I wonder; was anyone curious enough about the word Bramafam to look it up? I've had it before you for over 6 months. I read it in a biography about Julia Child. Her French partner in writing, Simca Beck, had a place in France named Bramafam which means cry of hunger.' It struck me as neither humdrum nor commonplace for this name to be associated with Julia Child or our prayer for daily bread.
In the first 3 Petitions we pray about God's name, will, and kingdom. In the 4th petition we begin talking about us and our things and we begin with of all things our hunger, our daily bread. While we continue our journey to hallow God's name and do His will as His kingdom comes and before we confront the sinning, the tempting, and the evil that certainly will attack anyone on such a quest, Jesus commands us to pause and utter a Bramafam.
Can you believe it? How many times did my whine, "Mom, I'm hungry," go unheard or unheeded? How many times was it meant with, "You'll just have to wait?" And this was from my mother before whom I could no nothing wrong even when I did! By commanding us to ask for our daily bread God shows that He condescends to our most elementary earthly need (Acker, Teaching Luther's Catechism, 273).
The only thing a baby can do in need is cry. Their helpless cry is the most powerful, effective weapon in their battle for survival on their life's journey. As every mother knows, no matter what the trouble is, the baby cries and keeps crying until the mother discovers what's wrong and fixes it (Grace upon Grace, 182). And just as the cries of a nursing baby trigger the flow of milk in the mother our cries of hunger trigger a response in God too. Evolution sees this as proof that we are nothing put higher mammals. I see God teaching us something about Him by something we find in us.
The fact is we have no idea just how loudly our Bramafam echoes in the ears of God. That's because it's amplified by the Holy Spirit. Galatians 4:6 says, "God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts crying, Abba! Father!'" To our ears, our feelings, our senses our cry of hunger is very weak, very mewling. Romans 8:26 assures us our Bramafam is magnified by the Spirit's groans, "In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words." Luther's says that this indescribable sighing of the Spirit fills all of heaven and earth with such loud cries that the angels cannot hear anything else (LW 26 382).
The cry of hunger "give us this day our daily bread' is cry for all things that have to do with the support of this body. Bread for today is what Luther emphasizes in the Small Catechism. Whatever you hunger for it's in this petition. Whether you need food, drink, clothing, shoes, money, spouse, devout children, good government, good weather or health, it's in this Bramafam.
But something more is too. A broken heart, a grieving heart, or a guilty heart can be a much more painful cry of hunger than any experienced for physical things. So the early church saw this petition as a cry not only for bread for today, that is earthly things, but for bread for tomorrow, that is eternal things. This is because the Greek word for daily means both bread for today and bread for tomorrow. Don't we need both?
Cyril of Jerusalem, a 4th century saint, translated this as "Give us this day our super-essential bread" (ACC, X, 56). Luther said, "[T]his petition means to say, Father, give us the supernatural, immortal, eternal bread.' The bread, the Word, and the food are none other than Jesus Christ our Lord Himself" (LW 42, 54, 56). It's not by accident that the Lord's Prayer is always found in the liturgy in close proximity to Holy Communion. Communion is the answer to one side of our cry of hunger.
So the 4th Petition is a Bramafam for all things that we need not only for this body and life but for the next. And note it's a cry not for me and mine but for us and ours. I tried to establish the practice here of tolling the bell as we prayed "Give us this day our daily bread" so the community around us would know we are praying for their daily bread too. We are praying for the forgotten, the forlorn, the forsaken. We're crying out for the hunger of even the unrepentant, the unforgiven, the unbelieving.
You know those cartoons where a family gets a giant baby that has to be fed bushel baskets of food and water towers full of milk? The church's world-wide cry of hunger is so huge it can only be answered by God Himself: the Word made Flesh in Mary's womb and made Bread in Holy Communion. But it's not simply a matter of Him having the power to do this. He's God in Flesh and Blood; there's nothing He cannot do. It's a matter of Him being able to do answer the cry of hunger coming from the lips of sinners like us. That's where the Passion Reading comes in.
