After a little sermon blockage at the tail end of last week, I can report a successful day with three distinct and separate sermons preached in three distinct and separate places of worship - or churches as we like to call them. The third sermon was 'written' during a visit to a DIY store after lunch today - it is indeed a wonder how the Good Lord works!
The sermon to which I refer revolved around a gospel reading that will surely be familiar to you, and that is the passage from John's Gospel where Jesus says that He is the "bread of life". It struck me how much the humble loaf teaches us about being 'church'.
The thing about bread is that it is, by very definition a composite of different ingredients. With a lack of either the flour, yeast, water or flour you would not end up with bread. They are ingredients different in volume but equal in importance. This illustrates the need to regard quality of discipleship as distinct from quantity. Distinctiveness of ingredient is important too. In church life, for it to be as God would wish, it needs different people who bring distinctive gifts.
The thing about bread is that it rarely flourishes in its creation without too very important things that move away from the recipe or the ingredients. The first is good old hard work. Kneading bread is physical exertion. Once that labour is done, we then have to set the dough aside and do that thing which is central to our religious life: faith. We have to walk away and have faith that the dough will rise as we hope. This tells us two things about being church - that is requires a very particular effort, that expecting church to come easily is a flawed vision; also that it is acceptable and even desirable to step away and let things happen. In the same way that we cannot knead bread risen, neither can we simply labour the coming of the Kingdom.
The last thing about bread is that is can be quite properly enjoyed in many manifestations. Bread is not always a White bloomer loaf. These days, it possible to find many types of bread that have a place in all manner of different meals. There is a time for a baguette, and also for a ciabatta. If the ingredients are about the inner qualities that we bring to church life, then the manifestations of bread is about the many ways it is possible to be church next to one another. For me, I am probably a traditional white split-tin, and not a funky and new olive-focaccia!
Simple bread, made simply with simple ingredients is the Prince of foods as it is the very food that Jesus chooses to represent his sacrifice. He didn't choose a medium-rare ribeye steak or the finest Beluga Caviar. No. Bread. What more do we need than this profoundly simple model of how to be the Body of Christ - than to fashion ourselves on the Body of Christ.
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