All of our god-children are special to us, and I know Thursday evening will be special for her. God bless her and her family!
Thirteen years ago when I became a pastor and began serving a congregation, it quickly dawned on me that part of my job was going to involve handing out bread every week. I don’t know why this caught me so off-guard. Holy Communion has always been important to me, but I hadn’t thought about what it would feel like to break a loaf in front of a bunch of people so often. It’s kind of a odd part of our job, if you think about it! I guess I was concentrating so much on preaching and learning to feed people with sermons and Bible studies that I never realized that I would also literally be feeding people real bread! I thought I knew what it took to create a sermon, but I had no idea what it took to create bread. I figured that if I was going to be handing out bread all the time and talking about how important it was and how much it reminds us of Jesus, then I figured I had better learn what goes into making it.
That is when I learned to make my first loaf of bread leavened with yeast. It was thirteen years ago. I got a recipe from someone in that congregation, Vickie Wiegand, who also turned out to be the bride in the first wedding I ever officiated. I tried her oatmeal loaf and quickly learned that bread-making is not easy! It takes a lot of time and a lot more patience than I typically have! But I got better over time and with lots of practice. I ended up throwing out a lot of loaves that didn’t rise or didn’t taste right. What else did I learn? I learned that it makes the house smell amazing. I learned that dough is basically a living organism that needs to be tended.
I also learned something that is essential about baking bread: a good loaf MUST be shared with someone else. In fact, tearing off a piece of a fresh loaf that is still warm from the oven, savoring it, and then handing it to someone else so that they, too, can break off a piece is maybe the best part of baking bread. Bread, therefore, is essentially about community. There is no such thing as a personal-sized loaf. Some of my favorite memories of you, S------, have been the times we’ve made baguettes and cinnamon rolls together—and savored them—on our summer trips.
I think this process of bread-baking has helped deepen my understanding of Holy Communion. Yes, it has helped me appreciate all the time and precision and patience that goes into the loaves that I hand out at the communion rail (which are actually just purchased from the store—but someone made it somewhere! And someone still had to go to the store and buy it!). More than that, it has helped me understand that God is most nourishing when God is shared with others. It has helped me understand that if Jesus is the bread of life, then God must put a lot of time and skill and patience into His care for us. The cross, of course, reminds us of that.
Overall, Holy Communion for me is about ASSURANCE—assurance that God loves me, assurance that God cares for me enough to prepare something so delicious as the life of his Son, assurance that God really does want to draw each of us close, even though we’re so undeserving. This meal is assurance that God’s love is better when we draw more people in to it. And, as the pastor places a torn-off piece of bread in my hand each week under the shadow of that cross, it becomes assurance that, despite my many imperfections, the good gifts of Jesus’ forgiveness are really meant for me.