I recently received an email from one of the pastors of the church I attend asking me to bake five loaves of bread for communion the next Sunday. Five loaves seemed overwhelming, so I agreed to bake two.
I hardly felt worthy to bake communion bread, as I was dealing with anxiety, anger, frustration, loneliness and confusion as well as forgiveness in the tangled web I imaged my life. I was afraid all of my feelings would transfer to the dough I kneaded and molded.
Baking bread is usually one of the ways I connect with God. I even wrote and presented several times, a day-long retreat called "Praying with Bread."
Today, however, I was in a different state of mind. I went through the motions mechanically, not prayerfully or reverently, gathering and combining numerous ingredients, putting the smooth dough in my favorite brown glass bowl for the first rising. The bowl was the last of a nesting set we received forty-four years ago as a wedding gift. The bowl held hundred of batches of dough, but today's batch was the first to become the body of Christ.
The dough quickly doubled in size. I took half the dough from the bowl, powdered a handful of flour on the sticky places, molded a circle and put in a buttered aluminum pan. I repeated the procedure with the remaining dough.
Before placing the pans in the oven, I studied the loaves. In those mounds of flour I saw the yeast of anger, loneliness, resentment, anxiety and other areas of disconnect in my life, along with forgiveness blended into bread for God's people on Sunday morning. Oh, my!
When I slid the two loaves in the oven, I prayed that all negative feelings would bake out of me and right to the heart of Jesus, whose body I formed that day.
I walked into the sanctuary the next day and found a pew close to the front, in sight of the two oval forms of bread covered with white cloths resting in the middle of the altar. I thought about the sugar, flour, yeast and milk, which I had plucked from noisy grocery shelves days before, now transformed into one of the most meaningful parts of Christian liturgy in a quiet church on Sunday morning.
Then, I recalled my prayer the day before, as those loaves entered the oven. As I sat in the pew and examined my heart, I realized that even before receiving communion, I felt peace. The negativity had burned away, my feelings now resting in Jesus' heart.
Mike and I assisted the pastors serving communion. I baked the body of Christ, and gave the body of Christ to the congregation, completing a very holy cycle.
As we approach the season of Lent in a couple of weeks, I can't help thinking of the bread served at the Last Supper. Who baked the loaves used that night? Maybe the person was someone like me, filled with anxiety, anger, loneliness and other troubling concerns? Maybe they felt that same sense of release and relief in baking the bread?
Someone always has to prepare the bread to offer God's people - I pray each baker always finds release as they pass along through the body of Christ, a blessing and peace, to all who believe.
Prayer: Thank you, God, for the way a simple task, baking bread, became a way to healing and peace. Remind us that all we do is a pathway to your presence. Amen.