Monday, February 21, 2011
The Bread and the Body
Coincidentally (if one believes in coincidences), I’ve been reading Luci Shaw’s What the Light Was Like:Poems. Included in the collection is this:
I’m not asking for quails for dinner
and, if they flew in my window, at mealtime,
in a torrent of wind, I would think
aggravation, not miracle.
Time is so multiple and fluid. If I lose a day
flying the Pacific and gain it back
returning, perhaps the prayer I offered
this morning at first light
was known and answered last week.
You never know what a simple request
will get you. So, no plea for birds
from heaven. Rather, I will commit myself
to this quotidian wilderness, watching for what
the wind may bring me next –
perhaps a minor wafer tasting like honey
that I can pick up with my fingers
and lay on my tongue to ease, for this day,
my hunger to know.
Manna. Bread. Something everyday common, says Mitchell. The Eucharist, a theological name for something simple. Food for the body and food for the soul.
It’s not by accident that Jesus used bread and wine as the elements he wanted his disciples to remember him by every time they ate. And they were to remember him not just occasionally but every time – as often as they ate the bread and drank the wine.
Do I think of Jesus every month when I take communion at church? Absolutely. Do I think of him every time I eat bread or drink wine? No.
But perhaps I’m missing something important. The body of Jesus – the church – is there together at communion. But is it also there when I eat my roll or sliced bread at dinner? Is his blood also there whenever I drink a glass a wine? Perhaps his message was less about “remember” and a lot more about “whenever,” that it is in the mundane, the everyday, the common elements of our lives where we are most apt to discover Jesus. Our lives are filled far more with the common and everyday and a lot less with the spectacular and mountaintop, and Jesus wants to be remembered and lived right where we are.
Many years ago, I was the family breadmaker. I made all kinds of bread -- white, whole wheat, rye, cornmeal, cheese and beer, cinnamon raisin, rolls, English muffins. And then other things came along, other demands on my time, and all that was left was the annual cranberry wreath bread I make at Christmas.
Until Saturday. I dug out a recipe for whole wheat bread, and got the ingredients together.
It cooled for a few minutes, and then I couldn't stand it. Time to taste.
It was a simple thing to do. Each step had its own story -- selecting the recipe, making sure all the ingredients were in the kitchen, mixing, kneading (I'd forgotten that whole wheat requires more strenuous kneading than white), rising, rolling out, shaping loaves for the pan, rising again, baking, the smell that permeates the house, the cooling, the slicing and the tasting (yes, it was good; heavy but good).
On Sunday, we had communion at church.
Like Luci Shaw, I committed myself to this "quotidian wilderness, watching what the wind may bring me next." The result was simple and plain -- three loaves of bread. Simple, daily bread. And somehow, I knew that here, too, was my Lord, working me like daily bread.
To see this week's discussion and links to other posts on the three essays in The Spirit of Food, please visit The High Calling.