bread

Living the Word: In The Cool of God's Shade

TreeofLife
Dr Ajay Kumar Singh / Shutterstock

THE DOG DAYS OF SUMMER can make for a preaching desert without an oasis in sight. This can be a fine time to take a vacation from the lectionary. Huge swaths of scripture go untreated otherwise—the entire Samson cycle, most of the cursing psalms, most of the gospel of John. One friend spends a portion of every year preaching through blockbuster movies and how they intersect with the scriptures. Another devoted a preaching series to favorite children’s books.   

Here in August the lectionary itself seems to take a vacation, visiting the discourse about bread in John’s gospel, inviting us to see every bit of bread, every bite of food, as filled with Jesus. Texts about water invite us to see all water as a sign of the God who creates us in the water of a womb and gives water for our salvation in baptism (an especially apt teaching point for those still sandy-toed from the beach).

A friend’s pulpit has on it “tree of life,” written in Hebrew—inviting all to see trees as reminders of the tree from which our first parents ate fruit forbidden to them, the tree on which Jesus was crucified, and the tree in the City of God whose leaves are for the healing of the nations.

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The Power of Words

Elizabeth Palmberg (photo by Heather Wilson)

Elizabeth Palmberg, Sojourners’ associate editor, has a personal motto: “Cherish each moment, even the ones that suck.” Elizabeth—or Zab—has been writing with wit and insight for Sojourners since 2001. In October 2013, Zab was diagnosed with the return of her leukemia.

From analyzing fiction and reporting on Indigenous Colombian leaders to filming how to bake bread, Zab has blessed Sojourners with her words. Check out a sample of her work below, and read more about Zab in “Cherish Each Moment — Even the Sucky Ones” (Sojourners, June 2014).

ARTICLES

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The Miracle of Christmas Bread

THURSDAY NIGHT is baking night at Panadería El Latino on 11th Street. Early Friday morning, the bakers pull their weekend supply of pan dulce from the ovens. Racks and racks of conchas, cuernos, and galletas—in eye-popping yellows and pinks—are set out to cool. The entire street is redolent with yeast, cinnamon, and sugar.

From the outside this bakery looks like any another boarded-up building. “The only indication this isn’t a crack den,” one local points out, “is the overwhelmingly delicious smell of baked goods.” El Latino distributes to corner bodegas across the metro D.C. area. But, if you brave the exterior, you can get three sweet rolls for a buck. Bread of heaven!

Extending our tables to feed the multitudes is a practice Jesus asks us to imitate (Matthew 14:16). When Jesus hosted that feast for “more than 5,000” with “only five loaves and two fish,” it was called a miracle. But the mystery wasn’t in magic math. Rather this is a tale of two parties. In Matthew 14:13-21, the dilemma was that there was too little food and too many people. But in the preceding verses, there was too much food and too little humanity.

Matthew 14:1-12 tells the story of Herod’s birthday party. Here, only the upper 1 percent, the elite and powerful, are gathered in a setting overflowing with the rarest wines, mountains of meat, and the finest breads. But Herodias’ daughter demands a different dish. The main course is served to her on a platter: It is the head of John the Baptist.

These are the two “feedings” that Matthew juxtaposes. In Jesus’ time, the economic 99 percent are abused by a market system controlled by an unaccountable power. The disciples neither understand the enormity of the problem nor the blasphemy inherent in the system.

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Refusing to be Forgotten

Photo by Stacey McDermott

TORU HASHIMOTO, the mayor of Osaka and co-leader of the Japanese Restoration Party, has been known for his provocative statements. In May, while speaking with reporters on Japanese wartime behavior, he endorsed rape and sexual enslavement, saying, “When soldiers are risking their lives by running through storms of bullets, and you want to give these emotionally charged soldiers a rest somewhere, it’s clear that you need a comfort-women system.” These comments drew international condemnation, but they also revealed the all-too-familiar interlocking of sexism, militarism, and sexual violence. Far too often, the idea of a greater “noble cause” is used to justify the sacrifice of women to a military sexual slavery system.

During World War II, historians estimate that 100,000 to 200,000 Korean women and girls, ages 11 to 30, along with women and girls from China, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Taiwan, were kidnapped or falsely promised jobs and taken to various locations to serve as “comfort women”—the euphemism for sexual slaves. They “served” an average of 30 to 40 soldiers a day and suffered through beatings, venereal disease, forced abortions, mental anguish, and often death. At the end of the war, these women and girls were killed, forced into suicide, or abandoned. Of the few who were able to return to their homeland, many suffered social alienation, humiliation, poverty, STDs, and endless mental anguish.

