A Reflection on the “Bread of Life”

Jesus said, “I am the bread of life”…
Let me tell you a true story about a nine year old girl who grew up in rural Alberta, not all that far from here.
She was a child who loved the fall of the year.  She loved everything about the season: the crisp feel of the air, the colours and the smells of the busy farm life.  She loved taking meals out to the field and riding along, sometimes, on the combine or the grain truck.
She loved the pink sunset and the dewy morn.  She loved the beginning of the new school year and all that that entailed. She delighted in the little ice crust that formed over tiny mud puddles in the yard, and how you could crunch them with the toe of your new shoes on the way to the school bus.
In short, she loved the vibrancy – though she never would have used that word – and the life she felt pulsing through the season of fall, sandwiched as it was between the lazy days of summer and the challenges of wintertime.
She had lived her whole life on the farm, a member of a large and loving family, with a mother who baked bread every week and a father who cared for his farm with patient diligence.
They lived in a house as often filled with prayer as it was with laughter, and always with good wholesome food on the table, despite the uncertainty of farm income.
Now the little girl had some older brothers – 10, 12, 14 years older – who, unbeknown to her, had had a fight many years before with some boys of another family in the area… a dispute over some trivial matter…  And the fight had resulted in a minor feud between the two families.
As I said, the little girl knew nothing of this in her ninth fall season.  She simply was in love with life and with the fall, and had no idea it was possible for anybody to feel any different.
Then, one day as she left her grade 4 classroom and was heading to the school bus, she was attacked – not in a physical way, but verbally assaulted by one of the teen-aged boys of the other clan, who called her names and taunted her, as he had been taught by the example of his older siblings.
And suddenly like a magic spell gone wrong, the light was not so light; a gloom settled on the little girl’s world, and the vibrancy of the fall was a little tarnished.
In fact for the first time, the little girl began to see what other people had been seeing and she had never understood: she began to see that maybe – just maybe – fall was not a pulsing of vibrant life but a dying into the harshness of winter.  This was the nature of the hurt that little girl felt all the way home on the school bus: a little gloomy, a little sad.
When she arrived at home though, she found the house filled with the smell of fresh-baked bread; and there was a piece waiting to be cut from the crust for her and slathered with strawberry jam.
And there was her mother’s warm embrace.  And there was the love and acceptance of family and home.  In short, there was the life she felt had faded in the presence of the hurtful words.
Later, much later, when the girl heard the sixth chapter of John and that curious expression, “I am the bread of life,” she said to herself, “I know what this is all about!
Somehow, the backdrop of warmth, acceptance and unconditional love, mixed with one of her most delicious memories, made up for her the “bread of life”.
And as the little girl grew up and started to study the gospels more and to wrestle with the question “who is Jesus Christ for you?”, well the answer, “the bread of life” held special meaning and deep comfort for her; one that involved all her senses and all her feelings, and a special part of the memories of her heart.
And Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, was a very real part of those memories and feelings.
“To receive a copy of this message, call Knox United at 403-882-3013. Rev. Barbara and the congregation of Knox invite you to join us for worship: 10:30 Sunday.

by Rev. Barbara Zimmerman, Knox United Church, Castor

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