The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost: August 5, 2018
Preacher: The Rev. Leigh Mackintosh, Associate Rector of St. Michael’s Church
Bread is an integral part of our faith, our life, our ministry together. Jesus is constantly breaking bread with strangers, friends, family members, religious leaders, outcasts, refugees and disciples. With five loaves and two fish, he feeds five thousand. He teaches us to pray “God, give us this day our daily bread.”
Today, John’s Gospel portrays Jesus as the bread of life – whose love is blessed, broken, transformed, and offered for the healing and wholeness of all. Jesus says: “whoever comes to me will never be hungry; whoever trusts and believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)
So, last Fall, I decided to find out what this bread business was all about by making a loaf of bread.
Here’s some of the spiritual nuggets I took away when I made my first loaf…
Lesson 1: Like life, bread means you can’t rush the process or go in halfway. You have to commit to doing your bit, then let it sit.
Basically, bread making means you mix the ingredients, knead the dough for a little bit, then let it sit for an hour. Knead for a bit, let it sit. Knead for a bit, let it sit.
At first, going through this seemingly slow process of doing a little and waiting awhile was tiresome. But then I realized I rather liked the way bread shaped my life. Making bread helped me feel more free, more balanced, more refreshed!
Imagine how your life could be transformed if you took time to live like bread.
This applies to virtually any age and any stage of life. You can use it to infuse prayer in your daily life. Balance work with play and family. It even can help you through the tough times such as a lengthy recovery process, grieving the loss of a loved one, or mediating conflict.
The possibilities are endless! The key is to take time to do a little bit each day, and then step away, let it sit.
Jesus says, “Do not work for the bread that perishes, but for the bread that endures.” (John 6:27)
Lesson 2: Stop worrying so much, the dough will let you know!
Bread making is a most forgiving process. If you don’t get things right at first, don’t worry. The dough will let you know what it needs. If it is dry and falling apart, the dough will cry for water. Sticky and wet, calls for more flour.
Bread teaches us to pause, pay attention, to let go of our worries and agenda and be present to this moment. If you find yourself not knowing what to do or how to help someone, stop worrying and start being present — listen. They will let you know what they need — often without words!
Listening is a lost art today. We can get so caught up like the crowds in today’s gospel. Too busy looking for signs or worrying over what we are supposed to do that we miss the grace right in front of our noses.
What would the world look like if we stopped to listen to God speaking to us through our lived experience…through prayer or a particular task or a relationship?
This brings me to the final lesson. Yeast is the true miracle worker!
Yeast, something so small and insignificant is the synergy that brings everything together. Yeast calls bread to rest and rise and grow into something far beyond anything we could ever make or imagine. And it does so without our input or agenda.
This is the way God’s healing Spirit moves. Slow. Subtly bubbling up and working in ways we sometimes don’t realize or expect. If you stare directly at the dough, you will not see an immediate change. But after awhile, the dough is entirely transformed.
We all have those yeastly moments when it feels like nothing is happening, and we wonder if we will be stuck waiting forever. Will this ever change or get better? And then, somehow, it does.
When I made bread I thought I was the one doing the work. Turned out, God was using that bread to work on me.
Today, we invite you to come and partake of the healing bread of life in this community. To come pray and be prayed for or with. To sit and savor the ways that God is bubbling up and working within and around you. To feel God rising and bringing life to the world.
“This is the table, not of the righteous,
but of the poor in spirit.
It is made ready for those who love God
and who want to love God more.
So come, you who have much faith and you who have little,
You who have been here often
and you who have not been for a long time or ever before,
You who have tried to follow and all of us who have failed.
These are the gifts of God for the People of God.
Christ invites everyone to be known and fed here.”
Adapted from The Iona Community, Iona Abbey Worship Book, (Glasgow, UK: Wild Goose Publications, 2001), 53.