“Eternal God, heavenly Father, you have graciously accepted us as living members of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, and you have fed us with spiritual food in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood.”
If you’ve been in Sunday worship sometime during the last couple of months, you have probably received fresh-baked bread at Eucharist, in place of the wafers we often share. (I know that many of you have noticed this switcheroo, because you’ve mentioned it or asked about it.)
Truthfully, I prefer bread to wafers, for a reason I’ll share momentarily. But I didn’t set out to impose a Eucharistic preference on the whole lot of us. At first, we were just beginning our journey through the “bread discourses” in the Gospel of John – a series of 6 weeks during the Lectionary Cycle’s “Year B” when we read passages from the 6th chapter of John, all having to do in some way with “bread.”
After the Sunday we heard about Jesus multiplying 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish in order to feed five-thousand people, I was struck by the irony of what was happening: we were meditating on the abundance of nourishment that Jesus offers (described as more bread than we could possibly need) and then we were coming together at the table for what seemed like a meager meal of thin and tasteless crackers.
In a moment of zeal, I texted a friend for the Communion bread recipe we used to share at the Seminary of the Southwest, drove to the grocery to purchase whole wheat flour, a big jug of honey, and some olive oil, returned home and immediately began baking a first batch of bread. The recipe produces enough for a month, so that batch got us through the “bread discourses” and the month of August.
By the time September was nearing, there had been time to reflect on the experience of using fresh Communion bread in conversation with some others in our community, and also in my own prayers. While we grant that not everyone likes real bread, and not everyone can eat it (as is also true with wafers that are not gluten-free), there is something special about handmade bread, baked by someone in our own fellowship, brought forward as a gift of thanksgiving to be blessed, broken, and shared to nourish and re-member us as Christ’s body in the world. It is something that can be easily lost in factory-made and machine-stamped wafers purchased in bulk.
Just think about it – every time we gather for the holy feast of Eucharist, we are invited to bring our gifts, good and bad: the fruits of our labors and success; the works of our hands; tokens of achievement and celebration; the emptiness of our disappointments and desperation; the scarcity of our transitions and long, winding sojourns; our unrequited love and unfinished dreams! No matter how much or how little, we are invited to bring everything we are and wish we were, along with offerings of bread and wine to the table; so that God can bless and multiply it all to be enough for everyone. Then, we go out as Christ’s body and feed the world. What a glorious taste of God’s grace we share in The Holy Eucharist!
Going forward, we may not use real bread every Sunday*, but when we do, I encourage you to meditate on what you bring as an offering with the gifts of our community, of bread and wine. Meditate on what God can do when blessing and multiplying what you bring in the holy mystery of Communion.
“Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart; through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
*If you are interested in learning our bread recipe, practicing with others, and then volunteering to bake a batch or two of Communion bread for a month this year, email Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rev. Scott Painter
I serve as the Vicar of Grace. A word from our English heritage in the Episcopal Church, "Vicar" means that I serve as the priest and pastor of this congregation.