By Scott Baker
I have heard that in at least one culture (if not more) the word for bread is the same as the word for life. Additionally, in those same cultures, it is actually taboo to cut bread with a knife; it’s considered too violent, and bread must be torn by hands in order to be shared.
Since the pandemic and the shelter in place order, I have seen on the news that there is a dearth of flour and yeast in stores. I’ve watched a number of stories on the evening news of people making their own Sour Dough bread starters and bread at home. I’m not sure what sort of compulsion it is that is driving people to suddenly bake their own bread, but I can somewhat understand the curiosity behind it.
Some years ago, I too was bitten by the “yeast bug.” I began to reflect on the fact that my last name was Baker and I had never baked a thing in my life. So … I decided that I would start baking bread. I got out my trusty Family Circle recipe book and wrote down the ingredients, went shopping and started an adventure that would last many years. In the intervening years I have made all sorts breads (too many to go into at this writing). So, I can understand the drive behind the current bread-making craze that seems to be running rampant through the country.
Bread plays a central role in the Bible. It is the very sign of God’s providential love to the Israelites as they enter the wilderness upon leaving Egypt. Manna is rained down from heaven upon the Israelite people each day to sustain them through the long journey to the promised land. Jesus, of course, feeds multitudes with bread (and a few fish) and it is in satiating their hunger that leaves them wanting for more. And of course, on the night before he was crucified, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to his disciples saying, “Take, eat, this is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” No doubt they were thinking (among other things) of his explanation to the crowd who sought him out after the miraculous feeding when he said, “I am the bread from life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35)”
For many Christians, it is the lack of bread shared in community that is so desperately missed during this time of shelter in place/quarantine. In my own tradition, it is actually in Canon Law that whenever the church is gathered it does so to break bread together in the sacrament of Holy Communion. We are longing to share bread together precisely at a time when we cannot do so.
I wonder if the current craze to suddenly become at home bread bakers is somehow a manifestation of a longing to get in touch with life and community? In this time when both are being denied to so many, perhaps it is a subconscious drive to claim and affirm both.
Regardless, I say, break out the flour and the yeast and fire up the oven. And if your recipes are similar to mine, you can’t bake just one loaf because the recipe makes two. If that happens, remember to just drop a loaf off on your neighbor’s doorstep along with a copy of the recipe and we too just might see a feeding of a multitude and have a foretaste of “the bread of life.”
THE REV. SCOTT BAKER is the pastor of Emanuel Episcopal Church in Franklin. Contact him at 562-4542.