After years of storing our home baked communion bread in the freezer of the church kitchen, we had two Sunday’s this summer where we discovered the communion bread was gone. All of it. 9 loaves, twice. Taken, I imagine, by a homeless person who wandered in to the kitchen, which is also the location of our food pantry, looking for food that did not require preparation, and stumbled upon the loaves of communion bread. The parish had to subsist on wafers those two Sundays.
Some people felt outrage, violated that someone took OUR bread. Can’t we post hours for the food pantry? Can’t we lock up the kitchen? Totally human responses to a sense of being violated, of loss.
However, I can’t help but wonder. Is it theft when a hungry person takes bread? What would Jesus think of a hungry person finding, taking, and eating the bread of life? Especially if it was located in the same room as the food pantry? I keep thinking of the woman who came seeking food, was denied food by Jesus until she reminded him that even the dogs eat the food under the table. Of the feeding of the 5000. Of Jesus saying, whenever you feed a hungry person you feed me. Of Jesus saying to Peter, “Do you love me? Feed my sheep.” And of the consistent metaphor in the Gospel of John of Jesus, the love of God, being given to others in real food, as the bread of life.
We intentionally leave a little food in a small closet for people to take whenever they come to the church. The rest of it, most of it, is locked up. But if someone comes looking for food, my hope is, they get what they need. What better food could there have been than the lovingly made communion bread, the bread of life?
So, I don’t know what you are preaching on this week. I am facilitating our August sermon dialogue series, and maybe we’ll talk about the bread of life? Probably we will. Regardless, it’s all food for thought, which ever reading you lean into, whether from the RCL or another source.
Also, we have relocated the communion bread in a less visible, more “secure” freezer, but you can bet we will be more intentional about keeping food available for the homeless, so that all who come here can be fed.
The Rev. Terri C. Pilarski is an Episcopal priest serving a parish in Dearborn, Michigan. She’s been a member of RevGalBlogPals since 2006 and blogs at Seeking Authentic Voice
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