One of the things that my Father used to do when I was a child was to carry bread from the bakery to woodcutters in the forest. On Saturday afternoons he will load our horse-drawn-carriage with bread and ride for about 5 kilometers to where the people would wait impatiently to receive their bread that they would have for about one week. To carry 300-400 loaves of bread was very tantalizing and especially if it was hot from the oven, the baker would give us a couple of extra loaves which would be consumed during the trip. It is there that I learned the importance of bread.
Human history often focuses on bread as the sustenance of life. In the Old Testament, during the 40 year Wilderness Period in the desert God provided the people of Israel with manna, bread that came from heaven. After years of direct supplies from heaven we read this in the book of Joshua: The day after Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate of the produce of Canaan. (Joshua 5:11-12)
As the Roman Empire increased and as the multitudes became more demanding, the Roman Senators decided to satisfy the masses by providing them with entertainment in the form of circuses and bread as they left to go home. This satisfied the masses for a while, but then their demands increased and they became very dissatisfied when their demands were not met. Two millennia later, Lenin and his colleagues are aware of the importance of bread in a famished Russia and promised the people that they will no longer starve but each one of them will have a loaf of bread. It is this concept that created one of the worst decimations of the people of the Ukraine, known as the granary of Russia, when Stalin ordered the murder of most of the Ukrainian people that had grain under the accusation that they were hoarding the bread that belonged to the people.
In fact one of the temptations that the Devil brings to Jesus Christ is the temptation about bread when Jesus Christ is hungry. The tempter came to him and said: if you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread. Jesus answered, “It is written: Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Mt. 4:4) Jesus was aware that for a piece of bread people stole, lied and committed murder. He placed the word of God above everything else. In all the aspects of life, we should be guided by God’s word. It is His word that should provide satisfaction and direction in our lives.
Yet in the conclusion of His ministry here on earth, Jesus takes these common elements – wine and bread and transforms them in elements that identify His life and ministry. When you drink this cup and eat this bread you remember me. Eat and drink – this is my body (bread) broken for you and this is my blood (wine) shed for the forgiveness of your sins.
Within this year I had the opportunity to participate in various places where the bread symbolically was distributed. I had the opportunity to officiate the Lords’ Table to the faculty, alumni and students of Palmer Theological Seminary as the seminary moved in Pennsylvania from Wynnewood to King of Prussia. I was blessed to participate in the Lord’s Table at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC where the former Pastor of All Saints Episcopal Church, Rev. Lyndon Shakespeare was the officiator and I am blessed once a month here at Central Baptist Church to share with my brothers and sisters in the Lord’s Table. Here at Central Baptist Church we practice open communion – we invite all the people that believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and have accepted Him as their Lord and Savior to come and participate. I am reminded that when I lift the small piece of bread, throughout the world millions are doing the same thing – some believe in the transubstantiation of the bread (Roman Catholic Church), some believe in the consubstantiation (Lutheran Church) of the bread and some believe in the bread as memorialization – but all of us think of Jesus Christ who said: I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to me will never go hungry and he will believe in me will never be thirsty. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread he will live forever. (John 6:35, 51)