One of the most important lessons I have learned as a minister is this: never read scripture that involves food when you are hungry. Recently, before breakfast, I read: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry.” All I could think about was what kind of bread was it? Cinnamon raisin? Herb? Or perhaps chocolate cherry?
To get me off the bread fixation, I did a little research on the Greek word, “artos”, that John used to denote bread in this passage. It is defined as food mixed with flour and water and baked. Some have even interpreted it as meaning an ancient version of sourdough. Now that definitely puts a new spin on the passage: “And Jesus said to them ‘I am the sourdough of life.'”
Sourdough or not, Jesus as the bread of life is a common metaphor we see in the gospels: Jesus as the unending source of nourishment, Jesus as the giver, Jesus always putting others first.
But here’s the problem: some of us have taken that metaphor a little too far. We all know folks like this-or maybe we are folks like this: People who believe that in order to serve others, you have to sacrifice yourself; people who believe that in order to be whole, you have to give yourself away — piece by piece, obligation by obligation, a yes here, a yes there until there is nothing left. There are way too many people who believe that they need to sacrifice themselves even unto death, or at a minimum unto heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke.
Especially during this chaotic holiday season, we might consider looking closer at the wisdom offered by Sourdough Jesus. It involves two simple lessons:
FEED THE DOUGH
Sourdough is made with what’s called a starter, which consists of water and flour (and maybe yeast if you aren’t a purist). The “starter” sits in your refrigerator and requires a regular feeding of flour and water. If you feed it, it becomes an unending supply of nourishment.
Not unlike sourdough Jesus. It seems almost every day of his life, Jesus is doing something to feed himself: stopping for a meal, stopping for water or pausing for conversation with friends. But one of the most important things he does is allow others to nurture him. Who could forget the story of how he allowed Mary to pour expensive perfume onto his feet and to dry it with her hair?
To allow others to care for us is not the easiest thing. But in order to make the bread, you have to feed the dough.
LET IT REST
Anyone who bakes bread knows the creation process involves cycles of feeding key ingredients to the dough and then allowing it to rest.
Jesus followed the same process. He took time to feed himself and he rested. (OK, OK, maybe not in 21st century terms. You don’t necessarily see Jesus doing an exorcism then going to recover at Canyon Ranch.) But he found his own ways to rest. Time and time again, he would say “no” to the crowds, “no” to the disciples and pull away into the mountains for quiet and prayer. He knew without food and rest, he could feed no one.
This holiday season, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you aren’t loveable unless you feed everyone else first; that you will be a better person when you heal and care for the entire world to the exclusion of yourself. Take time everyday to feed yourself and to rest. If you follow this recipe closely, then like Sourdough Jesus you can be an unending source of life and nourishment for others without losing yourself.