Companions in Christ
Verse 46: And they broke bread at home...
In the past few weeks, these were just some of the headlines:
NY Post - Baking bread is keeping people sane during coronavirus lockdown
BBC - Coronavirus: Flour mills working 'round the clock' to meet demand
NBC - Faced with flour and yeast shortages, bakers get creative
And on Reddit - Forget toilet paper; Now we can’t find all purpose flour
And for the people who are relieving their stress by baking, bread seems to be the top choice - some with bread machines, other preferring to dig their hands in.
Bread has been around a long time. Up until two years ago it was believed that humans first began baking bread about 10,000 years ago when humans gave up their nomadic way of life, settled down and began farming. But in 2018 an archeologist discovered an ancient piece of bread that predates the advent of agriculture by at least 4,000 years. That means that our ancestors were bakers even before they farmed.
And we all know making bread is a labor-intensive process, especially back then, removing husks, grinding cereals, kneading the dough and then baking it. The fact that our ancestors were willing to invest so much effort suggests that they considered bread a special treat.
Apparently we still think it’s a special treat, 14,000 years later.
But what if we go back even further...
If we go back to the beginning we might even ask this question: Why did God create a world in which every living creature must eat?
That’s the opening question in the book Food and Faith (Wirzba). It’s a dense book, and I only recommend it to those who want to nerd out on the connection of food and faith.
But in this wonderful book, the author talks about food being necessary for life, and death being necessary in order for us to live, especially when we think about eating meat, poultry or fish. But he also argues that even the vegetarian diet requires us eating something that was once alive - whether a tomato on a vine, or a potato in the earth - gets picked and eaten, creating a kind of death necessary for life.
You see how he’s connecting the basic act of eating to the sacrament of communion? He calls is a graced world of hospitality, that in our eating we absorb a kind of death which in turn makes room for newness of life.
That’s why when we come to the table we often bring with us a need, either a need for something to end, or something to die, or a need for something to be born. Really we can’t have one without the other. They go hand in hand as one door closes, another opens. To let go of something brings with it space for something new to be born.
Our circumstances and our personalities vary greatly, and we come to the table for different reasons throughout our lives: a desire, a need, in search of love, to be saved from ourselves, to be given second chances, searching for forgiveness, for strength, to find peace. Sometimes we come just because everyone else is doing it, and to not come might feel strange. Sometimes there’s laughter, those are some of my favorite moments, whoever said that sacraments can’t include laughter? Sometimes there’s tears as people’s hearts break open. Sometimes there’s trepidation as people carry with them old ideas around who is welcome at God’s table. Let me remind us all, that everyone, without exception, no matter, are wanted at God’s table.
Juanita Ramus, a pastor in downtown Houston, was interviewed on The Work of the People, recently where she talks about everyone, everyone gets to sit at the table, with our stories and with our pain. And the interviewer asks, ”What about muslims and gays?”And she says, “Oh heck everybody, muslims and gays and buddhists and atheists. I want everybody at that table, I think Jesus wants everybody at that table.”
And then the interviewer ups the ante and says “Even Hitler?” And without even a pause she says “Heck yea. Hitler needs an opportunity to know about a love that would receive him in the midst of what he put others through, because the bottom line is how much abuse and pain did Hitler know personally to cause him to create this massive killing program? Jesus is about a massive living program, and so yea everybody needs to be at the table because everyone wants to live.”
But there’s something else going on when we come to the table. We participate in this sacrament in community, not alone. Even if it’s through a screen, we are together. We do this in community because as much as we’re in need of Christ we’re also in need of one another.
Dorothy Day said it best:
“We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other. We know Him in the breaking of bread, and we know each other in the breaking of bread, and we are not alone anymore. Heaven is a banquet and life is a banquet, too, even with a crust, where there is companionship.”
Companionship is a wonderful word. The word companion comes from the Latin: com meaning with, and panis, one who shares bread. We are companions in communion, and companions in Christ; companions with one another, and companions on the road, in the world with everyone we meet.
Yesterday very early in the morning, I drove through the canal to get gas. I’ve driven many Saturday mornings through the canal because it’s close to my house. I’ve never seen a line outside the food pantry like this one - down one block, around the corner and down the street as far as I could see - and it broke my heart open in a way that hasn’t happened since this all began. It’s one thing to see something on TV, to read about unemployment, and it’s another thing to see in the flesh, human beings, standing in a line with their children on a Saturday morning, with masks, at a distance, waiting for food, for the sustenance we all need. And when I say my heart broke open, I mean that one should never cry while driving, so I had to pull over to collect myself so that it was safe to drive again.
Hunger isn’t new to the world, and some of you remember Victory Gardens, and have heard first hand stories of the Depression, and when I was a child, my mother reminded me often that there were starving children somewhere, so I should eat.
And this morning we eat together…
In this morning’s scripture - this is the Book of Acts, this short passage you heard this morning - we hear an idealized vision of what the apostles hoped life would look like.
43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.
Whether that happened or they hoped that happened doesn’t make a difference. That vision belonging to God becomes our vision every time we take bread, as we empty ourselves, we receive a new life, one that is meant to be shared. The scripture continues…
46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home[b] and ate their food with glad and generous hearts
They didn’t share bread in the temple, they ate it at home with one another, just as we’re doing today. And while our hearts are heavy with the thought of another month at least, and who knows how long till we’re back in the sanctuary, our hearts can be glad and generous for the gift of this holy communion, and maybe even more so for the food we have plenty of. There is no shortage of bread: as far as I know we are all of us financially stable enough not to worry about meals. If that’s not true, I would hope you would let me know.
So with our glad and generous hearts, let’s maybe begin the practice of saying grace, whether with others or alone, each time you sit down to eat. Some of you already say grace every time you eat.
Others like myself did it when the kids were little, and now we only do it on special occasions. These days and nights of eating at home are special occasions as we’re reminded that what we have is not to be taken for granted, not while neighbors stand in line waiting for food. I’m not trying to make you feel bad for having more than enough. I’m asking to let your glad and generous hearts break open each time you eat and then look to neighbors right here in San Rafael, and share what you have. The food banks are a perfect place to make a donation right now.
Let us please be mindful of our neighbors who are suffering, because it’s one thing to receive communion; but it’s another to be in communion with all God’s people as part of the human race. We are companions on the journey, with bread to share.
Last week, we took a walk together on the road to Emmaus, a road with Christ beside us, but the disciples didn’t see him until he broke and blessed the bread. In that moment, they see him, and so as dear Laura Hislop said in Bible study, “Perhaps that’s why we have communion, to open our eyes to Jesus.”
Laura, all the great theologians agree with you. Here’s what Barbara Brown Taylor has to say:
...the breaking of bread at holy communion can break you right open.
It's like the gates to your heart have opened and everything you have ever loved comes tumbling out to be missed and praised and mourned and loved some more.
It's like being known all the way down.
It's like being in the presence of God.
One moment you see him the next you do not. One moment your eyes are opened and you recognize the risen Christ, and the next he vanishes from your sight.
Take heart. This is no ghost. Do not fear, You cannot lose him for good. This is the place he has promised to be, and this is the place he returns to meet us again and again.
Risen Lord, be known to us in the breaking of bread.