My apologies to the gluten-intolerant.
(Though I am happy for you that there is gluten-free everything, including communion wafers😊.)
Yes, my apologies, but I do I confess that I am CRAZY about gluten.
“Bread is the staff of life,” has been my motto since I was a child.
Remember Wonder Bread? Wrapped in a package printed with bright balloons, the commercials claimed it could ‘build strong bodies”. Eight ways in the 1950’s. And in the 1960’s twelve!
Not so sure how. It was bleached so bright-white, no nutrient could have possibly survived. As kids, we would roll it into balls and knead it into dough. And when spread with peanut butter, Wonder Bread would often tear. At least, that’s the reason my mom gave us why we couldn’t have the crunchy kind of Peter Pan.
But now, that I am so grown up, I buy the crunchy kind all the time. And my favorite food group remains – bread.
I have an actual bread box in my kitchen – labeled Bread. Atop it, I keep two bread plates, shaped like bread. Yes, literally in the shape of a slice of bread. And I always have a few varieties on hand: Challah, Irish Soda Bread, and maybe sourdough.
I am very good at making toast. It’s one of my very best recipes. (I will share it with you, if you like.) I am partial to real butter and whole fruit preserves.
Baguette or Boule (which is just a fancy word for loaf.)
I don’t bake bread myself, but I love the idea of it. Kneading it. Rolling it. Punching it down and watching it rise and grow in the oven.
Now everyone who has ever gotten a Christmas card knows that Jesus was born in a manger – in a corn crib. Born in a town called Bethlehem, which you may not know means the House of Bread.
Alan (not Aaron😊) Copeland writes:
“Was little baby Jesus actually laid in a manger? It seems like a very strange and dirty place to put a newborn. Mary and Joseph would have to be crazy tired or plain silly to put a newborn in a feeding trough!“
“But the manger (manger – which means ‘to eat’) – is a reminder that Jesus is the Bread of Life. Little baby Jesus in the food trough points to big guy Jesus feeding the 5000.”
Such a well-worn story, it is easy to miss Jesus humoring his cranky disciples:
“Six months wages cannot buy enough for these people to get even a little!” — his friends whine as they throw up their hands.
So, Jesus asks a little boy to help him – a little boy who opens his lunchbox and shares his bread and his fish.
(Maybe like you even did as kid, sharing your tuna fish sandwich.)
Five thousand people (so, they say!) sat down in the grass.
Jesus said the blessing, broke the bread, put the pieces into baskets. And the disciples passed them all around.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Jesus gave them that and more.
Jesus – who the gospel-writer John calls the Bread of Life.
Grace Church in Georgetown — at Wisconsin & M — was my field work parish in seminary. Every Sunday they acted out the loaves and fishes – in a very down to earth way.
Grace was a house of bread in a hungry city. A half-time social worker worked there every weekday helping those in need with rent and food and medicine.
But the homeless came to church for more than bread.
The fiercely proud families who camped out on the C&O Canal, slept in our churchyard and resisted shelters because to go there they had to split up. Some of the families also worshiped with us on Sunday mornings.
In Grace’s nave there were no communion rails, no kneeling, and no wafers.
Instead the little congregation encircled the altar, as David Bird the rector blessed a yeasty loaf of bread. He would break it into pieces and place it into a basket that was then passed round. Shared hand-to-hand, with each crusty piece, the worshipper would say: The Body of Christ, the Bread of Heaven.
And there was always some left over, not twelve baskets full, but there was always extra. So, we would pass it around again until all were full.
At Emmanuel, we do use wafers. Though less messy and not as apparent, Emmanuel equally loves to feed people. It’s a ministry we hardily embrace.
Even in a pandemic. Especially in the pandemic, with so many more of our neighbors food-insecure. the parish and parishioners alike have continued:
Virtually donating dollars for staples, canned goods, and fresh food for the ALIVE Food Pantry.
Making sandwiches — socially distanced — in Emmanuel’s kitchen for the Bag Lunch Program at Meade Memorial for the homeless.
Delivering food to the elderly with Meals on Wheels.
Dropping off a Saturday breakfast or a Tuesday dinner at Carpenter’s Shelter.
Ensuring through our outreach to Haiti that the children of St. Croix have nourishing lunches everyday.
Loaves and Fishes is first and foremost about literally feeding people – bodies first and then their souls.
Loaves and Fishes is much more than a sweet little bible story. Loaves and Fishes is the way to live a Christian life.
It’s a hungry world out there full of hungry people. Our lunch boxes are overflowing. Let’s feed one another and share with one another as we are fed, here at Emmanuel, God’s House of Bread.
The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog