Friday, October 1, 2010

Man Does Not Live By Bread Alone

In the group of friends with whom we meet weekly, the men have taken up the craft of bread-making.  It is a serious endeavor with discussion of yeast and starters and stones and technique.  They have books filled with recipes and baking secrets.  They exchange discoveries with each other as they mix their dough and knead their loaves, forming them into perfect, symmetrical shapes.  Several of the men in our group are scientists or engineers or both: all are smart men, strong men, confident men, and this wild frontier of bread, both science and art, calls to them like a siren.

Our group went away to the mountains for the weekend, and by the middle of our first day, the house was filled with the warm, slightly sour aroma of fresh bread: focaccia, oatmeal wheat, sourdough.  As they worked, I looked on in wonder at the dough rising out of its bowl; I peeked at the bread baking in the oven, marveling at the ministry of heat.  Bread-making is a process, a labor of love executed in multiple steps over many hours and days.

Perhaps because the process is so long, so involved, so passionately rendered, the breaking of the bread in our time together becomes sacred, sacramental.  We eat this bread, made by hands in our midst, with wine over conversation of glory and failure and hope and fear.  We taste it fully, savor its richness.  The bread brings us firmly into the present and transforms our time into communion: we sustain our bodies together, and this shared rite allows us to also sustain our spirits: we confess, we speak truth and hope into each other's lives, and we do it all in remembrance of Him.

I used to think people who made their own bread were crazy, but I'm being converted to the fellowship of the real thing.  It takes time, yes, and energy, but it yields so much more than carbohydrates.  Faith, hope, and love; comfort in small miracles; the hard-earned joy of labor and its fruit.  Freshly-baked bread speaks to something in the soul about goodness, unadulterated goodness.  Jesus called himself the bread of life.  He told the disciples to think of him anytime they broke bread together, drank wine together.  We taste the mystery anytime we share a meal, but its significance seems somehow magnified in the simplicity of bread.

In our temporary home in the mountains, I breathed deep the fresh, yeasty smells, and I sensed my spirit rising, my heart growing with quiet gratitude: for the bread, for these friends, and for yet another glimpse of divinity.


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