Everyday, Commonplace, Mundane Bread

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John 6:35, 41-51

1.

What does it mean for Jesus to identify himself as the true bread of heaven?

Bread is something we can relate to: “Give us this day, our daily bread,” we pray.

But is bread all we eat?

I don’t know about you, but when I go to the grocery store, I’m not spending the bulk of my time in the bread aisle. I may buy a little bread, sure; but the majority of my time is spent on other items—eggs, chorizo, green onions, cheese, hot sauce, an avocado or two, tortillas, juice, dark chocolate, ice cream, coffee, beer, wine—

Good thing I’m not the only one in my household doing the grocery shopping!

Point is, in the phrase “our daily bread,” the word bread is a synecdoche. “Our daily bread” is more than just literal bread; it’s the food we eat: both what we need to survive and what fills us.

Jesus both nourishes us and satisfies us.

By the way, have you ever tried to live solely on bread? Or, to clarify—just a little bit ago Jesus also called himself “living water”—so to clarify, have you ever tried to live on just bread and water?

So, imagine this dialogue with me:

“Hey, Mom, what’s for breakfast?”
“Bread and water.”
“Okay, what’s for lunch?”
“Bread and water.”
“Well, then, what’s for dinner?”
“Bread and water.”
“Um, okay, any chance I could have some peanut butter to go with it?”
“No.”
“Oh, okay, well, um, then what about tomorrow?”

A diet of nothing but bread and water would get tiresome in a hurry. It’s so everyday, commonplace, mundane; something, without variety, we grow tired of in a hurry.

“Oh,” Mom says, “but wait till you taste it! This isn’t just any old bread from the local bakery. This is bread from the bakery in heaven.”

And you’re thinking, “Didn’t Moses already try that?”

2.

Moses. Wandering in the wilderness. For forty years. With a bunch of people. Complaining about bread from heaven!

By the hand of God, Moses liberated the slave-nation of Israel from its oppressors. Together Moses and the Israelites fled; together they feared; and together they crossed the Red Sea on dry land and watched as Pharaoh and his army were consumed.

But now, some time later, they were hungry. And so, rightfully, they cried out to God, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

And God heard their prayer and provided another miracle: manna; bread from heaven.

And God gave them some instructions:

“Hear and listen, O Best Beloved,” God said. “Take a look at all the delicious manna lying all around you on the desert floor when you wake up tomorrow morning. But gather only what you need for the day: don’t be lazy and gather too little, for each of you should work according to your ability; neither be greedy and gather up too much, for it will rot and stink and your neighbors will not be happy for all the flies. For I will rain down manna the next day and the next, everyday, and will thus provide for you. No worries.”

Imagine: bread from the very bakery in heaven!

But what happens?

Some of the people did in fact gather too little and thus had to deal with hunger pangs until the next day; and others gathered too much and they and their neighbors had to deal with an excess of flies—not to mention odor.

But most of all, after the novelty had worn off, wrongfully, the people complained!

“Why did you lead us out of Egypt?” they asked. And before Moses could even open his mouth to remind them that, duh, they had been slaves, they continued: “There we had delicious food, leeks and garlic; not this everyday, commonplace, mundane bread. Oh, the monotony!”

They were no longer happy about the bread from the heavenly bakery. They took the bread from heaven for granted.

3.

And yet Jesus’ flesh is the true bread of heaven.

This is an image worth pursuing: Jesus’ flesh; and the image of eating his flesh; and, contextually, we might add, drinking his blood.

For what do we have to do to wheat in order to transform it into bread for our benefit? What do we have to do to grapes to transform them into wine?

Of course, these processes are easy for us to gloss over: we just go to the bread and wine aisles at the grocery store or online and buy them already in their transformed states—not yet consecrated, sure; but already transformed.

However, I recently had a chance to participate some in the bread-making process while at Camp Stevens—not wheat but rye.

Early in the morning—the campers had to arise early due to the excessive heat that week—we harvested the rye by hand. We used scythes—not tractors; no automated equipment. Our goal was relatively simple: make several small loaves of communion bread for about 120 people.

So, after the rye was cut and bundled, we hauled it to the kitchen, where we did the more finely tuned work of picking out the grains from the stalks: separating the wheat from the chaff, if you will.

At this point—the grains placed in bowls and the stalks in compost bins—we went through the grains again, searching for small pebbles mostly, for the soil in Julian is loamy; but also for anything other than the grains—pieces of stalk, weeds, dirt, bugs.

Now we washed the grains and spread them out on towels in the sun to dry.

And only after they dried thoroughly were we able to grind them into flour—using mortar and pestle—until, finally, we had something that could be baked into bread.

Harvested, carried away, separated, picked through, cleaned, dried, and broken! All so we could bake a few loaves for our end-of-week Camp Eucharist! All for our benefit! And I haven’t even mentioned planting and germination!

So, do you think this bread-making process has anything to do with Jesus saying, “And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh”?

Harvested, carried away, separated, picked through, cleaned, dried, and broken—all for our benefit!

4.

So, what does it mean for Jesus to identify himself as the true bread of heaven?

Those who eat of him will never hunger; those who drink of him will never thirst.

Jesus has left us a mission; we are called to share this true bread of heaven with the hungry world all around us.

His mission is not about adventure or fun or reward or accolades or otherwise feeling good about ourselves. Rather, it’s quite the other way: everyday, commonplace, mundane; even monotonous; transforming the world one needy person at a time, with all the intent and labor it takes to separate grain from stalk. It’s easy to take his mission for granted.

Indeed, there’s a lot to distract our attention. Leeks and garlic are tasty! Or, we remove ourselves so much from the bread-making process that we forget just how earthy the Incarnation is.

But the Son of God, the true bread from heaven, born of Mary and Joseph; both divine and human, is in our midst.

Even though he is everyday, commonplace, mundane; even though some of us neglect him and take too little; even though others horde and take too much; even though we all take him for granted—those who eat of him will never hunger; those who drink of him will never thirst.

We are called to share the true bread of heaven with the hungry world all around us!

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