Sermon: Contains gluten

Do you like bread? Please note, this sermon contains gluten.

I love it, especially slathered with butter – note, not margarine, and Marmite, or jam, or both actually. I like baking bread too, feeling the flour and yeast turn into a silky dough as I use my hands and my arms to work it.

What does Jesus mean when he says that he is the Bread of life?

What is bread? in this context, it is the most basic element of any meal, the one go-to food when there is nothing else. Bread is cheaper than proteins like milk and eggs, and for many cultures it forms the basis of most meals. Pizza started out life as a food invented by peasants, who had bread, and some tomato for flavour, and a bit of meat and cheese for the top if they were lucky. It could just as easily be the rice or pasta or taro of life, and when the Bible is used in countries where other foods are the staple, bread is translated into that food. Continue reading

Jabez re-written

1 Chronicles 4:10-“O that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from hurt and harm!”

This is known as the Prayer of Jabez, and some years ago it was very popular. I came across it again recently when a visiting preacher spoke – Dr Charly Tom from Mercy Mission in India. He was very interesting, and brought up this idea of praying that God would enlarge our borders.

I started thinking about this – it’s easy to ask for God to enlarge our borders, but are we prepared for what may follow? Dr Charly has been running an oprhanage and school for many years, and is constantly relying on God’s provision to support his work.

But if we are really asking God to enlarge our borders – maybe for more ministry, or more to do to usher in the kingdom, we must not forget the next bit -“and  that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from hurt and harm!” If we are prepared to ask God for more ministry, we must also ask God for the support we need to back that up. God’s hand with us – that will open doors and provide our needs. Keeping us from hurt and harm is physical safety, but also spiritual protection.

If we only ask for God to enlarge our borders – or stretch the pegs of our tent, as another version has it- without asking for God’s provision and protection, we will be like bread dough, which we are trying to fit across the pizza pan. If we stretch it without first kneading it properly, it tears and gaps form, which let the sauce seep through. The pizza will stick to the pan and burn. We can be like that too – if we let ourselves be stretched without God’s provision, we too can break apart and burn out.

Perhaps we could reverse Jabez’ prayer – “God, let your hand be upon me, and keep me from hurt and harm, so that when you bless me and enlarge my borders I can work for your kingdom in the world.”

Be gentle when you touch bread.

Be gentle when you touch bread

Be gentle when you touch bread
Let it not lie uncared for–unwanted
So often bread is taken for granted
There is so much beauty in bread
Beauty of sun and soil, beauty of honest toil
Winds and rain have caressed it,
Christ often blessed it
Be gentle when you touch bread.

–        Celtic prayer attrib. David Adam.

I love this poem – for me bread, and all food, is sacramental. God provides our food for our needs, we prepare it with love to nurture each other, and as we eat it we can be thankful for the miracle of digestion – it’s truly amazing how our stomach unravels the molecules, and sends them to be re-made into just what we need to flourish.

Whenever I bake bread, I am thankful for how such a simple thing can be so satisfying – kneading it, watching it rise, turning it into pizza bases like I did tonight. And it has the magical property of multiplying the number of teenagers in the house! I really did not know until I took my pizzas out of the oven that there were two extra large hungry boys over, but there was enough for everyone!

Just as one grain of wheat multiplies into several ears of grains, when bread is shared it seems to stretch too, from the feeding of the 5000 to sharing communion, to Friday night pizza.

Blessed are You, LORD, our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.