The Various Breads of Life

Heritage Presbyterian Church

August 1, 2021
10th Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture readings: Exodus 16: 2-4, 9-15 and John 6: 24-35

When I was a kid, the food that was put on the table was to be eaten.  I was not an overly fussy eater, but I am pretty sure that I was like most kids – I liked certain foods in certain ways.  One of the things that was served with any decent meal was bread.  For years and years, it was just white bread.  I used that for toast, for sandwiches, for everything.  Once in a while, when we had fancier meals, I also enjoyed the packaged rolls that came in dozens with the little lines on the tops.  Give me about six of those and some butter, and I was a happy kid.  Then when I was about ten years old, things began to change.

At that time, the women who prepared the meals I ate consisted of my mother, my grandmother, and my aunt.  The three of them got into a sort of contest when it came to bread.  They began trying all sorts of different bread recipes and sharing them with each other.  Being a regular participants in their various meals, I got the honor of trying out lots of different types of breads.

One time it was dill bread; it smelled like fresh bread but with a touch of the same scent that came from the big pickle jar in our refrigerator.  I ate three pieces before I would tell my aunt that I really liked it.  Then she gave me another hunk just to make sure. When it was served to the family, my sisters observed the “green things” that were inside the loaf.  My grandfather, dad, uncle, and I just dug in.  That bread didn’t last long – there were never any leftovers.  This seemed to inspire all three women to begin trying other things.  My grandmother got some sort of bread yeast sample from the woman at church, and she began baking fresh bread every single day.  I never got tired of that, but she did – so she tried creating other types of bread using it.  This led to orange bread – tasted just like ordinary fresh baked bread but it was a bright orange.  She served this during football season.  My aunt began scouring various recipe books looking for different, unusual types of bread to try.  I remember getting something called spoon bread, which was more like a soft pudding.  It was great.  

My mother, not to be left behind, would take the various successful bread recipes and would either tweak them with different ingredients or in combination with other dishes.  Once she made home-made sub sandwich rolls and then served po-boy sandwiches for dinner.  I thought I had died and gone to glory.  It was just so very good, and it happened all the time.

Every time I read the “bread of life” verses in Scripture, I remember how good that bread from my childhood was.  I always compare it to how I hope the bread of life is.  I imagine the Lord multiplying the loaves, feeding thousands of people, and maybe even making those breads slightly different for everyone.  After all, even 5000 hungry people listening to Jesus preach all day might like a little variety in their bread.  Or…is the bread for one exactly the same as the bread for another.  After all, if Jesus is the bread of life, then he must be the same for all, right?

But it would also seem that Jesus is not quite the same for everyone.  He fills the human heart is so many different ways that I have trouble imagining all of his offerings are identical in appearance.  Isn’t it enough that he loves each one of us and knows how different we all are?  So let’s imagine just how different that bread of life is in a few saints I know…

I once knew a woman named Lavon.  She was the secretary of my home church in Spring Branch.  Lavon spent more than thirty years as a registered nurse before retiring and becoming the church secretary.  I watched multiple pastors rely on her endless good cheer and positive attitude to hold things together in that church office.  She was a friendly ear to all, and she did as much ministry from that desk as any pastor I have ever seen.  The old people loved her because she was one of them.  The elders loved her because she knew everyone, she knew where everything was, and she remembered what went right – and what went wrong – the last time that church tried to do whatever thing they were about to try.  The little kids of the church loved her because she was “Grandma.”  The youth loved her because she treated them with respect and with love; they often told me she was so cool to talk to because she never talked down to them.  She was never officially a member of that church, but she was a leader in that community of faith.  The bread of life that Lavon shared came through a friendly smile, a welcoming voice, and an attitude that told one and all that they were accepted and loved.

I once knew a man named Luke. Luke was one of the youth pastors at a large church in Houston.  I say he is “one of the youth pastors” because that large church had a team of five youth pastors.  They have the largest youth groups I have ever seen in any church.  Luke told me about his team of youth pastors, how they met and planned together, how they worked together, how they covered for each other, how they handled the kids and their parents, and most important of all, how they reminded these children of privilege that they have a Christian responsibility to give back to their fellow humans.  They have taken mission trips from New Orleans to Galveston to Central America.  Each time they helped the people build homes, shelters, clinics, and especially schools.  They made absolutely sure that the kids worked very hard – no matter the situation or the weather – and that they understand their role in God’s world.  All the kids and their parents loved Luke.  He was a gentle soul, a responsible role model, and a believer who lived his faith every day and served the bread of life to those who might take it for granted if they failed to open their eyes.

I know a woman named Columba who was the youngest of four sisters.  Each older sister doted on her and took turns doing their “duty” of caring for her.  Therefore, it should come to no surprise that this woman’s name is Dudie.  I have known Dudie for most of my life, and I can say with all honesty that she is one of my favorite people.  Whenever I have spoken with her on the phone, she always greets me with exactly the same phrase, “Well, hello, Honey!”  I immediately begin to smile whenever I heard her voice.  I also pictured her sweet face and some of the scenes from my childhood.  To be polite, I always addressed my parents’ friends as Mr. or Mrs. Whatever, but this lady was always just Dudie.  She was not cool, especially because of the incredibly dumb jokes she would tell, but I would have taken on wild tigers barehanded before I would have listened to anyone put her down or not love her like I did.  Dudie was the very definition of acceptance of all.  She lived her faith every second and considered it an anchor she could rely on when hard times hit her.  The bread of life that Dudie shared with everyone she meets is the bread of plain, pure daily joy.

You see…when the Lord said that he was the bread of life and who ever ate of that bread would never be hungry, you have to believe that he meant the same thing to all of us; but “bread” can still mean so many different things to so many different people.  We all have different appetites, and we all come to the Lord seeking different things.  Even as we confess that we go to the Lord seeking forgiveness, we are not seeking exactly the same thing for each of us, are we?  Even if we commit the same sin, we don’t even do it the same way. 

Just like the various breads of my childhood, and even the various choices in my life today, the bread of life could possibly mean different things to each of us.

Fortunately, we all seek the same Lord, the same Redeemer, the same Christ, the same Jesus.  He is the bread of life – and that’s a pretty good meal, no matter what how it is served.