Bread and Cake
by The Rev. Daniel P Strandlund | February 8, 2018Hi friends, today I want to write about food—but before we get to that, I’ve got some reminders and event info for us. First, don’t forget that this Sunday, February 11th is Scout Sunday! This is our big in-gathering for all our canned and non-perishable food items we’re gathering in support of Boy Scouts’ food drive. All donations will go to a local food bank. Second, we have another food related event coming up this Tuesday, February 13th! It’s our Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper in the Mission Hall, 6:30-8pm. If you plan to come, or if you plan to come help, please contact Laura Lozano at firstname.lastname@example.org so we have an idea for numbers. We’ll be taking monetary donations at the Pancake Supper, and these in turn will be used as part of an outreach project the youth are undertaking on behalf of St. Liz.
Between Scout Sunday Food Drive and our Pancake Supper, we’ve got a lot going that has to do with food. I want to break these two events down into to two spiritual food categories: bread and cake.
Spiritual bread is a bit like the food we gather at our Food Drive: rice, peanut butter, vegetables, proteins like tuna fish, “meat and potatoes,” kinds of things. These are the foods we need to live, to be healthy and happy. Protein for muscle development, vitamins for our immune system, fiber, natural sugars, omega 3s, the whole diet. In short, these are nutrients we need and on which we thrive simply by virtue of being human beings. A food drive is a good example of this as spiritual bread because a food drive supports those in need. It’s exercising our outreach muscles, so to speak, which are the same muscles God uses when He reaches out to us in Jesus Christ. Doing the work of God is a staple of our spiritual diet: it’s bread because we need these kinds of calories simply by virtue of being baptized people just as the folks who will be visiting the food bank need the literal calories we are gathering for them.
In John 4, Jesus has been conversing with a Samaritan woman at a well, a situation which was a bit scandalous for a few reasons. After the woman leaves to return to her home, Jesus’ disciples approach him and tell him he should eat something (4:31). Jesus responds, “I have food to eat that you do not know about” (4:32). The disciples puzzle over this, wondering who brought Jesus a snack. “Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work’” (4:34). If Jesus is the bread of life, then what we are eating when we eat the flesh of Jesus is food which is positively packed with doing-the-will-of-God. Doesn’t get any more nutritious than that!
Now, what about spiritual cake? Spiritual cake is a bit like pancakes at a Pancake Supper: syrup, towers of pancakes, butter, maybe some bacon to go along side. These are foods we eat to celebrate. They aren’t our daily bread, but they are part of our yearly calendar. A big party with lots of our friends, butter and syrup, table cloths and decorations, and maybe we arrange our pancakes on our plate so that they look like Mickey Mouse! In short, these foods aren’t strictly necessary for a healthy regular diet, but they are foods that are integral to the fullness of our joy in our community and our celebration of the seasons of the year. A pancake supper is a good example of spiritual cake because it’s about fullness, overflowing joy, a playful bit of joyful abandon for our spiritual sweet tooths. (Sweet teeth?) It’s exercising our rejoicing muscles, so to speak. Rejoicing in God’s presence among us is only natural, after all, because why wouldn’t we rejoice over the redemption of the world and the possibility of becoming friends of God?
In John 2, Jesus attends a wedding in the town of Cana. Folks didn’t have Pinballz Arcade or movie theaters back then, so when there was a chance to have a party, everybody went. Now the host family ran out of wine at this wedding party (2:2), and Jesus’ mother let him know that the party was failing because of it. Jesus tells the servants to draw some water out of these giant, thirty-gallon stone jars that were there as part of some purification rituals—and lo and behold, all 180 gallons of purification water had become wine! And not just any wine, but a vintage far tastier than anything they’d had at the party so far. We have no reason that there was anything particularly special or virtuous or significant about that wedding party in Cana; the wedding guests didn’t earn their miracle. Jesus simply went to the party. If the blood of Jesus is the wine of communion, then what we are drinking is the positively overflowing, super-abundant, celebratory wine of the wedding feast of Cana. It’s not necessary; it wouldn’t be a celebration if it were necessary! (Can you imagine something as dull as a mandatory party?) This is spiritual cake.
But this spiritual cake goes further. Remember, the donations we receive at the Pancake Supper are in turn going to support yet another outreach project. Why? Because even in celebration, the Church is the body of Christ. As we saw above when we talked about spiritual bread, the body of Christ is the bread which Jesus gives for the life of the world. Even in the sheer extra-ness and super-abundance of pancakes and celebration, the Church remains a dietary staple the world so desperately needs.
What is cake for us might be bread for someone else.