At Least 60 pounds of Flour
Jesus was a fellow who knew about bread. It was his go-to topic, the currency he dealt in, a medium for his message, sometimes a metaphor, sometimes the literal stuff that fills stomachs. You look at the Gospels and over and over you see this word bread, artos, along with the ingredients and actions that accompany it: wheat, yeast, baking, harvest, eating, hungering, etc. 'I am the bread life.' 'Give us this day our daily bread.' 'Taking the five loaves and two fish…' '…unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.' 'The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.' 'This is my body given for you.' And while this is not nearly exhaustive, suffice it it to say that Jesus spoke the language of bread.
I spent two days a week in the bakery at Camphill this past month. The bakery provides all the bread for the residents of Camphill farm and Camphill school along with the bread that is sold at local markets. While my short time in the bakery doesn't make me an expert on anything bread-wise, it was a really fine opportunity to see what it's like to experience bread on a larger scale than the average home baking adventure. I was especially excited to be in the bakery with all that bread because, as a preacher who from time to time reflects out loud on Jesus and his bread-speech, I figure I ought to know a few things about it.
There was one particular detail in the bakery that I neglected to get on camera. Between each round of dough that was scaled and formed, we would scrape the table and remove any flour and sticky dough that remained. We would then take these scraps, along with anything that remained on our hands, and collect them into a bowl. By the end of the day this bowl would be full. What might have been wasted scraps could now be used to make the sourdough starter for the following day. It was a neat process to see how your leftover bits from one day could become the material to make the bread rise and give it flavor the next.
Bread is very basic stuff from the ground: flour, salt, yeast, water. It can be fancy or it can be humble. Some might use a perfectly calibrated oven, but many around the world know how to tend a simple fire for their baking. Covered in flour and hands in the dough, I sensed that making bread is an art and a science, reminding me that the two are not so easily separated, their relationship and balance so necessary for our survival and happiness.
I think part of the reason Jesus spoke the language of bread is because it's a language we can understand. 'Man cannot live by bread alone,' says Jesus. And yet in his life he goes ahead and feeds hungry people with bread anyway. In this we see a very important tension in Jesus' life and ministry. Physical bread–a means of justice for the poor and hungry, a fruit of God's creation–is essential for the world. And yet even a bakery running at full-tilt cannot provide all that is needed for life. 'I am the bread of life,' Jesus says to those who hunger. Jesus insists that we have needs beyond the rumbling of our stomachs, and yet he still longs that those same stomachs be filled with life-giving food. This is the tension we chew on: The bread of God comes down from heaven…The bread of God comes up from the earth.
So that's a few thoughts about what the bakery taught me. Special thanks to Anna for getting these pictures! It was difficult to handle the camera in the flour and fast pace of the bakery so that was a big help.