Sermon delivered by Heather Entrekin, pastor of Prairie Baptist Church in Prairie Village, K.S., on Apr. 9 2009.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26.
Way back when I was a young adult, I bought an unpretentious little paper back book that was popular at the time called the Tassajara Bread Book. It was a product of the 60’s, all about honest ingredients with calligraphy and little ink sketches accompanying the recipes to explain how to make bread and the promise that somehow baking bread would help bring peace on earth.
I loved that book and I became a bread baking fanatic, baking again and again the first recipe in the book, Tassajara Basic Yeasted Bread. I’d never baked bread before, never bought whole wheat flour before. But I learned to dissolve yeast into warm water, mix up the sponge, find a sunny, warm spot in the house and wait for it to rise, add flour, knead, punch down, let it rise again and then bake four hefty loaves of bread that filled the house with that incredible delicious fragrance of home baked bread.
But the best part was bringing them hot and steamy out of the oven and cutting that first thick slice, slathering butter all over it, maybe a drizzle of honey, and eating. But actually there was an even better best part – that was inviting friends and slicing and eating good bread together.
Jesus’ ministry was marked in a significant way by the sharing of bread. He did it more than once on hillsides for huge crowds, producing bread out of almost nothing. He got Zaccheus down out of a tree so he could break bread in his home. And he shared bread with a few disciples, many times, but especially one time, the time we remember today, just before he was to die.
Jesus takes a loaf of bread from the table – probably not much like my basic yeasted bread, but bread common and familiar to his table. He takes it, blesses it, breaks it and gives it to his dearest, most trusted friends, the very ones who are about to betray him.
With this substance so earthy, common and crumbly, yet also so beautiful, nourishing and necessary, like you and like me, Jesus promises us life. He promises life deep enough, abundant enough, enduring enough to outlast and overcome every discouragement, difficulty and despair, even to and through betrayal and death.
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” You join the story of life that will not end, you forgive when the world resents, you love when the world hates, you invite when the world excludes, you share bread when the world grasps it, and in this way you prepare the way of the Lord, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
The bread reminds us to perform what we promise.
Mealtime isn’t what it used to be these days in the American family. Our lives are so busy and complicated that many families rarely eat together and when they do it is often in front of a TV or riding in a car or, more likely, an SUV. To eat together has become almost countercultural or, perhaps it always has been.
Jesus got in plenty of trouble because of the people he invited to the table. He was always welcoming unsavory types – tax collectors and sinners, a woman with questionable morals. He was critical of the Pharisees but he ate with them too.
He kept taking, blessing, breaking, giving bread – himself, and asking us to do it with him. When we do this simple and most difficult thing, he becomes real and present. The apostle Paul does it – what he received from the Lord he also hands on to the Corinthian Christians. In a few moments, we will have an opportunity to do it around tables in this church.
My Tassajara Bread Book says that “Bread makes itself, by your kindness, with your help, with imagination running through you, with dough under hand, you are breadmaking itself, which is why breadmaking is so fulfilling and rewarding.” Yes. And that must be why bread is so delicious. But although bread may make itself, it cannot give itself away. Children of God, this is the work Jesus asks you to do.