We sing "What a Friend we have in Jesus" and we do. He is the best of friends. Jesus never failed to be a perfect friend to Peter, Judas, James, John, and more. Yet what do you see going on in the text? Can you imagine the heartbreak Jesus must have felt after having asked His 3 close friends, "Stay here and keep watch with Me,' to find them sleeping? Jesus knows He's going to suffer and die in less than 24 hours. His soul is overwhelmed by death. O how badly He hungers for friendship, but His friends fail to feed Him.
It goes from bad to worse. Jesus' cries and begs and pleads to His Father and angelic help is sent, but then His closet friend, Judas, arrives to betray Him. It's not in this reading but the next where we see that Jesus' staunchest supporter, Peter, won't even befriend Jesus in the end. "Nope, don't know Him; never have; don't wish to."
The Man Jesus has the same needs you do. Friendship, food, drink, good government and rulers. We fallen people deserve to be deprived of all these. We deserve to have our Bramafam unheeded. Jesus did not. He was the perfect Friend, perfect Citizen, and church Member. But here we find the church leaders coming to arrest Jesus as if He were a common thug, and later will find the civil government throwing the innocent Jesus under the bus just to keep the peace.
Let's establish 2 things. First, Jesus as God feeds the cattle on a 1000 hills, the ravens when they call, and satisfies the desires of every living thing. No cry of hunger ever had to come from His lips. Second, He lived the perfect life before God and Man so that men and God should have satisfied every hunger He had. Jesus had cries of hunger that went on unheeded for our sake. So now neither God nor men nor the devil can point at you and say he or she doesn't deserve to be given daily bread because they sinned this way or failed that way. They can't do that because what's in between you and your sins is Jesus' perfect life.
What? That doesn't move you? Oh I see; you think that you deserve your daily bread. You're not one of the evil people whom God feeds anyways without their prayers. You're one of the good guys. You work for a living. You deserve what you get. Well then, you can't be thankful for what you think you deserve, but if you keep going in this vein you are going to be very surprised to find what you really deserve in the end.
Look at what holy Jesus got though He didn't deserve it. Just think how much worse you and I deserve. If God could allow His holy Son to be betrayed, forsaken, and denied by friends, if God could allow His holy Son to be ridiculed by the church and tortured by the state, if God could turn a deaf ear to His holy Son's cries of hunger, of thirst, of companionship, what won't He do to impenitent sinners? To sinners who don't receive their daily bread with thanksgiving because they think they deserve it?
You'd better get to the Gospel quick or despair itself will kill you. Contemplate how Jesus who could heal a severed ear with just a touch and throw back a hateful mob with just 2 Greek words willingly gives Himself up to hunger, to thirst, to suffering, to even damning and dying. Why is Jesus willing to allow His cries of hunger to go unheeded? So you might know your Bramafam will never be.
So cry. Cry of hunger, of need, of want, of hope, of justice, of love, of loss, of forgiveness and know beyond a shadow of a doubt you are heard more certainly than any mother ever heard a crying child. You are certainly heard because the perfect Jesus was crucified in your place to pay for you to always have God's ear.
Pagans prayed with their arms in front but locked to their sides; Christians prayed with their arms outstretched from their sides (Evangelism in the Early Church, 216). Only 50 years after the apostles, Justin Martyr explained that the outstretched arms represent Christ on the cross (Church Vestments, 45). The Father won't turn away from a Bramafam reaching His ears in the name of Christ crucified. How could He? He turned a deaf ear to His beloved Son once just so He could hear our cries, and these cries of ours don't stop even when our lips aren't moving. Luther compared our cries of hunger to the beating of our heart (LW, 58, 296). Just as our pulse does not stop even when sleeping so the Bramafam in the hearts of Christians goes on crying even when we're not aware of it. This is one martyred petition that refuses to die. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Midweek Lenten Vespers (20140312); Passion Reading 2, Lord's Prayer IV