My favourite food in the world is homemade bread. The homemade bread of my grandmothers’, specifically. In my adulthood, I have sought to perfect their recipes. This quest has led to a passion for making bread. And as I have delved deeper into the world of bread-making, Jesus’s words, “I am the bread of life,” have begun to frame my baking. It is through the sharing of bread that Jesus accomplished much of his ministry. It was with bread that he identified his very body. The breaking of bread was at the heart of the earliest traditions of the church and it still sits at the centre of our faith. There is something significant about bread in our faith, a something that is not fully explainable, but has to do with the self-sacrificing love of Jesus. And it is this connection that I have been thinking a lot about.
Naturally, we talk a lot about breaking bread. But rarely do we talk about making it. Rarely do we meditate on the process of baking bread as something that is holy, that is accompanied by the presence of Christ.
When we make bread, are we not becoming acquainted with the complexities of Christ’s body? Are we not caring for Christ’s body in a way that is only possible in this particular act? Each time I make bread I take the temperature of the room and the water. I measure every ingredient by weight. I follow exact directions on when and how to incorporate the ingredients, on how to fold the dough on top of itself. And then I wait.
Each of these meticulous steps reveals to me something about my relationship with our Lord. Baking bread teaches me patience. It teaches me to care. It reveals to me the forgiveness of God because even when I mess up, the final product usually still tastes good. At the end of a long day of baking bread, I still have bread whether everything went according to plan or not. And the same is true of our relationship with God. We can try our best to love with patience and kindness and grace. We will fail in a million different ways. But at the end of the day, God is still good.
We have long accepted that something sacramental happens when we sit down with one another and spill the contents of our souls while we fill our bellies. But doesn’t this mean that there also must be something necessarily holy about preparing the food that we will eventually eat? I think of Martha and her dedication to preparing for Jesus’s visit. I think of the people who prepared The Last Supper that Jesus ate with his disciples.
Preparing food, making bread is an essential ministry in the context of community, but it is also essential for the way it draws us individually, in the moment, closer to our Lord. When we bake and cook we enter into the creativity of God. Our ability to create something beautiful out of other things is a fraction of the creative ability of God, but it nonetheless allows us to embrace the truth that we are made in his image. Our desire to create, our desire to make things that bring us joy, that nourish us, that feed us, reflects God’s desire to do the same. Which is why when I take a loaf of bread out of the oven, I can end my day of baking the same way I would end any other prayer. I can say, “Amen.”