Sustenance for The Spirit
“wer nicht Brot essen mag, der wandere”
The saying above appears on a magnet pinning photos to the front of our refrigerator. It is German and translates, “He who does not like to eat bread, wanders.” The words are accompanied by a portrait of Martin Luther. I purchased the magnet in Whittenburg, Germany, which is the location of the church where Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door in an attempt to enlighten the religious powers of his day on matters central to the Christian faith, that Luther felt were being extorted or ignored. When I bought the magnet, I was in a rush so I didn’t take time to research exactly what the words meant, but had learned enough German to recognize a few words, mainly “Brot,” which means bread. I think it’s interesting that on the magnet the word for bread is capitalized, indicating some importance. Knowing what little I know of Martin Luther, I interpret “Brot” to mean basic sustenance. And, bread is today, and has been for centuries, a source for human physical survival. Even in biblical history we read of famines when the wheat or barley was wiped out or unable to grow, because bread could not be produced without the grains, and people would die as a result. Luther’s Brot, I believe, was spiritual, the necessary sustenance of a spiritual existence on earth. I believe Luther is saying in German, on my magnet, that without Brot, we are just wandering.
I love bread. It is one food that tempts me more than most. My husband and sons like to bake bread, trying different sour dough starters and swapping bread recipes that include delicious concoctions like Swedish Rye Bread or Beer Bread made in the crockpot. Nothing smells better than bread baking, and a warm slice of bread with melted butter spread across it is “to die for.” In my younger days, my favorite after-school snack was a soft piece of white bread with margarine. So, you’re probably seeing a pattern developing.
I should mention at this point that we are in the days of Lent, which is a practice for some in the religious world, where you select something to give up between Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, preparing your mind more deeply for Easter, more specifically, for an annual celebration of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. I had a friend a few years ago who introduced me to Lent, and I have found it to be a good motivator for better spiritual discipline in my life. This year, I have decided to handle Lent differently. Instead of fasting one particular food or bad habit the entire span of Lent, I am going week by week. In other words, I’m attempting to make my sacrifices more manageable for the long term by setting a short term checkpoint, which is more reasonable and more likely to be continued. As a human, so much of our spiritual nature revolves around where we are today, what we need to do in the moment, or the immediate impact we can have on others. If we sacrifice only to indulge later, I think we might be missing the point.
I had decided that my second full week of Lent, I would give up bread for a week. You can understand the sacrifice. So, imagine my chagrin when the sermon focus was on the following section of the Lord’s prayer: “Give us today our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11, NIV) Seriously? Not only did I have to stomach a whole sermon on bread, but a warm roll was included in my chicken tender boxed lunch. I wondered if what I was feeling was just a tiny bit like how Jesus felt when in the wilderness and Satan offered to turn rocks into bread. I mean, Jesus was hungry. He probably hadn’t eaten real food in days. But, he resisted, replying with another famous bread scripture, “Man does not live by bread alone.” (Luke 4:4, Deut. 8:3, NIV)
Bread is prevalent in scripture. Jesus multiplies it miraculously to feed thousands. Twice actually. (Matthew 14:13–21and Matthew 15:29–39) Manna is provided for the hungry Israelites while wandering in the wilderness. Ravens brought bread to Elijah while journeying for the Lord’s purpose. (1 Kings 17:6) Bread is what sustains life in these instances. Bread has for centuries helped mankind survive. Bread is the antithesis of starvation. And, bread is what represents the physical body of Christ on the Cross at Calvary. We partake of the bread when we remember Christ’s broken body during communion. Martin Luther’s Brot was indeed spiritually ingrained (no pun intended) in real, true, meaningful and purposeful direction to God.
To live without bread for a week was difficult. I savored and devoured the roll included with my chicken tenders the following Sunday. I look at bread more seriously, realizing it’s not to be taken for granted; and, I will probably repeat my bread fast for a week at a time in the future, just to keep an improved perspective. Bread is more than just a combination of flour and water baked in an oven. No matter what the variation, bread is that which sustains, and represents the ultimate sustenance for our spiritual well-being. God has used bread since wheat was created to help us with our physical needs for nutrition on earth; and, as He has provided physical sustenance, He has shown us His faithfulness. Jesus provided the physical sacrifice which sustains us spiritually, and we follow His example by breaking bread that memorializes His death, burial and resurrection.(Luke 22:19) The Brot keeps us from wandering away from the simple, but necessary, spiritually baked flour and water. The early Christians “broke bread in their homes” (Acts 2:46) continuing a tradition of faithfulness, sacrifice and sustenance, all wrapped up in a simple loaf we call bread. Only a powerful creator could make such a wonderfully uncomplicated, yet meaningful, plan for us, His creation.
Have a wonderful day!