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Worldwide Christians Fast for Peace in Syria

JM LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images
Syrians wait for bread at a bakery in the northern city of Aleppo on December 31. JM LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to lose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” wrote the ancient prophet Isaiah (58:6). As Christians around the world enter the season of Lent, the challenge of the prophets is to not enter into empty rituals, but to recommit ourselves to fearless acts of justice.

This Lent Christians are standing in solidarity with Syrians by joining a rolling fast launched by Pax Christi International. The acute suffering of civilian communities in Syria has been made immeasurably worse by a shortage of bread, Syrian’s staple food, caused in part by the deliberate bombing of bakeries.

Open to anyone concerned about the anguish of local communities caught in Syria’s civil war, the campaign, called “Bread is Life – Fast for a Just Peace in Syria,” is a direct response to the fact that many Syrians feel abandoned by the rest of the world.

VIDEO: The Spiritual Practice of Bread-Making

Many congregations lament that young adults are leaving church these days. So we asked former Sojourners interns Anne Marie Roderick and Joshua Witchger to share what keeps them in the pews. Find out what these two 20-somethings have to say in “‘Relevance’ is Not Enough (February 2013) as they reveal some of their most treasured spiritual practices, including bread-making.

Expand your own understanding of Christian faith and practice. Try this bread recipe, compliments of Sojourners magazine associate editor Elizabeth Palmberg.

Step 1: MIX
-4 cups bread flour (or whole wheat flour, or all-purpose white flour)
-1.5 teaspoons salt
-heaping 1/2 teaspoon yeast
-2 to 2-¾ cups water

  • In a large bowl, stir together dry ingredients. Then mix in water; start with 2 cups and add more as needed (if you have strands of dough covered with flour, you are almost there).
     
  • Cover loosely and let sit on counter (or in warm, turned-off oven) 8 to 12 hours. Amazing flavor develops now! Read “‘Relevance’ is Not Enough" while you wait.



Step 2: FOLD

  • With a spatula, fold the dough over on itself firmly a dozen times. Dough will deflate.
     
  • Re-cover loosely and let rise an hour or more.



Step 3: BAKE

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Bread From Heaven

THE MOTTO OF RADICAL FAITH always is “now—or never.” If we can’t find divine grace reaching out to us in the here and now, just where we are, then we will never find it. We won’t find it by merely dwelling on the stories and legends of divine interventions in the past. For centuries, the fourth gospel has made people uneasy because it heightens the tension between those who think of religion as loyalty to what has been handed down for us to repeat and those who are prepared to see God right before them and with them now. This month we are asked to immerse ourselves in the very tense sixth chapter of John’s gospel, in which Jesus provokes bafflement and resentment by daring to appropriate to himself the mystique of the manna, the bread from heaven given by God to sustain the Israelites on their journey through the wilderness.

Everyone knew what the bread from heaven was. It was something miraculous embedded in legends of yesteryear, wasn’t it? Quite apart from being scandalized by Jesus’ apparent delusional egomania, the people are unsettled by the way he wrests the whole theme of being fed by God from its safe mummification in legend and miracle, and plants it in the immediate here and now. He forces the question about whether we dare acknowledge our own pangs of hunger for the eternal, and whether we are prepared to receive—eat and drink—the living person of Christ as the gift that will satisfy that hunger.

Martin L. Smith is an Episcopal priest, author, preacher, and retreat leader.

[ August 5 ]
Growing Up in Every Way
2 Samuel 11:26-12:13; Psalm 78:23-29;
Ephesians 4:1-16; John 6:24-35

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Give Us This Day Our Daily (100% Natural) Bread: Shame on Whole Foods & Aunt Millie's

I just discovered I've been duped.

This is painful, because I like to think I know how to read labels. I also like to trust products named Aunt Millie and stores named Whole Foods.

Alas, I forgot one of my basic shopping principles: Never trust food that calls itself "natural."

In label language, natural means nothing at all. Companies who use the term in their marketing are usually trying to hide something. I should have looked more carefully at Aunt Minnie's Hearth Fiber for Life 12 Whole Grains bread.

Here, I'll show you the inset up close. I read it as "100% natural whole grain," never stopping to wonder why the marketers bothered to point out that whole grains are natural (isn't that obvious?). But no. This bread is not 100% whole grain. It is 100% natural, whatever that means, and it contains whole grains. Twelve of them, in fact. But its third listed ingredient, after water and whole grain wheat flour, is unbleached wheat flour.

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