During Lent, the sermon series at our church is focusing on God’s “I Am” statements. For my message at the contemplative service today, I reflected on I Am the Bread of Life which seemed right up my homesteading alley. As such, it was my desire to bring freshly baked bread as a part of our “pew prayer station” and communion, but given that I have been gluten free for so long, I realized this past week that I might need a little practice.
Friday night, I had the opportunity to hang out with a preteen girl who has asked me to mentor her in the ways of raising chicks. I have gladly obliged because when a preteen girl in the day and time wants to homestead, you don’t turn her down!
After we finished up our chicken supply shopping on Friday night, she came over to help me practice baking bread. No television, no cell phones, and no computers to distract us–we simply had a bowl, a wooden spoon and our ingredients. What a delight~
While the bread was baking, we sat around the kitchen table painting our nails (even farm girls like to get gussied up now and again!). Within 10 minutes, we began to smell it–the aroma of warm bread dough. It is a smell that cannot be described in words, but boy, does it evoke some strong feelings. Home. Love. Comfort. And satisfaction–knowing that the first bite of that warm loaf will deliciously offer sustenance for our bodies.
Last week, when our pastor began this sermon series, he introduced the story of God referring to God’s self as the great “I Am.” We could have begun with any of the “I Am” statements in the Bible, but we started with “I Am the Bread of Life.” Bread–something so simple yet so symbolic of many feelings we also associate with our God.
What we learn from the scripture is that bread, like the manna that Moses fed those he was leading, not only satisfies physical hunger, but more importantly, the Bread of Life nourishes our spiritual hunger–a much greater longing. Jesus assures us that it is not the miracles he is performing that give credence to God’s glory, it is simply the satisfaction of knowing God’s love and grace that are enough. They satisfy our desire for comfort and peace.
In an excerpt from her sermon on this scripture, Jan Richardson, an artist, writer, and ordained minister with the United Methodist Church, meditates on the dual nature of hunger and bread:
Jesus is clear in calling them to discern the difference between what fills the belly and what fills the soul. At the same time, he well understands the ways that the hungers of the body and the hungers of the soul intertwine, and how both are at play when it comes to food. . .When he wants to convey the essence of who he really is, in word and in action, it is to food, to the gifts of the earth, that Jesus turns. Wheat. Bread. Wine. In his hands, food is more than food; it is an enduring symbol of, and gift from, the one who offers his very being to meet our deepest hunger and our keenest thirst. Yet it is food nonetheless.
As a part of of our “pew prayer station” time, each person received a small envelope filled with bread. We all opened our envelopes and took a deep breath of that freshly baked morsel. We then quietly reflected on these questions:
1) What does the Bread of Life mean to you?
2) How does the Bread of Life satisfy you?
3) How can you share the Bread of Life with your community?
Yesterday afternoon, I wrapped up one of the loaves for my preteen homesteader and took it to her. When she opened the bag, she lit up with a beautiful smile. She plucked off a piece between her fingers and took the first bite, noting how good it was. She closed her eyes and chewed the bread slowly with a look of complete satisfaction on her face.
As I watched her, I thought about how her face captured what it feels like when both our physical and spiritual hunger finds nourishment in God–how something as simple as bread can so fully sustain us.
This meditation is an excerpt from my message on “I Am the Bread of Life” at Skyland United Methodist Church, contemplative Sanctuary Service, March 1, 2015.