My grandmother loved bread so much she thought the communion wafers they served at church must be an abomination in the sight of the Lord.
She always chuckled when she heard the joke about needing two acts of faith to take communion in the Roman Catholic Church. The first act of faith is that you must believe that the host is the actual body of Jesus. The second act of faith is that the host isn't 'fish food'.
I remember this one time when the factory was on strike. My whole family was involved in union organizing and this was the first test of the strength of the union.
The strike was going on for a long time – longer than anyone imagined it would (13 weeks I seem to recall) – or prepared for. People were hungry. Women and children were showing up at the picket lines, hoping to get a share of the food some were bringing to feed the men.
My grandmother felt called to go and provide food for those men AND their wives and children.
The women and children saw us and started to walk towards us, forming a tight, tense ring around us. I’ll never forget the looks on their faces – worried, anxious, hungry faces – some kept looking at the size of the pot and looking around to the size of the crowd.
We had brought a lot of food, but even I wondered whether or not there would be enough.
Episcopal priest, Pauli Murray, used to say that "Hope was a song in a weary throat."
I have come to know the sound I heard that day from the people as one of the sounds of hope.
There is a line in the service of ordination to the priesthood: "In all that you do, you are to nourish Christ's people from the riches of his grace, and strengthen them to glorify God in this life and in the life to come."
Whenever I hear that line, I always remember this moment in the strike like with my grandmother.
The Eucharist we celebrate here is one of hope. It’s one which keeps our eyes on Jesus. It’s one in which we are fed so that we might feed those who are hungry and in need.
We are born anxious. Ever seen a baby minutes after being born? If that isn’t the very picture of anxiety I don’t know what is. And, what stops that baby from anxiety? Being held and loved. Jesus knew that. Which is why he addressed it so many times.
I don't know how that many people were fed that day but no one left hungry. All were fed.
That is the message of our Eucharistic celebration.
We are blessed to be a blessing.
We are fed that we may feed.
And, not just food. We are fed that we might feed the minds of children and adults with intellect and curiosity and creativity.
We are fed that we might feed the hearts of others with kindness and compassion.
We are fed that we might feed the souls of others with inspiration and light and hope.
It is the bread of hope.
In it and through it, we rise!
So, like Oprah, we can leave the church after communion and say, “And YOU get bread. And YOU get bread. And YOU . . . . .”