Rev. Lyle McKenzie Lutheran Church of the Cross of Victoria
1 Kings 8:1,6,10-11,22-30,41-43 / Psalm 84 / Ephesians 6:10-20 / John 6:56-69
Thank you God, thank you Jesus, for bread.
Do you love bread? I love bread. I didn’t grow up in a home of home baked bread. Nor are we one. Some of you no doubt did, and are. God bless bread bakers. But I have fond memories of bread, especially fresh Winnipeg rye, and of sandwiches my Mom would make, like corned beef. She worked as a young woman at a lunch counter in a downtown drugstore when there were such things as lunch counters. She would cut our sandwiches and place them on the plate like we were in a restaurant. If it was full sized bread, diagonally into quarters, with two triangles standing up in the middle held up by a triangle sandwich on either side. My friends would come for lunch and they would look at their beautiful sandwich and look at me in wonder. Inevitably they would say, “This is the best sandwich.” And they would ask if they could come for lunch again.
Fresh, good bread is a gift; without anything, with butter or jam, as a sandwich, in any and every variety. It is a staple of most every culture, many of which have their own form of bread: bannock, naan, the baguette, lefse, tortilla, rye, whole wheat, raisin, warm, fragrant, light, dense, rustic, with gluten or not. The variety of breads seems endless. Bread is everywhere, a part of most of our diets. Thank God for good bread, bread to share, enough for everyone.
Thank you God, thank you Jesus, for “breaking bread.” Sharing a meal and community with family, friends, neighbours, strangers, sometimes even with enemies, it is essential to being human, it forms and reforms and changes us.
Our holidays this summer included canoeing the Bowran Lakes circuit in north central, BC. Near Quenelle and Barkerville, the trip is about 116 kilometers of backcountry paddling through 12 lakes and about 12 kilometers of portaging. Our group was 11 people, 8 of our family and 3 friends. It was a great adventure! Beautiful, rugged, serene, challenging, fun, tiring, character building, a blessing! And about my beard, I’m telling people, I earned it! Part of the challenge of the trip is carrying meals for eleven people for eight days. With a maximum sixty pounds allowed in each of the five canoes for portaging, choosing what food you bring is important. Our kids and friends did much of the menu planning, preparing and dehydrating meals, and all kinds of snacks to keep up our energy. Thank you to all of them for their preparation and planning. Because, one of the real blessings was eating, breaking bread together over those days. The meals, especially suppers, after a day of paddling, portaging, work and fun together, they were a welcome reward. We ate well, and had fun reviewing the day, laughing, teasing, praising and giving thanks for all kinds of things including the beauty and challenge of God’s good creation and for sharing it together. And of course food is just better outdoors, when you’ve worked hard for it and the challenges of making it and you’re swatting black flies or mosquitoes with smoke in your eyes and ash in your food.
One evening we shared a shelter with others at one of the group sites. A family were beside us and generously made room for our large group. A father and his young adult son and daughter, were paddling with a kayak and canoe. Over the meal, even though our food was separate, we got to know them and them, us. There was a wonderful connection sharing that time and place and the common journey over a meal together.
The next day we saw them and shared the same space again for breakfast. The father asked me if we were going at a leisurely pace or paddling hard through the day. I said, “Somewhere in between, I think” I didn’t think if he was asking to paddle with us, and I wish I had asked. We saw them through the rapids and over the first portage. But then we got ahead of them. Into the afternoon, on one of the big lakes, as we were warned, the wind came up quickly. Quite suddenly we were paddling against the wind and some white capped waves. It was tough going and we needed to keep at it and keep the boats pointed into the waves and our landing site on the shore in sight. After some time and hard work we all made it to shore, tired and relieved. Not long after, another family, parents and their young son that we had met on the first day at the initial orientation, came to shore and told us the father and two kids we were with the night before and that morning had capsized. Thankfully they were close behind them and were able to help them get safely to shore. But they needed help recovering the canoe and gathering their belongings that had scattered on the lake. Two canoes went out to help them. The daughter arrived soon after in the kayak, shaken but safe. And it was some time later that the canoes returned and then finally the father and son and their canoe, cold and tired and clearly shaken as well. We got them some warm dry clothes, something to drink and eventually some supper. One of our group called the park rangers on a radio phone nearby, and it took about two hours for a ranger to reach us. We helped load the three of them and their water soaked belongings onto a power boat, but not before hugs goodbye and many thank yous. The ranger would take them part way out to a ranger cabin for the night to get warm and dry and rested and then the rest of the way the following day. They were so very grateful. We were so thankful these friends that we had broken bread with, were safe.
This metaphor of breaking bread, food and life intimately shared is expressed in literal breaking and sharing bread/food with others, creating, affirming, renewing community, intimacy, relationships, connectedness, dependence, responsibility, justice, compassion, love. Think of the memorable and significant meals you’ve shared with others: family meals, an intimate dinner, a wedding celebration, Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving Day feasts; or a chance meal with others, a meal at a shelter or the Kitchen.
“Breaking bread” with others is part of being human, and being in community and common concern together.
Thank God for the life giving gift of breaking bread together.
This whole sixth chapter of John’s Gospel begins with Jesus breaking bread with thousands, and the community and relationships and challenges that result. And we hear the end of the chapter today and once again Jesus saying he is the bread that came down from heaven, the bread of eternal life, and that to eat of his flesh and drink of his blood is to be joined to that life, in God and of God, and to one another. In response to these stark and shocking words, we hear that many followers of Jesus cannot accept them and turn away from following him. It is likely not because of the literal words of Jesus that they can’t fully understand, but that they understand enough to know that Jesus is offering his own life, that he will die for them, give himself for this life in God, that causes them to turn away. Jesus asks his closest friends if they want to go away as well. And we hear Peter’s response, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Thank God for these words of eternal life for us and for all. Words of gospel acclamation of who Jesus is, the bread of eternal life.
Thank you God, thank you Jesus, for bread, blessed, broken, given, shared – at a table with food of God’s providing, (so also at every table) but here, in the Spirit of Jesus who gave his life, his body, his blood to nourish a starving world. Holy Communion, the Eucharist, bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ Jesus, given by Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, so that united in communion with Christ Jesus, humanity and all creation, we might participate in eternal life, believing and knowing Jesus is the Holy One of God.
– Thank God for good bread, staple of life.
– Thank God for breaking bread in communion with God and all others and all creation, everyone sharing in bread enough for all and the Spirit of God’s/Jesus’ bread of love and justice and peace and joy together.
– Thank God for the bread of Holy Communion, blessed, broken, shared with the words of eternal life, earthly and heavenly food, week in and week out, that feeds and saves us, that forms us and shapes our living with hope of God’s eternal life and purpose in us and in everyone we meet, in communion with God and the Spirit of Christ Jesus.
Don’t you love good bread; don’t you love breaking bread with others; don’t you love the blessed bread of eternal life in Christ Jesus, and Jesus’ words of eternal life for all and all this hungry world? Thank you God, for bread, for life in the Spirit of Christ Jesus, in all our relations, let it be so, Amen.