I wonder what food shortage you have experienced during this Corona Virus pandemic? For several weeks we have encountered emptied shelves in grocery stores where the most highly prized items have been bought in bulk and squirreled away in private homes. As I walk through the grocery store I see plenty of food but not always what I would like. The bread, milk and meat sections are wiped out. Recently the ice cream freezer was almost completely depleted. And, of course, we’ll never look at a 6-pack of toilet paper in the same light again!
Bread is a basic staple in most of our homes. Even with the outrageously broad menu of items available to us in our 21st century American homes, we still appreciate our daily bread. In John’s Gospel, Jesus calls Himself “the bread of life.” The crowd is comprised of many of the same people who witnessed His miraculous multiplication of five loaves and two fish to feed an outdoor classroom of 5,000 people a day earlier. They ate to their full and came to Him again, looking for magic tricks and a free meal. They hounded Him, asking in essence, “What are you going to do for me today?”
The previous day, after the miraculous provision, they had been ready to make Jesus their king. So He fled. He knew He could never be the kind of ruler they expected. What mattered then and now is not what He can do for us but who He is. The Passover meal that His ancestors celebrated was fulfilled in Him. So, as He sat at table with His disciples the night of His arrest, He broke bread with them and drank from the Passover cup. But He assigned new meaning to these two staples to their diet. From that time forward His followers would have a way to connect with Him even after His earthly departure. In the bread they would remember His body and that they were part of it. In the wine they were invited to remember His willing sacrifice for them and the world. They were His companions, which means one with whom you share your bread.
We miss each other’s companionship during this quarantine. We long for the familiar faces in beloved sanctuaries where we are nourished by traditions in our worship. So, in these unnerving times, we look for new ways to connect with each other—and Christ gave that to us! We are so enamored with the gifts of our five senses. But He gave us a sixth sense that attunes to spiritual realities than cannot be proven but are undeniable to those who experience them. In that sixth sense we know Christ’s presence that is lasting and limitless. Jesus was a remarkable healer in that He could heal from afar—without touch or being in sight of the patient. So, as we gather around tables, separated by physical distance this quarantined evening of Maundy Thursday, we celebrate that we are made a commun-ity in Christ’s communal meal. We are perhaps more unified than we have been in a long time for we yearn for each other’s presence, sadly keep safe distances from each other and listen intently to each other’s words.
In the safety of our homes, as we share a meal together, we pray for those who, even now, are in hospitals—for the exhausted caregivers, the sick, and the dying. We pray for those who are unable to visit their loved ones who are in a care facility. We lift up those who are alone in the quarantine, yearning for companionship. We pray for those in strained relationships who must share close quarters with each other. We thank God for the companionship of Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, who ministers from afar yet enters us mysteriously in the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the cup. So we echo the prayer of that early crowd as they pressed in on Jesus: “Master, give us this bread—give it to us always!”