Over the years, I have come to enjoy the process of making bread. For me, it’s as much of an art form as it’s become a whole-body therapy for my soul. I don’t mind confessing: bread is my comfort food. I’ve always loved it--the aromatic, earthy smell of the freshly ground wheat berries blending with the various sweet and savory ingredients and yeast, (for a leavened bread, of course). I love the pliable warmth of the resulting dough rolling between the heel of my hands and folding through my fingertips.
Kneading is where you get to know your dough. I truly enjoy the whole-body physicality of communing and connecting with these ingredients and this process as old as time…an ancient ritual of sorts.
I love the rhythm of kneading that dough for sometimes eight, up to ten minutes; rocking back and forth while keeping time to a tune in my head or simply thinking. Rocking and rolling the warm dough… over and fold and through…over and fold and through.
The rhyme and the rhythm relaxes my mind and soothes my soul and before I know it, I’m becoming one with both the process and the dough. Quite often, in the midst of it, I find myself daydreaming and easily transported to places locked in my distant memory and far beyond my kitchen.
And it’s personal. Bread making is one of the few things that still connects me with my mother. Ours was a strained relationship fractured by divorce, distance and a radical difference in lifestyle. I am a Christian and her life was one of bitter disappointments, poor choices and resulting hardship, and from what I could discern; she did not share my salvation.
Thankfully over time, and if we allow it, God has a way of growing us and filling the gaps present in even the worst of relationships. As an adult, I learned this and in the years leading up to her death in 2004, we were just beginning to discover and explore our common ground. Although she never actually taught me how, I can still remember that smell–that sweet, sweet smell and the light and happy feeling that came over our house when there was freshly baked bread to be eaten.
The memory of it stands out bright and clean against the backdrop of so much pain that had been more commonplace in my childhood. Almost golden, those bread memories rest in my mind neatly nestled alongside cooking, sewing and gardening.
My mother did those things
and almost instinctively by heart, I do too.
Lately, I’ve been given the blessing of making communion bread for my church. I am grateful to make this offering to God… being able to offer something to His table and for my church family, means something to me deep inside.
Recently, due to some healing changes and epiphanies in other areas of my life, making the communion bread has become something so amazingly different— so much more intimate.
Seeing myself, a sinner saved by grace alone through faith alone, this ministry takes on new light. Now, I am acutely aware of God’s presence and the privilege I have of setting this bread before God and my church family.
It’s caused me to pause and recognize all the intensely intimate ways our Creator reaches out to us through His word and how He’s revealed Himself through all of His creation and the seemingly “simple” elements of bread and wine.
I am now keenly aware of a deeper meaning behind what takes place as I crush those kernels of wheat and beat the ingredients together to form the dough.
I am aware of Christ’s presence as I mix and fold and knead and score it and bake it; all the while remembering from the book of Isaiah that He…HE, Jesus, was pierced for MY transgressions and crushed for MY sins. Here, my kitchen becomes a sanctuary and I click with my more liturgical roots, which quicken my memory to recall the words of the Nicene Creed.
And I found myself reflecting more deeply on how in John chapter 6 , after miraculously feeding the multitude, Jesus calls himself the Bread of Life come down from heaven and would later in a borrowed room with only hours left to live…
He would take that symbolic bread, give thanks and break it, giving it to his disciples saying “This is my body given for you. do this in remembrance of me.”
- “Do this in remembrance of all I have taught you”.
- “Do this in remembrance of the life I lived before you; live this way too.”
- “Do this in remembrance of my promises.”
He was saying…
“No matter what happens next;
don’t forget; remember.”
Remembrance; this is what it’s all about each and every time. The bread broken and given from His soon-to-be pierced hands extends itself through the centuries through remembrance reaching out through me as my hands kneaded the dough, to be given later into the waiting hands of my church family gathered around His table of remembrance.
Each one of us hearing in turn, “This is body of Christ, broken for you.” Because of His sacrifice for my sin, His great gift of grace was now mine to give in this small offering and it was a joy–a true communion– to share it with my church family.
It’s the echo of Christ’s words spoken through the ages, the resurrection ripple sent rolling through history that would change the world forever. It was the simple act of obedience to a simple command: remember. I pray that I’ll never forget.
Sweet Communion Bread
(my version of Luther Seminary’s Communion Bread Recipe)
- 2 C Whole wheat flour
- 1 C white flour
- 3 T brown sugar
- 1 1/4t baking powder
- 1 1/4t salt
Sift dry ingredients together 3 times. Set aside.
- 3/4 C – 1C very HOT water
- 3 T honey or brown sugar
- 4 t oil
- 1/4 t vanilla
Add wet mixture to dry mixture and mix well. Dough should be slightly sticky; lightly knead but not much.
- Divide dough into 4 balls and flatten/roll into a loaf/disk 1/4 in thick.
- With a knife or fork, score the top of each loaf into serving portions or with a cross pattern.
- Lay the loaves on a baking sheet and bake @ 350º for 10 mins.
- Remove from oven, brush with oil/honey mixture. Bake additional 5-8 mins. Let cool.
Yield: four 8 oz loaves each serving 60- 70 pieces depending on the size given. Loaves freeze well.