choir.
The Edmund E. Robb-Walter C. Shaw Chaplaincy supports this week’s services.