It is perhaps fitting that the Lectionary reading for this Thursday (30th April 2020) is about bread. Bread has become a big feature of lockdown The Spanish government recently reported that flour sales have quadrupled. In the UK, flour producers have doubled production, but are still struggling to meet the demand. In France, flour sales are up by an estimated 140%. What is going on here? Is it more than simply a breakdown in supply chain. And if there is a more significant place for bread in society what does it mean that Jesus is the Bread of Life for the believer?
It feels to me like bread has always been there. It is at the core of our culture – one of the foundations of Western civilization certainly. So it seems that once more, in a time of crisis, bread is playing a role here as a symbol, as it has done for generations past and indeed in the Biblical world. The idea that Jesus could be the Bread of Life embraces the central importance of bread.
Whether you are a believer or not, I think there is an unconscious notion of bread as something more than food. Maybe you heard your grandma baking it and talking about it, or maybe you read about it and learned it’s properties at school, the truth is I think many people regard bread as a safe place to return to. This is why we are all returning to sharing a common reliance on bread in the same way we share a common culture. Commentators think bread is playing that role for many people these days. I think we are coming back to bread as a special place. I wonder if faith might have a similar revival in the common life of the nation? If it does it will not be without commitment and learning again what this might mean.
You see baking bread demands patience, knowledge and a fair amount of skill. It is why when we do manage to produce a decent loaf with just flour, water and salt, like our ancestors, it becomes a thing of pride.Because simple is not always easy. In our modern world we have it seems come to believe that the simple things in life – like baking bread – must be intrinsically easy. Simple = Easy. But we are having to realise the truth that simple is often complex and that is why it is rewarding.
It is not a truth we’re quickly ready to believe though. Many of us will bounce through all the possible google links desperately looking for a recipe that makes these apparently simple tasks easier. But assuming simple tasks are always easy shows how ignorant we are to the hard work it takes to develop skills in life. This truth translates into the life of faith. It might seem simple to revive Christian tradition in our communities but that does not mean it would be easy. The simple elements of our faith -prayer and service and study- are not easy things. They demand patience and knowledge and skill just as the other simple tasks of life do.
Perhaps the recognition of the fact that simple tasks take focus and practice during this prolonged lockdown period will encourage people to look at a life of faith with more respect and appreciation. Even if we don’t come out of this crisis with a newfound ability to bake bread I hope we might start on the road to understanding how we can be better at the simple tasks of our lives of faith. Not least prayer and service to others.
Let us embrace the simple and work hard to achieve it .. for it is in these things that we find Life.