Did you know that St Paul was a bread baker? He gives ingredients for a community to rise up together!

Proper 14 Year B 2021

2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33
Psalm 130
Ephesians 4:25-5:2
John 6:35, 41-51

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

O bread of life from heaven,
O food to pilgrims given,
O manna from above:
feed with the blessed sweetness
of your divine completeness
the souls that want and need your love.- J.S. Bach

Do you remember 18 months ago when there was a shortage of flour on the grocery store shelves?

People were buying flour because they were at home. More activities were at home which allowed people time to bake. And specifically we saw the rise of the Sourdough starter. The perfect marriage of science project and nutrition for those of you who eat gluten.

Bread is an interesting creation.

Simple ordinary ingredients: Flour, water, yeast and the perhaps butter or milk combined.

Just putting the ingredients together is not sufficient though, you have to force the ingredients to combine- they call the process kneading…. And it’s hard work.

The experts take the dough and on a floured surface roll the dough over and over and over again, transforming the sticky mess into a soft pliable dough.

The dough is then stretched to the form desired and let to rest.

Literally you have to walk away and let go.

On returning you see the gift of letting the dough “do it’s thing” and rise.

Depending on the end product you may have to knead it again, punch it down and let it rise one more time.

And then when it is ready you place it in the oven to cook.

Once baked, it is ready to be consumed.

A loaf of Bread is a labor of love, each loaf unpredictable, yet through the process bread is a unique creation for nourishment.

Bread for the journey.

The bread making process is time consuming,

takes energy,

patience and vision towards the end product.

Secretly, I always rejoice a bit when that first rise happens- proving that I did not accidentally kill the yeast with water that was too hot…. I wait impatiently, I wait expectantly.

When we hear the word “bread” in the church we cannot help but think of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, the breaking of the bread. Together, sharing the table with his beloved friends  remembering the exodus from Egypt when God told the people of Israel to eat so quickly that the bread did not have time to rise for the journey towards freedom from oppression.

We remember also the manna God granted the Israelites during their time in the wilderness, no kneading involved with this quick bread, it appeared every morning ready to eat (first MRE?) just enough for the day. The Israelites worked with what they had for that part of their life, I am sure they dreamed of the promised land of milk and honey to add to their bread.

Remember also Abraham and Sarah when the angels visited them, Abraham invites the visitors to sit at the table and share a meal, bread and conversation- nourishment for the stranger.

Remember Elijah and the widow who had just enough for one and God multiplied it for their survival.

We have the miracle of the loaves and fishes feeding more than they possibly should and we are reminded that the disciples are sent out with just enough bread for the journey no more or no less.

And we can’t help but remember the disciples on the road to Emmaus. They shared a meal with that stranger who, in the breaking of the bread, they realize they are eating with Jesus himself.

Jesus takes the ordinary and reimagines and expands our understanding of what we need to be nourished and to thrive with what we are provided.

The past 18 months have taken the ordinary and reimagined it for us.

We may have felt the process of being made into bread over and over again.

The kneading process punching us down again over and over again.

And yet there have been moments of rising, of flourishing, or new beginnings, awarenesses.

New connections and prayer buddies.

While we have experienced changes that we didn’t expect, we continue to find the manna for each day, knowing the bread of everlasting life is present to us also.

The NZ book of Common prayer begins their evening prayer with this phrase:

“It is but lost labour that we haste to rise up early, and so late take rest, and eat the bread of anxiety. For those beloved of God are given gifts even while they sleep.”

Reflect on your week, where have you seen the bread of anxiety feed your actions?

Did you hold your breath during some of the Olympic events?

Are you anxious about work, about school, about your health, your loved one’s health, your ___ fill in the blank.

Breathe in, breath out.

In each and every instance of scarcity, God has provided.

“Those beloved of God are given gifts even while they sleep.”

I am not saying throw caution to the wind.

I do believe wearing a mask and getting vaccinated (as you are able) are important and vital ways to protect our community.

As a community we can support each other, take steps to give hope to each other.

We are beginning a new school year, we are in the midst of a new search process for a rector with a newly appointed Search Committee.

These are new beginnings that look different than before and St Paul in our reading from Ephesians tells us the ingredients for our community that are essential for us to rise up together as one.

First, Speak truth to our neighbors

  • This also means listening to each other, we are each the neighbor and the speaker!

Second, Do not let the sun go down on your anger

  • Do not act in anger but talk to those with whom you have a challenge, grow in relationship with each other learning from wounds.

Third, Speak only that which builds up the community

  • Consider your words, does judging someone else’s actions help to build up the community? Or how can each person be brought into the conversation together- it takes time and patience.

Fourth, Be Kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another

  • Listen with the ears of your heart. What are the other person’s words really saying- are they afraid, alone, deeply glad?

Finally, Be imitators of God as beloved Children

  • We are given the perfect example of love

As Christ loved us and gave himself for us as a sacrifice to God.

Knead it all together.

We need to be all together not just for today but for tomorrow.

When we kneel at the rail we receive the Body of Christ, the bread of heaven. We have a foretaste of what the communion of saints come together is like in its most human and divine form.

We too join that body, united and given strength and courage to go back out into the world to build up community to seek not just the temporary but the long- lasting hope for tomorrow.

Jesus is the bread of life given for the world, for us, Come and eat of this bread and be fed.

Give me neither poverty, nor riches Lord: but bread for today and hope for tomorrow.

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