The Mystery of Breaking Bread

I’m sitting on the washing machine, finishing my coffee, waiting for the timer to go off. My Eucharist bread is in the oven.

“This cup is the new covenant.” I’ve been hearing pastors and priests say that for thirty years, in little Baptist churches and at fabulous Catholic mass. Priests in robes, holding chalice and bread over their heads. Pastors in jeans and sneakers, passing silver trays up and down upholstered pews. Here at the Table, in this church, at this cathedral, at this chapel, is the cup of the new covenant. Here at the Table is this Bread.

And here am I, at my kitchen counter in yoga pants and a tank top, covered in flour, measuring molasses and coconut oil into a red plastic thrift shop bowl. I am mixing this flour, this oil, this water, with my Italian grandmother’s wooden spoon that she probably got from a thrift store, too. I’ve tweaked the recipe, swapping in almond milk and coconut oil, making do with whatever I had in my pantry.

The original recipe is from a seminary friend. It’s the same bread that I gave to a girl who had picked a fight with me in class before chapel. I put bread in her palm and told her that it was the body of Christ, broken for her.

While we plunge through what we call the real world, sacredness is always just around the corner

I remember the silver plate of crackers from my church when I was little, and how excited I was when I was finally allowed to reach in, and take a cracker, and eat it. A tray of wafers passed through pews in rural New Hampshire, is somehow the same bread as the dark, soft, molasses dough that I’m stirring in my kitchen in Atlanta. Somehow the same bread that Dietrich Bonhoeffer ate in Germany, eighty years ago. The same bread that Julian and Augustine and Francis took and ate.

The same bread that Jesus split up for His traveling band of friends on a night of Passover.

I roll out two little flat rounds, scored on the top with an X-marks-the-spot, and dropped on a tray into the oven. I lick off the spoon and wonder if it’s OK that Eucharist bread tastes this good. Then bowl and spoon and measuring cups get thrown into my grubby sink, soap suds up my arms, washcloth getting caked with the damp dough I’m scrubbing out of the bowl.

Then there’s a little bit of silence while the bread finishes up in the oven.

The water trickles and drips going down the drain. The dogs are on the couch napping. The microwave timer silently ticks down the time, 2:06, 2:05, 2:04. I curl up on the washing machine, sipping lukewarm coffee.

Tonight at a little house church in West Atlanta, in a living room full of different theological beliefs about Jesus, the Bible, atonement theories, and the book of Genesis – tonight, we’ll all come up and put out our hands, feel the bread land in our palm, and touch God.

The same bread that came out of the bowl of flour and water and oil that I licked clean like a kid, from the bowl that I scrubbed out with soap and water in a messy sink.

The same cup of wine that Jesus held up that someone had used at a party the night before.

The same manger that horses and cows were eating out of.

Tonight, we’ll all come up and put out our hands, feel the bread land in our palm, and touch God

The timer goes off.

We gradually come back to life, the “real world,” where sinks are for washing pizza cheese off pans and hay feeders are for feeding farm animals.

While we plunge through what we call the real world, sacredness is always just around the corner, on the edge of our vision, trickling through the cracks like light finding its way around closed blinds.

The sacred world is impatient to come through into ours. The sacred is dogged and unfailingly persistent. And the sacred uses whatever it needs to, repurposing our “real world” tools cheekily for its own holy ends.

On my sticky countertop, I’m stretching and kneading bread that connects me to disciples and saints in and out of time. I’m touching something so holy that all I can do with it is eat it. How can something that’s so easy to make, easy to pray over, easy to serve, be the wind that blows the curtain open between heaven and earth just a little bit?

In my kitchen, sacred time sneaks into ordinary time, while the microwave timer counts down for bread to finish baking.

Laura Jean Truman
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