(Deut. 8:3, Luke 13:21, 24:30-31, Acts 2:42-47)
Whole wheat, grown from the good soil, under the sun, under the rain … It is the work of hands and muscles and minds and tools – and teams – to raise up this wheat, and harvest it, thresh it, mill it, and trade it.
Mix some of this flour with water and put it out in the air for a time, and yeast will grow.
Take that living dough and mix it with more flour and water. Add some more muscle, give it some more time and the dough will rise. Shape it into a loaf, put it in the heat of an oven, and the dough will bake into bread.
In all this we give thanks to the God of Creation. We bless the bread. We break it. We share it. And together our hunger, our need, is satisfied.
And deep is that hunger. Deep and wide. No one is free of it. All of us are in need.
Such is the kingdom of God. Such is the Realm of Heaven. In the harvest, in the yeasty leaven, in the giving according to our need… Such is how the realm of heaven joins with the realm of the earth. Such is how a humanity, riven with strive and selfishness, becomes one.
One brokenness, one hunger, one need – one bread, one body, one God.
The Christian faith is that God is with us in an embodied form. God has come to know us as bodies … as bodies that can be strong, bodies that can break. Jesus was somebody – not just anybody – but he was a body, in a body, of a body. Jesus healed bodies. Jesus was hurt as a body.
So one of the things this faith of ours means is that God is with us as living beings … beings that need what we need – nourishment, love, wellness, strength, work, care, pleasure. This means that God is with us as that also suffer.
Part of what Jesus shows us, is that if we follow this God embodied, we are led to share the bread and share the wine, as we share the pre-existing condition of being beings in need. I’ll say it again: We all share the pre-existing condition of being beings in need. However good we may be feeling in the moment, we all need, we all are in need, we all can’t rely only on ourselves for that need. And our deepest need is for God, a need that can be satisfied only by the gift of grace.
So the Way of Jesus is about sharing the bread, sharing the wine, sharing our brokenness, sharing the good news that God is with us in that brokenness – through Christ – to make us whole.
But all this can be hard to recognize, it can be hidden. That, I think, is why all the stories of the resurrection of Christ (which is what this season after Easter is all about) all these stories are these mysterious accounts of people not recognizing Jesus as he appeared again transformed after his death. They mistake him for a gardener or a stranger traveling along the road. It takes a double take for folks to see what’s in front of their eyes. It takes a dawning that there’s much more going on here than we usually allow.
In Luke that dawning only happens when the resurrected Christ is at table with people who welcomed him, as a stranger, who needed some hospitality. At that shared table, he took the bread, he blessed it, he broke it. He gave it to them.
And their eyes were opened and they recognized him … then he vanished.
And then … they shared the bread. They shared the wine. They shared according to according to their need. And they were filled.
Thanks be to God
(Delivered May 7, 2017, at First Congregational Church of Walla Walla, by Rev. Nathaniel Mahlberg)