years ago, when we were trying to sell our house, a realtor gave us a long list
of small things we could do to improve the house’s appeal to potential buyers.  One tip was to bake bread before a
showing.  “It makes a house smell like a
home,” she said. 

home, and love are certainly intertwined in my memories: Cornbread from an iron
skillet at Grandma Linkfield’s.  Cathead
biscuits fresh from the oven at AnnaMerle’s. 
White slices from the Colonial Bakery bag rising from the toaster on a
regular school day. Pancakes hot off the griddle on Christmas. 

water, salt, yeast.  These are the plain
ingredients of life’s most basic food, made everyday and everywhere.  It’s ordinary, common, and essential.  Bread is a simple gift, but also a complex
and evocative symbol. 

taught us to pray for bread: “Give us this day our daily bread.”  It’s a prayer about our hunger and God’s
provision, about our limits and God’s abundance, and about our neediness and
God’s grace. 

this prayer, “bread” is shorthand for the material things we need in order to
survive:  “Give us food on our tables,
clothes on our backs, shelter against the elements, and money we need to secure
these things.” 

We should note that this prayer is not about “me,” but about “us”; we pray not just for our own
needs but the needs of the world.  So, on
one level, “give us our daily bread” is about our bodies, and on the other, it
is about economics.  It’s about
individual nutrition and the global food supply, about family farms and
multinational agribusiness, about the price of a loaf of bread and a gallon of
milk at the grocery store.  It concerns the
price of soybean and corn commodities at the Chicago Board of Trade, about the kid
who carries your groceries to the car, and about the migrant farmworker who harvested
the vegetables your purchased. 

us this day our daily bread” is a prayer about the cereal our kids gulp down at
breakfast and about millions of starving children, about business lunches and
food stamps, and about upscale designer kitchens and soup kitchens for the down
and out.  It chastens workaholism and
laments unemployment, causes us to question our greed and to speak on behalf of
the poor, and reminds us that we depend on God and that God calls us to serve
our neighbors. 

gave us this prayer for bread, and he also said, quoting from the Hebrew Scriptures:
“One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth
of God.”  Jesus did not say, “One does
not live by bread at all.”  The issue was
not bread, but bread alone. To live by bread alone, however, is to live as
slaves of our own desires.  To live by
“bread alone” is to try, over and over again, to substitute something made for
our Maker—to try to fill the empty place in our hearts with something created
rather than the Creator. 

desire beneath all our desires is for a connection with God, a friendship in
which we “hear every word which comes from the mouth of God.”  We yearn, not just for bread, but for the
Bread of Life, the sustenance for our essential selves which Jesus gives, and
which Jesus is