Crusty Bread

“One Bread, One Body, One Lord of All” (John Foley; Evangelical Lutheran Worship 496)

Good thing I don’t have arthritis yet, I thought as I thumb-wrestled the crusty sourdough loaf into submission. The bread this morning was home-made, and glorious. I love it when Sarah bakes the Communion bread. I would eat it every night with spaghetti and meatballs. Perfect crust, chewy interior, great taste, and a generous layer of cornmeal for flavor and texture. Cut with a serrated knife, slathered in melted butter and garlic, it would be perfect.

Tearing it into 100 or so small pieces in a timely fashion, however, proved a bit more challenging. The wine quickly bloated with cornmeal and crumbs. The ground at our feet looked like the manna-covered fields that greeted the Israelites in the wilderness; the floor under either of my children’s chair after every meal. The pieces I managed to tear off were of wildly varying size and composition, and not nearly as beautiful as the loaf had been before I tried to break it apart.

And so it should be, I thought, even as I shared a few subtle chuckles with folks in line as they saw me struggle to break and give the Body of Christ away. This Body should be hard to break.

Especially on this morning, as we read the third chapter of Paul’s letter to the Galatians: “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:27-28).

Indeed, we are a broken and breaking people. Distinctions and differences of class, race, and gender continue to divide – and it can be both beautiful and horrifying. As definitions shift and culture transforms, the world is a messy, crumb-y place. We walk a narrow path between having no boundaries at all (and thus exposing all, especially the vulnerable, to danger and hurt); and using judgment as a club to beat one another into submission, to shut people down and/or out.

Are sex and gender still “things”? We know “race” is a construct, but skin color absolutely matters in many and various ways, whether we like it or not. Especially on Memorial Day weekend, does the distinction between “enemy” and “neighbor” matter, on either side of the grave? Surely it’s helpful to tell the difference between a terrorist and a civilian – especially a child; in the endless War on Terror, it’s harder and harder to tease that distinction out. Boundaries and borders matter, right? But how – and why? Can we celebrate the gifts and responsibilities of citizenship while also loving every neighbor as ourselves and extending care and compassion, regardless of documentation?

And so I stood there, hands dusty with cornmeal and crumbs littering the floor at my feet, manhandling a beautiful loaf of fresh bread while trying not to grimace or laugh, and I was grateful. Grateful for standing in the mess with other messy people, none of which has all of this figured out (especially me, though I often pretend I do). One Bread that is – or ought to be – hard to break, even as we are broken and breaking people. One in all our broken and beautiful diversity and difference, belonging – together – to the One who holds all things in hands big and strong enough to take, bless, break, and give the Body away until all the world is gathered and fed, without exception.

“Grain for the fields, scattered and grown, gathered to one for all.”

Amen.

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