Bread

Can you smell it? The flour, the butter, the yeast? My husband and I were proud of ourselves for successfully baking this bread yesterday. It was buttery, crusty, chewy, and aromatic. It was all things a bread should be. And we ate it lustily with bowls of bean and lentil soup. All the kudos for this wonderful peasant bread goes to Alexandra Cooks where we pulled the recipe offline. Although I love cooking, (usually beginning with making a paste or sautéing garlic, onion, peppers, etc) I don’t have that much baking experience, especially baking bread, but this was easy. And it turned out gorgeous. It is easy to see from these photos why this crispy, flaky crust and cushiony center could be the epitome of homeyness, nourishment, and comfort for much of the world.

Baking bread seems to have been a popular pastime these last several months for many during quarantine. As we reflect back on 2020, what will stand out in our memory of the year? Searching for toilet paper? Binge watching Netflix? Better dinner conversation with family?

“Give us this day, our daily bread.”

It is not difficult to to understand why Jesus would equate himself with such a basic necessity. Nor is it hard to see how we might conjure up warm, happy feelings of nourishment and safety, acceptance and provision and savory pleasure when we hear him proclaim,

“Yes, I am the bread of life.” John 6:48 (NLT)

Bread, fresh from the oven, butter melting in rivulets down a thick slice. Bread, long awaited, as it slowly rises.

Bread, his body we hold in our hand, as we take it into our mouths. We, as His body, accept it as we wait again for him.

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.” John 6:51 (NLT)

Isn’t it extraordinary that Jesus would choose for us to participate fully at his table? We are not only guests, but also active members preparing the feast. The bread and the wine do not appear magically, mystically, but come from seed and vine, tended by human hands. Threshed, sifted, pressed, fermented, baked, waiting, waiting until the Lord appears with us. He is always present, but we are the ones who bring the bread, and he shows himself to be among us.

Like the boy by the Sеа оf Galilee whom Andrew led to Jesus, we also bring the staple of life. The boy turned his contribution in to God, a plain lunch, but in the hands of the Manna from heaven, a sacramental mystery. Was it with more pride or astonishment that he watched as Jesus fed thousands of people with his familiar food? Did he think it tasted unusual that day?

Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people…And they all ate as much as they wanted. John 6:11

This bread was broken yesterday at home within our family and eaten with soup. It could only have been better had you been present. Once we emerge from COVID limitations and social distancing, you are invited to join us. We will break bread, give thanks to God, and hopefully, eat as much as we want.

I have only now noticed that my last several posts have been about bread, and specifically about the food of the Eucharist. I can only explain this unnoticed perseveration by saying that I believe the Holy Spirit has been trying to speak and teach me things regarding food and drink and holiness and communion. Pray with me that we hear, then listen.

“In the breaking of the bread”

This is my final post on my thoughts from Luke 24:1-35. With a simple meal, surprisingly hosted by Jesus, we read how the gospel story ties those of us in the modern world to antiquity, as well as to eternity. Christ is with the disciples who were traveling on to Emmaus after his crucifixion and resurrection. Hurt and scared, discouraged and uncertain, the disciples are struggling for meaning in these new events.

They came near the village where they were going, and he gave the impression that he was going farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, because it’s almost evening, and now the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

It was as he reclined at the table with them that he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. They said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts burning within us while he was talking with us on the road and explaining the Scriptures to us?” That very hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem. They found the Eleven and those with them gathered together, who said, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” Then they began to describe what had happened on the road and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:28-35, CSB)

Bread and wine, photo taken by my son A.

For whatever reason the disciples did not recognize Jesus. Was his post-resurrection body so much sturdier? Was it altered like an old friend appearing after ten years clean shaven when he had previously worn a beard? Did they see him from some new perspective? Did the Holy Spirit simply prevent them from recognizing him immediately?

As they walked along with him, he trained them in preaching the gospel. They spoke of the facts and events that led to their grief. They shared their past joys and aspirations. They did not get the ending right. They just didn’t understand. Not yet. But Jesus, patient, loving, author of their stories, gently corrects them.

Can you imagine having the experience of retelling the gospel story to God? How did it help them improve it the next time they told it? And the next?

