Come share bread
August 12, 2012
This past week has been marked for me by restless sleep.
After our FUN celebration last week, where I felt like I saw more clearly some things about you as a group—people of St. Paul-Ref—your spark, the gift of talking back, your pitching in to help each other, everyone lending a hand, really a day of joy...
After that, it has been a rough week. First, it was the news of violent shooting, again. This time, members of the Sikh community were shot and killed, who knows why. Hours later the search teams found women and children still hiding in fear for their lives.
Then, it was a meeting where leaders of the congregation discussed challenges in which there is no clear way forward, every step is uncertain and really puts us to the test as we try to listen not just for what we want but for what God would have us do.
And finally, it was hearing the devastating news that someone I have just been getting to know, someone who inspires me, who is a gifted leader, someone who loves the church has a serious diagnosis. She will have to give all her energy in the coming days to fight for her life. Maybe some of you have had this kind of week as well... And if you didn't have it this week, I'm sure that you can think back to a time when you did... When it seemed like the floor was caving in beneath you and what in the world could give you strength?
That's where we find Elijah, just into the wilderness...already starving, fainting from thirst, collapsed in fear, regret, uncertainty, maybe anger at God. And frankly, when life turns this way... When we're walking through the valley, on the brink, haven't we all had the thought, like Elijah, that maybe it'd be better or at least easier to die?
But what is God's response to despair? God sends a messenger, a baker. That gifted one makes a hearty cake, bakes it on stones and says to Elijah, eat it. Then, realizing one is not going to do it, this baker from God makes another. Kind of like a grandma, “Come on, eat it.” You need it to build your strength for what's ahead.
That story of bread--two little cakes that give strength for 40 days in the wilderness--impacts how we hear when Jesus calls himself bread. Just a little is going to take you a long way.
This week, the people at Bible Matters remembered the hearty German bread and how it sticks with you all day. Others named places where bread isn't the main, daily sustaining food... Such as parts of the world where rice is that common sustaining food. Just about everyone though had some kind of bread story. Bread, rice, croissants... All the ingredients that go into a loaf... How dependent and fragile we all are.
In calling himself bread, Jesus is also naming this reality of life, that it's so temporary, it's perishable. Like manna, we can't hold on to bread forever. It has this "use it or lose it" dynamic. Life is short and in these texts, there is an urgency. We need sustenance for this journey... Whether today the journey looks long or whether today our time feels far too short.
And so the writer to the Ephesians says in a whole variety of ways, let's give it our best. Like those Olympic athletes, let's go for it. You need to be angry? Well, be angry but also take the steps you need to take to work through that and move on. In fact the letter writer says, set things right today.
This week, I needed to take have a conversation that I was dreading. I felt afraid because in conflict, we never feel like we've done it totally right... We open ourselves up to missing the boat. It's possible that the other will have plenty to say back or won't receive it. So we tend to avoid the person we need to talk to, saying our deepest truths elsewhere.
It initially feels easier to go around them. But you know what happened?
I said, "I didn't understand why you did that." And that person said, "I'm sorry."
And suddenly, a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. We had both made mistakes, and we worked through it, just letting some of it go. But I left thinking, huh. I feel so much better. This is what can happen when we acknowledge that it's ok in our fragile human communities, where every one of us has our unique set of gifts and challenges, to go to someone directly and be angry. Although it might seem harder at first to go and do that work, it opens up the possibility of experiencing in a new way the full humanity of the other and being able to see each other not as problems or adversaries but as bread—
broken yet blessed. Brought together to restore and sustain and encourage one another because God-with-us is right here, in the flesh, among us, within us. Jesus says, "I'm the bread of life--"I'm infused into you all so much you can't even go out of here without me (kind of sneaky, eh?)" Like a yeasty kitchen full of the smell of bread that you walk through and carry the scent of it on your person...
This bread we're going to share is like that, fragrant, nourishing, a little bit is going to take you through the week until we meet here again for Jesus' life-sustaining gift. It's bread and it's more than bread because it reminds us that we are what we eat. We receive it and we become it--the body, the face or voice or hands of God that someone desperately needs to see, hear, receive. We become what we eat. Come, share bread.