I just love a great bread workout: kneading and folding, punching and pulling, tucking and tossing. Or at least I used to until we got the bread machine. Lookie here! We can pour in the ingredients, close the top, flip the switch and, in a few sumptuously fragrant hours, voila! Crispy crust and golden bread.
I did that until the starter packets ran out. Then the machine took its place in the corner and gathered dust until I reluctantly took it to the donation station.
Something about the ease of automatic left me wanting. Sure, the bread tasted marvelous but the attraction wasn’t in the tasting, it was in the processing. I was missing. I was missing my workout.
Today I read “Work out your own salvation which God has worked in you already” from Oswald Chambers. Never really been clear on the whole working out my own salvation. I mean, should I really be in charge of that? But the working in part, God’s part, the raw materials and the yeast, seem very like God. Have I been taking a bread machine approach to life? Hoping that if I just open the lid and let God pour in the goodies, all will be well on its own.
I sure hope God isn’t inclined to give up on me after the starter packets are done. Shove me in the corner, let me gather dust and ship me off to the Goodwill. I’d deserve it all. Thank goodness He’s a bit more patient. I expect he’s waiting for me to come back to the old fashioned way: knead, cover, let rest, let rise, punch down, cover, let rise again. Aha! Rise again! God’s been in charge of this process the whole time!
Figures it would take the bread of life to give rise to the life of God in me. Good thing it’s not automatic. What meaning would there be if I were just pre-programmed by the machine? I guess that’s the workout part. My part. Hope that yeast hasn’t expired.
“Oh no, I couldn’t,” my neighbor says to my offer of a fruit tart.
“You’re SO disciplined,” my other neighbor comments, as she helps herself.
I have invited them to my house to share the tarts. I have made them especially for the occasion. Prepared them lovingly, presented them carefully and attractively, included only healthy ingredients. And yet, one declines, and it is said of her…you are disciplined.
I come to the communion rail and accept the piece of bread from the hand of the pastor. “Wendy, this is Christ’s body, broken for you.”
I dip it in the cup and hear, “Wendy, this is the blood of Christ, shed for you.”
I say amen. And I eat. Not to be graphic or anything, but some of it sticks to my teeth and the roof of my mouth. And I think, oh, I want to consume every morsel. Wouldn’t want to waste a crumb. And then I remember my kitchen table and think…
What if I came to Christ’s table and said, “Oh no, I couldn’t”?
Ironically, my neighbor declined the tart as an expression of guilt. Speaking but not saying, I can’t eat that tart because I feel guilty about the weight I’ve gained. It’s not discipline she is speaking, it’s shame. I wonder how many don’t approach Christ’s table because they are ashamed. Unaware of the grace offered there. How many decline His offering because others might see them and judge them unworthy.
It is certainly true that I haven’t earned the right to eat that bread and drink that wine. But Christ died so I might change my “Oh, I couldn’t” to His “Yes, you can.” And not only that. He stands beside me as I do and says, “You’re so disciplined.” And He means it.
God is a God of paradox. In His Kingdom, consumption is disciplined. Who turns away the bread of life? Eat up and follow Me.
We do have an odd and often unhealthy relationship with consumption in our country because we know our own willpower to be lacking and our discipline to be weak, especially when no one is watching. Funny how in community, when everyone is watching, we can discover a “renewed discipline.”
As Holy week approaches and Easter morning dawns I pray we can gather as especially large and forgiving communities and resist the urge to look right and left at who might be thinking what about our presence. Let’s be disciplined about looking one way. Upward at the cross. Perhaps we will hear the words again, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
And for a moment we will feast without guilt or shame at a table where we are completely welcome. We’ve been invited. Our host expects us to eat what He has prepared.
***I wish all who read this a most Holy Week and a joyous Easter. The KC will continue in the week that follows. He is risen indeed. Amen.***