Sunday, August 9, 2015

On Bread

The Gospel readings in the Lectionary for the past few weeks as well as the next couple are from John 6. This is all about bread. It's Jesus feeding the five thousand and describing himself as the bread of life. The alternate Old Testament readings for Lectionary match the bread theme, telling stories from Exodus, Joshua, and Kings about God feeding God's people. So I thought I'd write a little bit about places in which I've encountered bread.

Azerbaijan. In Azerbaijan, bread is sacred. It indicates abundance. Every meal includes bread, and there are many varieties. One does not throw away bread. If there is a bit of bread on the sidewalk, someone will pick it up and move it to a place where no one will step on it. Some people may even kiss bread, and bread is almost never criticized.

Hungary. In Budapest every other street has a bakery. The glass counters are filled with rolls, pastries, and even pizza, and on long, tall shelves behind the counter there are loaves of fresh bread. St. Stephen's Day, the saint's day of the patron saint of Hungary and one of the largest national holidays, is also the festival of new bread. Bread is not treated with the reverence it is given in Azerbaijan, but it is an important part of meals, and in the morning the city smells of bread.

A food bank in Oklahoma. "Bread!" One person yells it; everyone else echoes. We yell one word as we carry trays, throw items onto trays, pack items into boxes, fold boxes, stack trays on pallets, move pallets out of the way -- "Bread!" The back of the Regional Food Bank smells like bread, everywhere you look is bread, and for three hours your one goal is bread. Pallets of bread still good but too old to sell in stores sit in rows, and the bread travels from trays on pallets to trays on a metal table to cardboard boxes to people who need the bread. Loaves of wheat, of white, whole grain, pastries both American and Mexican, tortillas, flatbreads, snacks, biscuits, hamburger and hot dog buns, nearly anything baked and in a package -- "Bread!"