I received a tradition from the Lord, which I also handed on to you: on the night on which he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread. After giving thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this to remember me.” He did the same thing with the cup, after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Every time you drink it, do this to remember me.” Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you broadcast the death of the Lord until he comes (1 Corinthians 11:23-26, Common English Bible).
This is part 15 in the November Thanksgiving series, “Pass the…” for a listing on the other posts please see the index.
I read the story some time ago of Mike Ferretti. Mike is the CEO of the Great Harvest Bread Company. One of his favorite sayings is, “We don’t give samples, we give ‘amples'” and he’s talking about the think slices of freshly baked bread, topped with rich honey he gives away to his customers when they walk into his stores.
The way Mike believes, you don’t eat bread, you experience bread. When you walk into one of his stores, the aroma is what hits you first. Follow your nose and look behind the counter and the chalkboard menu and you’ll see the racks of bread of every variety you can imagine, freshly baked, ready to go home.
Another thing you might notice in one of Mike’s stores is the eclectic mix of people crowded into the little shop – business people in suits, high school students on lunch break, a mom with a baby in her arms, a bike messenger, people from every racial background. They are lined up waiting their turn. Some are waiting to buy a loaf of homemade bread for the dinner table, but all seem to be there for that free slice. No purchase necessary.*
At least when I was a kid, Mike’s stores might have been my dad’s kind of place. Well, maybe not. When I was growing up we couldn’t sit down to eat dinner without their being a few slices of bread, white and thin sliced to be specific, sitting on the table. My dad had to have at least one slice of bread with his dinner every night. It wasn’t that way the last several years of his life. I’m not sure what changed but my mom hasn’t kept white bread in the house for a long time without a specific reason for doing so.
Still, for big meals, meals when we are all together, there is almost always some kind of bread on the table. Garlic bread or rolls, maybe biscuits, some kind of bread will be part of the meal.
Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, of course, are very much a part of that kind of tradition. I know it isn’t just with my family either. Cindy’s family is much the same way. I would imagine the same would be true for most of you.
Bread is an important part of an important meal. When I have attended dinners related to ministry and other things, bread is part of the meal. You just don’t go to a dinner event and there not be some kind of bread that is part of the meal.
That is nothing new. People have been making some kind of bread during all recorded history. The first mention of bread in the Bible is in the 14th chapter of Genesis which says, “Then Melchizedek King of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was a priest of God Most High.” That is after the flood, but still pretty early in recorded history.
For those earliest generations of humanity, however, bread was much more important than it is for most of us today. In fact, many of us could stand to pass by the bread at dinner time for a few to several weeks. For those who first populated the earth, as well so for some today, bread was the whole meal. But, for everyone in that period and perhaps for some in the developing world today, bread was not just food for the meal, it was also the utensil. One would use the bread to help them eat their meal.
As time went along, utensils were developed but bread remained an important staple fo the table. For Biblical folks, that was, at least in part, due to tradition. The tradition they followed here, of course, was the tradition of Passover. God commanded the people, through Moses, to make unleavened bread as a part of the Passover meal. The whole meal was intended to be eaten as one ready to leave on a journey quickly. Unleavened bread was called for so the time would not be taken waiting for the bread to rise.
The importance of bread is no less important in the New Testament. Jesus either speaks of bread or does something with bread more than 50 times in the four Gospels and the first couple of chapters of Acts.
When the disciples were in the Upper Room with Jesus celebrating Passover, most of the words would have been familiar, until Jesus picked up the bread, broke it and gave it to them saying, “Take, eat, this is my body broken for you.” Those were strange sounding words to the twelve. Still, a review of the recent past would have told them, “I am the bread of life.” They had heard it before.
In the passage above, Paul is giving instructions to the Corinthian Church, and to us, regarding Holy Communion. Paul’s words remind us that each time we come to the table, we renew our covenant with the risen Christ. When we receive the bread and the wine, the body and blood of Jesus, we proclaim His death once again, as we away His return. When we pass the bread we are making ourselves on with Christ, one with each other and one with the world around us.
When I pass the bread at the table during a special meal like Thanksgiving, I always pause for a second or two. It reminds me of the bread at a different table, the most important table, Jesus’ table. There I remember, again and again, the way my Lord died for me.
I need bread, the bread of life. Will someone please pass the bread?
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Grace and Peace,
Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved
* “The Artisan BreadChurch” http://www.homileticsonline.com August 24, 2003