Dear Chris (every age…again),
Eat more bread!
Bread’s been on my mind lately.
I live in a city where people are always talking about bread but not eating it. Every time more than five people are in a room you’re going to find some mix of gluten free, Whole 30, don’t eat processed flour or sugar, weight watching, trying to be healthy conversation. Frankly, I love bread even though I don’t always eat it. I’d live on it if I could. I mean, why has no one come up with a diet that only consists of bread, butter, cheese, and wine? (Insert joke about France here.)
Last weekend I went to see The Baker’s Wife at Actors Co-op in Hollywood. I laughed to myself at the irony of a bunch of actors (there are a lot of actors who don’t eat carbs at all) singing and dancing with bread in their hands, proclaiming their love for it. Almost fighting for it when the new baker in town brings it to them…and he stops them saying, “Please, please! You’ll all be served.” Even though the villagers feel like they have to fight for it, there’s enough to go around.
In spite of what we think about bread as a culture, bread has been a symbol of life and nourishment throughout history.
Today I read through the first ten chapters of the book of Mark in the Bible which contains two stories of Jesus feeding thousands of people with bread and the stories suddenly took on new meaning to me reading the whole thing all in context. There are probably hundreds of more theologically minded people that have already seen what occurred to me as I read this morning, but it was new for me.
In chapter 6, after a long stretch of Jesus healing people and teaching and leading his disciples by example, he sends them out two by two to visit neighboring villages and this is the first time he doesn’t go with them. On their way out the door he says…by the way, don’t take any bread with you. Don’t take money, don’t take extra clothes, don’t take anything. And if people don’t welcome you, say goodbye and move on to a place where they do. The narrative then jumps to another scene that has nothing to do with them, but eventually we come back to the disciples returning and telling Jesus about their adventures. They’ve probably been gone awhile…
They took nothing with them so we either have to assume that they are starving and disgustingly dirty OR that their needs have been provided for by those they have encountered.
Let’s say, for giggles, that it’s option #2.
They get home and they’re tired so Jesus says, why don’t you go and take a rest? That’s so nice of him, right? But a huge group of people follows them and he starts teaching instead, so it makes sense when later that day the disciples say, why don’t we send the people on their way so they can get dinner. Subtext? So we can get dinner.
And Jesus says, nah…why don’t you feed them? You, my friends, who are tired right now but have had your needs provided for wherever you’ve gone these past few weeks (or months), now it’s your turn. And they’re response is, What? Are you crazy?!
They’ve just come back from a journey where strangers must have provided all their needs but they don’t feel capable of doing the same. To be fair, feeding people in groups of two is easier than feeding a group of 5000. But Jesus says pause, figure out what you have. I’ll bless it and then we’ll give it away.
And as the story goes, they distribute their loaves and fishes and have twelve baskets full of leftover food.
I’m torn on what I think about this story…was it a miracle? Or did people just see that others were being gracious with what they had and joined in? Either way, a bunch of people started with what they thought was nothing and had more than enough to go around, to satisfy, to have some left over in case any other people happened to walk by.
Not too long after, a similar story with different details repeats. They think they have nothing but find out they have a little. Jesus blesses what they have, there is enough to go around, to satisfy and to have some left over.
Yeah, yeah, yeah…this is a story we all know, but the order in which the story is told is where it got new for me. We’ve got guys who have learned that their needs will be provided for and that they can, in turn, provide for the needs of others. In the next moment of the narrative, Jesus is immediately asked by the religious leaders of the day for a sign from heaven. They had to have known what just happened. They had to have seen the abundance that had been handed out for free. What kind of sign were they looking for? His response sounds a little like what do you people want from me?
Then, the disciples all take off together to get away from these leaders…and they FORGET TO BRING BREAD. You guys. Seriously? Jesus takes this moment to tell them to watch out for the yeast of those guys who were just questioning me. And here’s where the metaphor really kicks in. These leaders were the guys who liked to determine who was in and who was out. What rules had to be followed and what the consequences were if you broke those rules. They were leaders who wanted the “bread” for themselves, not to share it with the throngs of people who needed it but to protect it against being given away. They had selfish yeast.
Jesus had just demonstrated that even if you only have a little bit, it’s enough. That whatever you have can be given away and it doesn’t leave you lacking.
The bread he’s talking about is not really bread.
And the disciples totally miss it…they think he’s talking about yeast because they forgot to bring dinner. Why are you talking about having no bread? How many basketfuls did you have after the first time? After the second? How are you not getting this? Do you still not understand?
I’m asking you to trust me. I’m asking you to take inventory of what you have and be willing to give it away. You don’t think you have enough but I’ll bless what you do have and it will be more than enough. You’ll still have some left over. There’s enough for everyone at the table.
Regardless of what you think about Jesus or the Bible or God or religion, the message here is beautiful. All you or I have to do is take what we’ve been given and trust that if we give out of whatever we have or whatever we are, it will be more than enough.
I can’t count the number of times when I’ve believed that I don’t have or am not enough. Lies, I tell you! Lies.
It’s so easy to operate in a mode of scarcity. We see it in our politics, in the way we treat each other, in our religious practices. It’s so easy to believe in lack. To believe that there’s not enough time or money or energy to go around. That there’s not enough to give away.
I think a lot about what it would look like to live in an attitude of abundance. Over the past couple of years I’ve been trying to live in that reality more and more. To live in the understanding that there is enough, that I have enough to give and not to hoard what I have…and that there is room at the table because there will be enough for everyone.
It does not mean that giving is easy. Giving someone your time or your resources is hard sometimes. But the baker says, “Please, please! You’ll all be served!” There’s enough bread to go around. Eat as much as you like. I’ll make more.