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bread

The Rector: Bread of Life

Sunday 18th July 2021
7th After Trinity

Sung Eucharist
Revd Nicholas Mercer

I have a post card in the back of my Bible with the title “Chilean Bread” 

I am not sure why it is in my Bible and I can’t remember putting it there either 

However, at the very least, it is a memento of a wonderful holiday in South America with my family when we travelled to Chile, Uruguay and Argentina 

Like every family on the move on a summer holiday, we had to constantly stop and find something for lunch 

And indeed, Chilean bread was often our mainstay 

We would particularly enjoy the “Dobladita” which is a folded flat bread  

It would be filled with delicious ham or vegetables such as tomato and avocado 

Having been in the Falklands where there is a dearth of fresh vegetables, this was particularly welcome 

As with so many families, bread is a staple of everyday life, not least when on holiday 

Bread, in all its various forms, is the most widely consumed food in the world. 

Not only is it an important source of carbohydrates, it’s also portable and compact at the same time-hence its popularity 

However, given the fact that it is a fundamental of life, makes it a very potent political force  

In 18th century France, Bread riots preceded the French Revolution, which was why the words “let them eat cake” was so incendiary  

In the 19th century, the Conservative Party came adrift with the repeal of the Corn Laws 

The Corn Laws imposed large tariffs on the import of grain to protect Tory landowners 

However, this drove up the price of bread for the poor who were on the point of starvation 

As a result, the tariffs were abolished by Sir Robert Peel  

Consigning the Tory Party to 28 in the political wilderness – beware free trade deals 

In the 20th century, there was the battle cry of Land and Bread in the Russian Revolution 

Bread can not only bring down a Government but cause a revolution as well 

Bread, as a staple, has a long history in the Bible too 

When the Jews escaped from Egypt, they ate unleavened bread to sustain them on the journey across the Sinai 

In the wilderness, the Israelites found Manna on the ground 

Described as “the bread the Lord has given you to eat” it too sustained them on their journey  

One of my favourite stories is in the Book of Kings 

Coming just before the story we read about this morning when there was a famine in the land of Cannaan, Elisha went to the Wadi Cherith 

Where he was fed bread by the ravens who brought him “bread and meat” day and night 

And the story which follows, tells of a small piece of bread being made into a cake which feeds the widow, her son and Elijah “for many days” 

These stories foreshadow the feeding of the four thousand we heard this morning 

Jesus, on this occasion, like his Father before him, providing for the physical needs of the crowd 

But this short history of Bread in the Bible, shows that the provision of Bread is not about pure physical hunger  

There is an element of Divine providence as well 

When the Israelites fled from Egypt, it was God who instructed them what food to take 

When the Israelites were starving, it was God who fed them Manna  

Similarly with Elisha, whom God provided for in time of famine 

In all these stories, we are continually reminded of the Lords’ Prayer where we ask God to 

“Give us this day our daily Bread” – And he does just that 

This morning’s Gospel reading is also about bread 

Jesus and his disciples are surrounded by a great crowd who have had nothing to eat for three days  

When the disciples inquire as to how they might feed the crowd, Jesus tells them that that there are just seven loaves of bread between them 

As we hear, he “gave them to his disciples to distribute” and, at the end of the meal, they were able to fill a further seven baskets 

But even a casual reading of this passage suggests that there is more to this story than the physical feeding of four thousand people 

So what is the story really all about? 

It is seen by some theologians as being a rehearsal for the end of Christ’s life 

Where it is believed, there would be a great Messianic Banquet in the sky – over which Christ would preside 

This was possibly a trial run and, as such, not just a purely physical event, but an eschatological one too 

Eschatology being about what happens at the end of human history 

But the story also hints at something more  

Because, as we hear “after giving thanks [Jesus] broke [the bread] and gave it to his disciples” 

As well as being a rehearsal for what is to come, it suggests that those four thousand people had a foretaste of that Heavenly Banquet in their earthly lives  

Just as we do ourselves in our Holy Communion 

An event, where not only does Heaven break into our Earth but where our lives are physically and spiritually transformed by bread and wine  

And so on this Seventh Sunday after Trinity 

Where we heard of the feeding of the Four Thousand 

Let us remember that bread forms a vital part of our daily lives and to give thanks to God for “Our daily bread” sustaining us on our earthly pilgrimage 

But, just as bread is a staple in our earthly lives  

So too is the bread of heaven  

Which sustains our bodies and souls at the same  

With that in mind, we also need to remember the power of bread  to bring about a Revolution in our spiritual lives as well 

For, above all, the body of our Lord Jesus Christ is “The Bread of Life”