Actual Food — Just Bread
Sustenance for The Spirit
How can anyone resist warm, fresh-out-of-the-oven, homemade bread? I fail to see. Even if I’m on some kind of carb self-loathing restriction, when fresh warm bread is offered, I cave. I understand that there are people who have to refrain from gluten and wheat and yeast, and I know I can’t indulge regularly, but it is a huge temptress for me personally. The other day I was at our local Farmer’s Market and the bread vendor was down to just a few loaves. Like a good, health nut type I asked for something whole grain (note, I did not say whole wheat…I’m learning), and said vendor began to roll out all the ingredients of the two loaves before me. I recognized most of the ingredients. I definitely got lost somewhere between chia seeds and something, but when she ended with oatmeal, I quickly decided that was the loaf for me. I paid in cash quickly, before I had time to think too much about the cost. After all, this was not just a loaf of bread, as I began to justify and rationalize. This could be practically a meal with all those nutrients packed in. My thoughts veered into comparing how we think about bread. Back in Jesus’ day, I believe bread was considered much more than a way to hold meat, lettuce and tomato, with dressing, in one hand. Nowadays, we need the other hand for things like chips, the phone, work stuff, dusting the blinds, and you get the picture. When I read stories set in Victorian England, bread was an integral part of even the simplest meals. Then I think about the panicking children of Israel, who were hungry and afraid as they complained to Moses. And, honestly, I think I might have been among them, even the panicky part. But, God provided Manna, which according to Google was probably “trehelose, a white crystalline carbohydrate made of two glucose molecules joined together”, which I believe is, bread. Or at least some form of bread. The Google explanation continues to say, “ It is one of very few naturally occurring molecules that taste sweet, although it is only half as sweet as sugar.” You can read more detail in the article cited: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/the-beetle-cocoon-that-was-manna-for-moses-1306263.html. Apparently, bread saved Israel, and God provided it. Things begin to come together as we fast forward several hundred years and Jesus refers to bread at critical points in his ministry. When he’s tempted to turn rocks into bread, on a very empty stomach I might add (Luke 4:2), he quotes part of Deuteronomy 8:3, “…man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” The first part of the verse is a brief reflection on the humbling nature of manna, once again the mind goes to God’s provision and plan of such. In Luke 11:3 Jesus includes in His model prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread,” indicating the everyday sustenance of bread and it’s properties. Then, as Jesus prepares to leave his friends of faith, “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’” (Luke 22:19,NIV) What a miraculous, sustaining substance bread becomes in scripture. It is real, something we can physically hold on to today, even if it’s not whole grain or fresh or warm. I’m thankful for communion each Sunday where I actively remember the importance of Christ’s bodily sacrifice, but I can also reflect on the sustaining power of God as I hold a small piece of bread. A simple carbohydrate, yet a hugely symbolic reminder of salvation’s gift, of God’s presence and caretaking nature, and of the strength of character of a man who was willing to have his body broken on a cross. Bread becomes hope. It is courage. It is life. As you eat bread today, or think about eating it, reflect on what bread means. Savor it. Enjoy another of God’s precious gifts!