3 Things to Remember the Next Time You Serve the Lord’s Supper (Part One)
Margaret Feinberg | January 09, 2019
One of the great privileges of leadership is serving the Lord’s Supper also known as Holy Communion or the Eucharist. But if we’re honest, it can be a challenge to breathe fresh language and insight into the teaching surrounding the elements of bread and wine every single week. You may feel like your approach and words have become stale. If so, you’re not alone.
I recently embarked on a culinary spiritual adventure to better understand food in the Bible and the ancient agrarian world. I cast nets in the Sea of Galilee, descended 410 feet into a salt mine, harvested olives in Croatia, studied figs at a world premier farm, and graduated with a Steakology 101 certificate from a butcher who calls himself “The Meat Apostle.”
With each person, I asked, “How do you read the Scriptures—not as theologians—but in light of what you do every day?”
Their answers changed the way I read the Bible forever. Time and time again I found myself asking, How have I grown up in the church and listened to so many sermons and no one has told me these things?
This journey became the foundation for the book and Bible study, Taste and See: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Food Makers. Yet it was my time with an expert on ancient grains at Yale University that helped me better understand bread in the Bible—and the layered meaning of bread in the Lord’s Supper.
Here are 3 ways to breath fresh language and insights the next time you distribute the elements of Holy Communion.
1. Recognize the deep roots of bread in the Bible. When God spoke the syllables, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants,” He had grain in mind (Genesis 1:11). Once transformed and toasted, those loaves would prove central to human life as well as provide a meaningful heritage to the people of God.
For thousands of years people have understood food as bread and bread as food. These words are sometimes used interchangeably in Scripture. When God says to Adam that by the sweat of your brow “you will eat your food,” some translations read, “you will eat bread.”
One of the greatest advancements in bread’s history occurred when humans moved from hunter gatherers to more rooted communities that include domesticated animals and grains. Genesis 4 alludes to this shift when Jabal is describes as “the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock” and his brother, Tubal-Cain, as one who “forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron.”
At the center of this new way of living, a powerful agricultural tool emerged—the plow. With advancements in agricultural technology, bread soon became the main food source for ancient Israelites. Meat was common among the elite, but the lower classes only enjoyed a thin portion at annual festivals. Thus, for the people of God, bread was more than a metaphor for sustaining life, bread kept people alive. When you partake of the holy sacrament, you are biting into this reality that God alone will sustain you.
2. Remind your church that they are tasting the Presence. When tasting a flat, pre-cut, bland wafer, it’s easy to lose the wonder of Communion. Yet more than sustenance, bread represents God’s presence.
Every Sabbath, priests placed 12 loaves of bread of the Presence on a golden table in the temple. This wasn’t just an offering but also an acknowledgement that God was with them. It is not just the Bread of the Presence but bread and the Presence are intimately intertwined. When Christ instructs us, “Do this in remembrance of me,” we are partaking of His Presence on a visceral level.
3. Acknowledge that bread in our modern society has become a source of division.
Throughout the Scripture and much of history, bread has been the staple food. It’s only stopped being a staple for people in the wealthiest part of the world. (Hint: that’s us!)
The warm loaf that once drew families together is increasingly becoming a source of division as gluten intolerance rises in America. This is why many churches provide gluten-free options.
But some people simply feel better when they don’t eat bread. Others cut bread from their diets to cut calories or embrace breadlessness as part of a low-carb lifestyle. Skipping bread has become an American fad. The irony: many gluten-free breads and desserts are higher calorie and more fattening than those with gluten.
Yet it’s estimated that 30 percent of humanity’s calories come from bread. In Cairo today, over half the people will get more than half their calories from bread. If you removed bread as a staple food from our collective human diet, 2 billion people would starve to death in a few months.
To not eat bread is a privilege.
In our nation, our disassociation with this basic food source can cause us to lose the rich layers of meaning—including the companionship, the reconciliation, and awareness of the presence of Christ that comes with breaking bread. Invite your church—and especially those who are keeping their distance from bread—to remember the importance of bread today around the world and the importance of Christ in our lives.