Eat it all today

July 27, 2009

In last week’s gospel
reading and this one, a picture of a beleaguered Jesus emerges: he
can’t go anywhere without being mobbed. The crowds hunt him down; they
even demand to know when he got where he is, as if they have the right
to see his itinerary. Everyone has heard about the miraculous food—“Five
Thousand Fed From Five Loaves!”—and everyone wants more. Maybe that’s
why there are two very similar stories of bread multiplication in the
New Testament—maybe we want more too.

Find the important man and
attach yourself to him, and you’ll be all right. In the people’s memory,
Moses is the go-to man: the intimacy with God Israel enjoys has been an
institution for centuries, and they are proud of that intimacy. If it
was good enough for Moses, it’s good enough for them. We too make
statues of our important figures and impute to them powers they did not
possess in life. Jesus points this out: it wasn’t Moses who gave the
people’s forebears manna in the wilderness. God did that.

It was not Moses. It wasn’t the church or the tradition. Not, Jesus seems to be saying, even he himself. It is not the medium
of the experience that we seek; it is the experience of God itself. The
living, breathing experience of God—as real as the physical feeling of
food in the stomach. Maybe you had the experience of the living God
yesterday. But don’t imagine that you will have the same experience
today. Today is a new day. Let it be new.

Oh, how we hate this!
We do some wonderful thing in church, and so resolve to do it again. So
next year, we have the Second Annual Wonderful Thing. Now it’s a
tradition, so we have a Third Annual Wonderful Thing, and a fourth. Soon
there is a standing Wonderful Thing Committee, with its own budget
line. We couldn’t stop it if we tried.

Not everything needs to be
repeated, or even can be. Yes, there is a hunger for tradition in us
that militates against the new. But faith looks forward.

Food
perishes. The Hebrews of the Exodus couldn’t hold onto their manna for a
rainy day—they had to eat it all on the day they found it, or it would
rot. Use the gifts of God you receive today. Go out on a limb and use
them up, and expect to be sustained again tomorrow, perhaps in a
completely different way. Maybe all this emphasis on bread this summer
is just that—a recognition of its dailyness, our daily need of
it. You don’t bake all the bread you’re going to need for the year on
the same day; you bake every couple of days, just a few loaves at a
time. You don’t have one experience of God to last you for a lifetime;
you enter into the relationship with God every day, again and again.

There are lots of different kinds of bread.

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Feather-light No-knead Dinner Rolls

2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup cold milk
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs

Melt
butter in hot water. Add sugar and salt and stir. Add cold milk and
yeast. Stir to dissolve yeast. Add 3 cups flour and mix. Add eggs and 2
1/2 - 3 cups more flour. Mix, cover and let rise until dough doubles in
size. Punch down and let rise 30 more minutes or until doubled.

Make
walnut-sized balls of dough. Place about 2 inches apart in
well-buttered 9 x 13” pan or two 8” round cake pans. Bake in a preheated
oven for 20-25 minute at 400 degrees F. Brush top of rolls with butter
while hot. Serve right away. Good cold, too; just good in a different
way.