Sunday, 2 August 2015

Bread of Life

I am the bread that gives life. He who comes to me will never be hungry. He who believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35)

Bread isn't really that special.

When getting ready for a party, we rarely ask ourselves "what sort of bread shall we order?" Bread's what we wrap bits of meat in to make sandwiches. And, sure, the retailers do their best. We have focaccia, baguettes, croissants, tiger bread, ciabatta. All attempts to make bread more interesting.

But still bread is bread. I've early memories of eating round my grandparent's house. Great slabs of unsliced white loaves - we always ate sliced at home - with butter, cheese and pickled onion. And it was the pickled onion and the butter that were special. Not the bread.

But I can still remember that bread - ordinary as it was - today. Moist, white bread. Eaten with a loving family. Holding together all the stuff we didn't normally eat.

In England, we have two staples. Potatoes and bread. Of course, as the place has become more culturally diverse, as the tastes of the nation have changed we've expanded that. Some people eat nothing other than pizza. Others eat spaghetti bolognaise - seeming endlessly. Among the trendy gluten-aware, quinoa is very popular, I believe.

But still, bread is very ordinary.

In 1st Century Judea, it was beyond ordinary. It was what you ate. Bread for breakfast, lunch, tea. "What's for breakfast, mum? Oh, yum. Bread."  Potatoes hadn't been discovered, pasta wasn't invented. And even if you'd had pasta, where would you have found a bolognaise sauce? The tomato was still confined to America. So it was bread. The basic, everyday, staple diet.

So how do we see Jesus? What do we see him as? Somebody special, to be confined in a pretty church or in a tabernacle everybody prays to who can't go near? Somebody white and radiant as the finest white flour, up out of the way? Kept only for very happy days or very sad ones? Only for Sundays when we wear our best clothes and not for the rest of the week when we're muttering and grumbling like Israelites in the desert?

Thomas Hardy's Under the Greenwood Tree has a new vicar - Parson Maybold - who, in the opinion of the parish, takes his duties far too seriously. He fixes the font, rather than have to baptise babies by spitting on his fingers. He insists on visiting people when they're doing their day-time work, chucking cinders or waste water out. He doesn't respect other people's dignity - when he meets one of his congregation with all his clothes (the congregation member that is) ripped to shreds after climing through brambles, Revd Maybold will stil talk to him. He's the villain, to a degree, of the book because he insists on getting rid of the Quire, or village music group, and then tries to marry the organist. But his attitude - that it's not about just Sundays - that's what I'm trying to get at here.

Jesus is not the cake of life, the blancmange of life, the champagne of life. He's the bread of life. He is there with us in all the ordinariness - not just waiting for us in the special moments. He's the bread, the wine, the water - all the staples of the 1st Century Jew. He's in the ordinary every minute, making it extraordinary. In the trudge to the bus stop, the traffic jam on the M1, the person grumbling with a sore head, the morning when you just can't be bothered, the sore ankle, the ratbag who won't work with you, the person you pass in the street. He's in the ordinary all the time. He's the bread of life, who you need every day to live.

And of course, if Jesus is in every moment of life - then he makes every moment special.


  1. I will definitely light a tea light to that post, Eileen, notwithstanding the non-arrival of the tomato in Italy till the 16th Century. Luckily I am not a Sola Scriptura sort of Empress.

    1. Thanks you have spotted a very weird error. That was meant to say what it says now. I obviously mused over the spag bols for too long.

  2. Amen to that, Eileen although it was nice to munch on croissants and conserves as we pondered the symbolism and being ligamental Christians (new word courtesy Bishop James Roffer). Ta muchly.


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