I wrote this and it appeared in our local paper last week.
Our church, and some other denominations as well, follow the Revised Common Lectionary. It's a schedule of scripture readings suggested for use in worship each week. This summer, from July 26 through August 23, the gospel readings on those Sundays came from the sixth chapter of the Gospel according to John. They all dealt, in one way or another, with bread.
The series of readings began with the story of Jesus miraculously feeding thousands of people with five barley loaves and two fish. The readings continued with Jesus speaking of himself as "the bread of life," speaking of eating his flesh and drinking his blood, with his hearers being confused and upset by his words, and ended with his core group of followers making a renewed commitment to him.
As a preacher it can be tricky to come up with fresh ideas about bread for five weeks in a row and here I am writing a newspaper column about bread. But it has been on my mind.
When my family sits down to eat, we give thanks for the food we eat by saying grace. We have a few prayers to choose from. We even sing some of them. Probably our most common table grace goes like this:
Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest,
and let these gifts to us be blessed.
Blessed be God who is our bread.
May all the world be clothed and fed.
In our world bread is a staple. Obviously we use it to make sandwiches of all kinds. And when we eat the ever popular but not always healthy burger, it comes on a bun. A hotdog or sausage is laid in a bun. Some restaurants will give you a roll with your meal, or place a basket of rolls on the table before your meal arrives. If you have a taste for certain ethnic foods they might come on, or wrapped in, other kinds of bread like pitas or tortillas.
Except for some with dietary issues, for most of us bread is the stuff of life. We would hardly go a day without it. The same goes for our relationship with God. As the readings from John, chapter six discussed and as our table grace says, God in Jesus Christ is our bread.
You could debate whether Jesus was speaking metaphorically or literally. I think rather than either/or, in this case it's both/and. In my church's tradition we share in the weekly celebration of the Lord's Supper where we receive the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine. Different Christian traditions differ on what happens in that meal and how it happens but I think we all agree that when we gather, Jesus is there.
Being a Christian, having faith in Jesus Christ, is about living with him in your life. It's also about the last line in our table grace. Living a life of faith isn't just about "me and Jesus." A life of faith is also about serving all people, following the example of Jesus, and striving for justice and peace in all the earth. "May all the world be clothed and fed" is our prayer and also our duty.
As long as there are hungry people in our community and in our world, people without the bread that gives them physical life, we ought to be doing all we can to provide that bread. Another of Jesus' stories says that when we refuse to provide for the hungry we are refusing him.
We need Jesus, the bread of life, in our lives. And our Lord uses us in his mission to bless and save and feed the world. Blessed be God who is our bread. May all the world be clothed and fed.