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Bread creates community

October 20, 2012
By Rev. Alicia Randolph Rapking - Parish House Director , The Inter-Mountain

This week has been somewhat difficult for me. I have been remembering and missing my mom so very much. Oct. 13 would have been her 90th birthday, and so this week, I have been thinking about her and thanking God for the gift of her life in mine. I also have been thinking about the lessons that she taught me, those things that she was so certain I would need to know in my life.

One of the first lessons I remember my mother teaching me was how to make biscuits. When I was growing up, a good Southern household always had biscuits. One of my earliest memories is standing at the kitchen counter, in the parsonage in Mt. Airy, N.C., with my mother as she made biscuits for the evening meal. I would have been about 4 years old. My mother turned to me and asked me if I would like to cut out the biscuits that evening. Of course I would!

Cutting out biscuits was a ritual of getting the dough kneaded just right and rolled out to the right thickness, and getting round shapes cut out with as little waste as possible. To a 4-year-old, it was not as easy as it looked, but with my mother's help I succeeded in cutting out all the biscuits that evening. I was so proud when we all sat down to dinner and my mother proclaimed that I had helped with the biscuits.

Of course, there is more to making biscuits than just rolling out and cutting someone else's dough, but that first lesson probably contributed to the lifelong desire that I have had to feed people. The aroma of biscuits always takes me back to that special evening with my mother and my accomplishment of helping to feed my family.

Jesus spoke about bread, about being the bread of life. Jesus fed people. It was an important part of his ministry - to feed people, body and soul. One of my favorite stories of Jesus is when he feeds 5,000 or so people with what seemed like just a few loaves of bread and a couple fish. If I could go back in time, that would be one of the moments that I would like to witness. I would like to hear the people talking as they received bread to satisfy their hunger. I would like to understand how they experienced this moment in their lives when they struggled with their own spiritual hunger and the physical task of satisfying the hunger of their own families. I would like to know how they thought about this man who came to offer Himself to all of us, who came to offer deep satisfying "bread" for all of our lives.

It took a while for the people to understand what Jesus meant by being the bread of life, that He was offering to feed the spiritual hunger of each of our hearts. It took a while for the people to understand that Jesus was not offering a mass-produced sliced Wonder Bread, but Jesus is interested in offering deep satisfying bread, uniquely crafted through His death and resurrection. It took a while for the people to realize that Jesus was offering not only food to satisfy the daily need, but also a satisfying bread that offers us the sustenance for eternal life.

Actually, it is still taking time for people to learn that the bread that Jesus is offering is the kind of bread that brings people into a deep relationship with God and with all of God's children. It is the kind of bread that draws us into community. The bread of life is not for a solitary existence. It is to be shared with as many others as possible. Breaking bread with someone in the ancient world was a sign of true intimacy - a sign that those who participated in the meal were bonded for life.

It is interesting to me that the topic of bread is something that I find important to write about today. You see, I cannot even eat bread. Off and on all my life I have struggled with the presence of wheat in my diet. When I was a child it seemed that I could eat biscuits every night and then suddenly I would get sick. It happened over and over. No one ever connected that it was the wheat making me sick.

In my early adult life I really didn't have problems, but after the birth of our second child, I began to have problems again. Off and on through the years I would give up wheat and would get better, but then I would crave those southern biscuits and give in and the illness would begin again. Several years ago, I was finally diagnosed with celiac disease, a condition in which a reaction occurs to the gluten protein found in wheat, barley and rye.

About 1 in 105 people in North America have this condition. The only treatment is to eliminate these grains from the diet. And giving up grains works, but it does come with a price, because so many products contain wheat or wheat derivatives.

Having CD makes it difficult to take communion. I had an experience this past week where I was unable to take communion. My reaction to not being able to share in the meal was a surprise to me. Most of the time I am OK when I am in places where I know there is no gluten-free bread for communion, but this time I felt the hunger for the bread of life in such a profound way. I was devastated and tears poured from my eyes and heart.

What that experience left me with was a reminder that there are so many people around the world who need bread in a physical way and are not able to receive it. In my life, there is always food or the ability to obtain it. I have never known physical hunger in such a way that my life or the lives of my family members are threatened. But there are so many people around the world where that threat is a daily constant. The bread of life pulls us into community with those who have no bread.

We need to be reminded that not all of God's children will be able to eat today or tomorrow or the next day. I would like for all of us to spend some time praying for those of our world who are hungry. I would like for all of us to spend some time praying for the end of world hunger. I would like for all of us to spend some time praying for what we can do to make sure everyone can have the kind of bread that they can eat and be satisfied and thrive in life.

In the coming weeks, we will approach the season of the year when food seems to be the center of family celebrations. We will again be providing Thanksgiving and Christmas food baskets for those who need some extra help. Would you consider helping us by gathering some of the basics to contribute to the project?

For Thanksgiving, we will need canned green beans, boxed stuffing, canned pumpkin or apple pie filling. We will begin distributing our Thanksgiving meal packages Nov. 4 at the Parish House/Crosslines.

Thank you for all that you do.

To God be the Glory!

On the parish calendar:

Today: Fall Fun! (Follow and Learn, Lord Fill Us Now), Smith Chapel United Methodist Church, Meadowbrook Road outside Bridgeport. Registration 9:30 to 10 a.m.; Program 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Presented by Wesleyan District Children's Council.

Trunk or Treat, 5 to 6 p.m. Oct. 31, Chapel Hill UMC lower parking lot.



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