Part A: Warm-up
- What’s your favourite kind of bread? White? Whole wheat? Sourdough?
- Do you like crusts, or do prefer the doughy part?
- What do you put on your bread? Butter? Honey? Peanut butter? Jam? Deli meat?
- Have you ever heard of “washday slices”? That’s an expression that maybe our grandparents used to refer to especially thick slices of bread. On a washday, a mother would slice the bread thick so that she wouldn’t have to return to the kitchen repeatedly to cut more bread for the kids.
- What can “bread” mean? (Money.)
- What do we mean when, in the Lord’s Prayer, we ask, “Give us this day our daily bread”? It means “all that we need, everyday!”
Part B: Pulpit
How anxious we are about food!
Over the years I have noted that when I am under stress, I tend to eat more. It might simply be the consequence of tiredness (eating is a way to regain some energy), but I think it also has to do with the basics of human existence: when we are stressed, we get anxious; and often the way we deal with anxiety is to get food and eat.
This became so much clearer to me one time when our kids were young. We had put them by themselves on a plane for Saskatoon, in order to visit relatives. There are special procedures for doing that, including carefully identifying just who is going to meet them at their destination (in this particular case, it was Lorraine’s parents). Karla and Peter also had to wear special tags on their clothing, and they were placed into the personal care of a particular flight attendant.
The plane landed in Calgary for a brief scheduled stop. As it was preparing to take off once again, a technical problem developed which required a delay of about an hour. Our kids began to get worried. The situation began to get the better of our darling little Peter, and he began to whimper. The flight attendant knew just what to do: she offered him a doughnut and a box of juice. It worked; he calmed down.
Are you feeling anxious? Are your spirits low? Eat the right kind of food – or perhaps any kind of food! – and the chances are pretty good that your spirits will revive. It’s a fact of our human condition which in some circumstances may seem humorous. In other circumstances, though, it proves to be sobering: we might be prepared to kill in order to eat. That’s why the two world wars of the previous century spread into eastern Europe and Eurasia: the quest for food. The steppes of the Ukraine and Russia were the breadbasket of the world.
In the Confirmation Camp program that I have helped lead so many years, we came to learn the truth about bread. We knew that we had to have a good cook and good food.
Now, we ran that camp every year not because we wanted to take a bunch of young teenagers someplace in order to feed them breakfast, lunch, and supper. That was not the point. But we knew that if we didn’t feed them three tasty and nutritious meals a day (and an evening snack to boot!) then we were less likely to accomplish what we really want to do: serve them bread for the journey.
Jesus is keenly aware of this fact of our human condition. He knows why he is popular among at least some of the people: he gave them food for their bellies. Throughout the ages, people who work the angles to gain or consolidate power know that it almost always serves their purposes to give the people food – whether literally and directly as an outright gift; or through a reduction in taxes; or by the bestowal of special grants. That may only satisfy people for awhile, but it usually does the trick.
Of course, Jesus isn’t interested in gaining or consolidating power. Rather, he wants to give people bread that endures for eternal life. He wants to give us the kind of food that only he can give, the kind that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.
Jesus is speaking of himself. Jesus is the bread of life. As a pastor of Christ’s church, I want to serve bread for the journey.
God-in-Christ is with us every step of their journey, no matter where the journey may take us. In Jesus, God is providing for us, feeding us with bread that will satisfy as nothing else will – maybe not in ways that are immediately obvious; perhaps in forms that are mysterious, puzzling, and even frustrating – but that in all events God is walking with us, seeking us out, moving in on us, claiming us as children of the divine household of faith.
In Jesus Christ, God delivers steadfast love and mercy, forgiveness of sin, love, confidence, and courage to take up life in all its fullness. God grants us faith – faith understood first and finally as reconciliation with God and with one another, faith understood as interpersonal trust. God grants us this faith so that on our journeys we may walk confidently and lovingly with God and with one another.
This is bread for the journey. This is the food that endures beyond breakfast or lunch or dinner. May God feed us all with the divine son, Jesus Christ, in whom we live and move and have our being.