So Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven;
my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world.”
So they said to him,
“Sir, give us this bread always.”
Jesus said to them,
“I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
— The Gospel of John
Last winter, I was part of a circle of people invited to offer condolences to a family whose son who was shot by the Minneapolis police in an altercation. I was really at a loss as to what to bring with me. I knew one person was bringing a fruit basket. Another, representing a community with more financial resources than ours, was bringing a monetary gift to help with damage done to the family’s home by a late night raid looking for weapons. After some thought and prayer, I decided to bake the family a soda bread. All I could think of was that when my people, my family, is gathering in grief and in need of comfort, food is what we bring. And because my heritage is Irish, soda bread is always there. And butter. Lots of butter. “We are grieving Lord; give us our daily bread.”
Bread is a sort of universal food. Every culture seems to have one, be it unleavened or leavened; seeded or unseeded; filled with fruits or not. We pat it and roll it and put it in a pan, to echo the children’s rhyme. And we bake it and serve it to demonstrate our care and our love.
Over six weeks, we will hear the Gospel of John speak to us about Jesus in terms of bread. This week we are reminded that he is the bread of heaven. The image evokes the outpouring of the manna, the miraculous food that sustained the people of Israel as they traveled through the desert. God gives bread to sustain us in the time of trial. And God doesn’t give it in a stingy way. God showers us with it, so that we will have more than enough. God doesn’t seem too discriminating either. Just as the rain falls on the just and unjust (says Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew) so the bread of heaven is given to all, abundant.
Recently, someone was teasing me about how I pray the Our Father. For 39 years, I’ve been in a setting where we close our time together with that prayer. About ten or so years into praying it multiple times a week aloud, I noticed that I was doing something more akin to chanting or reciting than praying. So I started trying to really pray the prayer. It required me to be a bit more whispery, as I didn’t want to disrupt the group rhythm. It made me slow down a bit, as sometimes those I prayed with were sort of galloping it home. And it made me think about emPHASis.
This week, I’m thinking about what the prayer would be like if I prayed “give (me) this day (my) daily bread (of heaven). As Jesus says, “a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing… poured into (my) lap.” As we used to say in Hackensack, Jesus is the man.
Our God is one of abundance. A God of love, protection, and care. A God who loves the just and the unjust. A God of healing mercy. A God who showers down the bread of heaven. And for those of us who believe and follow that God’s path, meets us at a table with bread on it. Becomes the bread. Food for the hungry. Hope for the poor. Healing for the suffering. A God who sets the table for everyone, no exceptions, no exclusions.
This week, Fr. Jerry Maynard, who is in from Houston but who we all know from the years he has prayed with us, will preach and preside. Dale O’Brien will cantor as our ensemble continues to grow (singers: Come sing! Familiar songs!) I hope you’ll consider joining us.
In gratitude for who you are in the world,