O thou before whom all words recoil, make us masters of ourselves, that
we may become the servants of others: take our minds and think through
them, take our lips and hands and speak through them, take our hearts
and set them on fire. Amen.
I love bread. I have a memory as a boy, of my Mum’s dinner rolls,
mopping up what was left of the roast beef gravy on Sunday dinner. Or
of being 17 years old, with my girlfriend Mairi (she of blessed memory) as
we were backpacking around the UK, sitting in the beautiful city of York
eating cheese and a delicious baguette. Or two summers ago, as Olivia
and I sat down for breakfast on the last day on the Camino Santiago and
this loaf of bread, sliced and toasted was brought to the table. Sadly in
recent years, I have been watching my ‘gluten’, so bread like we so
enjoyed that morning in Spain, the afternoon in England or dipped in
gravy as a boy is rare for me. But bread has been a staple of my diet for
most of my life. I wonder, if that is the same for you? I bet, for most of
us, that is the case.
For much of human history, in the parts of the world where such grains
grew, bread has been a staple part of the human diet. In the beautiful
words of the Eucharistic Prayer from Salal & Cedar, used sometimes at
the 10:30 and 5:30 services, bread is described as “food of the poor, the
work of field and hearth” “Bread”, the food of the poor, is
mentioned just under 500 times across the whole canon of the Bible.
Bread was not something to mop up the gravy, for most people, it was a
fundamental part of the meal, if not the meal itself. Bread was life. It
was the difference between starvation and survival. In the story of The
Exodus, the escaping Isrealites take bread with them. They don’t have
time for it to be leavened, but they take bread with them. (Ex.12:39)
And bread is linked inextricably to community, to friendship. The English
word companion comes to us from the Latin through Old French,
‘compainon’ – literally “with bread,” understood as ‘one with whom you break bread’. Sara Miles, author of the wonderful book, “Take This Bread”writes, “what happened once I started
distributing communion was the truly disturbing, dreadful realization
about Christianity: You can't be a Christian by yourself.” My friends, we
are companions on the journey. We have a lovely space here, we have
beauty in music, in liturgy, but most importantly, Christ Church Cathedral
is a place of companions.
And as we will share in the eucharist in a little while, it is helpful to
recall the breaking of the bread, the sharing of the bread among
companions as we are, connects with another important metaphor. We
are, as the church, the body of Christ. The bread is or represents, the
body, and we are the body. In the words of St. Augustine, as he
administered communion, “behold what you are, become what you
receive.” We are called into being the body of Christ. We are called to be
companions with and for each other; we are to behold the bread of life in
each other, and to receive the bread of life that we might be more Christ
like companions with and for each other.
But oh my, how difficult that call is. How are we, here at Christ Church
Cathedral in Vancouver to be the body of Christ in August of 2021? How
are we to emulate, to be as close as we can, the Bread of Life in our
place and time? How are we to live into this wisdom of Jesus the Christ.
Well, I wish I had a simple 5 step plan, or even a complicated 12 step
plan. Instead, I have a very complex 1 step plan; love one another, as
Jesus loves us. (John 13:34)
And I can hear the collective sigh, not another bloody sermon about love!
What about all of the crap that is going on in my life right now? All the
crap out there in the world, and all the crap even here at the Cathedral.
And all Alisdair has to say is “love one another.” That’s a lot more easily
said than done.
Well as beautiful as this building is, you and I are in fact are the church.
We are the body of Christ, and in emulating Jesus we are called to be the
Bread of Life. And this love thing is not a noun, I mean it as a verb. And here are two actions you and I can take to be the body of Christ, the bread of life.
First, be the bread of life as food, as clothing, as housing. The community
of Christ Church Cathedral has a long history of feeding, clothing and
housing our neighbours. What can you do or be more of for the Maundy
Project? What can you do or be more of for 127 Housing? What is your
idea for the next social justice enterprise to come out of our
Second be the bread of life in our conversations together. I did some
leadership development training a couple of years ago (before COVID) at
Microsoft and learned of a tool they use in conversations; its called an
MRI. It stands for ‘Most Respectful Interpretation’. Let’s say you receive
an email or a text, or someone says something to you and you’re thinking
to yourself, ‘WTF?’ ‘What do they mean by that?’ Try using, MRI – what is
the most respectful interpretation? How does that shift your
understanding of the email or text or the statement? And I’d invite, what
Jesus is inviting us into is MGI, ‘Most Gracious Interpretation’. What is the
most gracious interpretation I can find and employ in my thinking? What
would change in our conversations and emails between each other if we
were to use MGI even 5% more? What impact would the Bread of Life have
on our conversations together?
I love bread, and I love this community. I love you. Let us be the bread of
life with and for each other. As Stu blesses and breaks the bread in the
Eucharist, let us know we cannot be Christian by ourselves. Let us be
companions here with each other, and build companionship out there in