Jesus deepened their understanding using Scripture, that is the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets. He spoke authoritatively but also endearingly, for they did not want him to leave. His message “burned in their hearts.” Did it ignite in them because of its beauty, or its truth, or both?

The Christ appeared to them as a hitchhiker along a country road, but soon they accepted him as their host. It was not until they sat down to a meal together that they knew who he was. When he broke the bread they saw him. Finally, as he picked up the loaf of bread – and broke it -(had they previously witnessed the miracle with the five thousand?) they saw Jesus, their Lord and Friend. Was it sight given by the Holy Spirit? Was it the ordinariness of the daily bread that helped them to connect the dots? How many times must they have relived that moment in their minds and through their stories to others! Would we ever stop retelling such a story? Do we ever tire of encountering his presence in the breaking of the bread? Do we recognize him there? Whether we partake daily, weekly, monthly, do we ever have enough of his presence?

Tucked away in a quiet room at a small meal, Jesus’ once-broken body broke the emblem of his body and shared it with those who would soon also be referred to as “the body of Christ.” Is it any wonder this is the moment his identity and the gospel became clear to them?

If we look around our ordinary homes, churches, lives, we see ordinary people. It might be easy to see the Eucharist or communion as just a ritual. We eat bread or a cracker and drink juice or wine bought at a grocery store. It seems too ordinary to have real meaning. Do we recognize Jesus with us? He is here. In the bread, in the brother and sister next to us, in, and through, and among us. If we do this every Sunday will we recognize that Jesus is real and present and powerfully with us, among us in the breaking of the bread?

He is here.

***

After jotting down these thoughts, a song I have not recently sung has floated back into my mind with its beauty and mystery. And now I realize it retells this part of the gospel story in a much more beautiful way. I invite you to read or sing the words with me. Simply follow the link.

Come Share the Lord.

Breaking Bread

When we sit down at a table with someone to share a meal, we can pretend we are from a culture which no longer understands the ancient practices of acceptance and hospitality, but deep down we know this to be false.  We do understand. Even the most modern and hurried corner of our souls appreciates the act of breaking bread with someone, particularly if it is food made at home by hands we know.  Food is personal.  Food honors the one to whom it is given.  It not only meets a physical, daily requirement, it is spiritual.  In sharing a meal, we admit to seeing God’s presence in another person.

Although the term breaking bread in the book of Acts is used interchangeably both for sharing a common meal as well as the symbolic act of the Lord’s Supper, they were likely not as separate as we view them today.  Eating dinner with someone echoed the spiritual nourishment and confession that was part of the early church’s Eucharist practice.

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread…So they prepared the Passover.  When the hour came Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table…After taking the cup, he gave thanks and broke it…”

Luke 22:7,13-14, 17,19

Bread and oil
Bread and oil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer… Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.  They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God.

Acts 2:42, 46

…the Grecian Jews complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food….Brothers, choose seven men from among you…we will turn this responsibility over to them.

Acts 6:13

raspberries, plums and peaches
Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again.  He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Acts 9:18-19

..[God] has shown you kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their season; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.

Acts 14:17

DSCF0537_0597
[Peter] became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance…Then a voice told him, ‘Get up, Peter.  Kill and eat.

‘Surely not, Lord!’ Peter replied, ‘I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.

The voice spoke to him  a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’

Acts 10:10, 13-15

Pears and frisee with prosicutto

Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.

Acts 14:23

When [Lydia] and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home.  ‘If you consider me a believer in the Lord,’ she said, ‘Come and stay at my house.’  And she persuaded us.

Acts 16:15

The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God – he and his whole family.

Acts 16:34

Chicken adobo with saffron riceOn the first day of the week we came together to break bread.

Acts 20:7
Just before dawn, Paul urged them all to eat.  ‘For the last fourteen days…you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food.  You need it to survive…’  After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them.  Then he broke it and began to eat.  They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves.

Acts 27:33-36

Luke’s emphasis in these quotes is on bread and fellowship. Through this  series of quotations, the first-century Christian physician and historian begins with Jesus to illustrate how a mundane, daily act signified something greater. Breaking bread is, in actuality, a healing, continuing thread, a holy rite. It is simultaneously recognizing our dependence on God and our love for one another.