How prepared were you for Covid19? When it first hit, I thought I was quite capable of isolating for a week or maybe even two. But as the virus has continued for months even I find my preparations inadequate. There are days my resources are depleted. I become stressed and overwhelmed. Just when one challenge is conquered, another takes its place. I realize as a retired person that my frustrations are minor: I can't travel where and when I want, can't host dinner parties, can't do volunteer work in person. Many others face situations downright life-threatening. Still I ask, can I keep going without burning out, giving up, losing peace? Maybe I can't. At least not by myself. Perhaps the answer to my need is hidden in plain sight in The Lord's Prayer when Jesus says I should petition our Father to give us today our daily bread. Immediately following this prayer, Jesus illustrates what he means by telling a short story about a person in need of bread. Let's break it down.
“One of you has a friend...” Jesus begins. Okay. Time to make this story personal since he's called me out as one of hearers. I am the one who has a friend who is on a long journey far from home. This friend just shows up at my door late one night. No text message. No phone call. No email. I have had no warning that my friend was coming. No time to prepare. I have already used up my daily bread. What shall I do? There's no way I can care for my friend's needs. I could tell the hungry, weary traveler on my doorstep, “I'm sorry, but I have nothing to offer you, not even a morsel of bread.” But that would be rude, inhospitable. Maybe even downright evil. Not what I'd say to my friend. Instead, I seek a solution. Which leads me to knock loudly on my neighbor's door. I ask him to lend me the provisions I need—three loaves of bread. I expect my neighbor to help me since he, too, is a friend of mine. His reply, though, is far from courteous. “What are you thinking coming to my house at midnight?” my annoyed neighbor shouts. “Can't your friend wait to eat until morning? The door's already locked. I'm already in bed, and my children are sleeping with me.” At least they had been sleeping before I pounded on the door and he shouted from the bedroom. “I can't get up to give you anything.” (which made me realize he did have something.) “I'm tired,” he whines. “Stop bothering me.” He is quite perturbed, to put it mildly. But because he knows we're all in this together, he sighs, gets up and gives me what I need for my guest. It's inconvenient. This business of pleading for and responding to friends' requests, to their prayers. It would be so much easier (and more effective, I think) to always be prepared to individually take care of my own needs and the needs of those who cross my path regardless of the circumstance. But then I wouldn't learn how to live in community. A community where neighbors are friends--even if they are sometimes grouchy friends--who help each other. After all, bread is not for me alone, but for me to share with you. And if we, as imperfect friends, give bread to the needy among us, how much more will God gladly give us what we need....though often through each other.* *story based on Luke 11:3, 5-13