Subject: Bread of Life
   Date: Wed, 14 Jul 1999 22:38:13 EDT


 To shares some more of my own journey..and yet, God in the pain.....hope healing is yours,  peace,
From: Pat in Picture Rock, Pa.

"All Of My Heart"  by Elton Smith and Larry Holder

MIDI Copyright (P) 1997 Elton Smith

Bread of Life
Following college, I spent some time on a kibbutz, a farm community, in Israel. The first thing I noticed was that bread was served at each
meal and each family gathering.  There was always bread, plain bread for regular occasions, special bread for special occasions.  Bread was
used to celebrate births, mourn deaths, to ring in the new, and remember the old.  Bread, a staple of the culture,  always there, something you
could depend on, a part of everything that happened.

Jesus said, "I am the bread of life."  the stuff of it, the very shape and substance of it.

One of my earliest memories is of bread.  When I was 4 years old, we lived in an apartment above a Syrian couple.  Early each morning,
the woman would make the bread of their country.  When it first came out of the oven, the sweet smell of fresh baked bread rose up the
stairs to our apartment, stirring up a hunger deep within me, and luring me down the stairs,  only to be met by a smiling face and arms
outstretched, offering bread. How I remember the smell of that bread!  I can still smell it as though that bread had just been baked.  I can
remember breathing it in till it filled me up all the way.  And then  eating the bread until I could eat no more.   In the giving and receiving of
 that bread, something basic, yet  so precious,  was Jesus  celebrating life, sharing love;  and I was filled.

Jesus said, "I am the bread of life."

When I was 13, I was baptized.  Before the service of baptism, we shared a sacrificial meal of bread and juice, a special bread. I can still
see the twists and turns of that knotted bread. I can still  feel the glaze of its shiny surface.  I can still taste the warm sweetness ,  made all
the more sweet by the sacrifice that had been made and by the joyful spirit of celebration present, celebration of a child turning adult,
 deciding to live a certain way, becoming a part of the family of faith.    In  the sharing  of that bread, blessed and broken was Jesus.
celebrating life,  sharing love;  and I was filled.

Jesus said, "I am the bread of life."

Following college, I spent some time in Israel working and studying on a kibbutz, as I mentioned.  At the end of my time, and my money,
I decided to work on an archaeological dig where I could earn some money before heading home.  So, I packed up everything I had and headed
for the dig. When I got there, I found much to my dismay that it was full.  They didn't need any more workers, and didn't have any more places
for people to stay.  I couldn't even spend the night.  I had no place to go and no one to call.

     Seeing my distress, the leader of the dig bought me a bus ticket and told me of another dig where they needed people.  I got on the bus, not
quite knowing where I was going,  how long it would take, or what I would do when I got there.  It was already late in the day, and I got the
last bus out before the Sabbath descended, and the buses stopped.  I rode the day out, arriving as the Sabbath was beginning.  I still needed
to get to the actual dig though, which meant traveling the perimeter of a long valley.   But with no more buses going out, I had no way to do
that...except walk.

I was tired,  and dusty, and hungry.  In this way out bus station, in the northern extremity of Israel there was not a McDonald's in sight,  no
food vendors,  nothing.  So I sat down.

     As I sat, not quite sure what I was going to do, an old man came out from an alley behind the bus station, the smell of fresh bread preceding
him. "Here," he said, "bread for the journey."  "But I have no money", I said.  "Can't take it anyway," he said.  "It's the sabbath.  Here, it's a gift,"
he said, handing me the bread.  "lechem le chaim" (he said in Hebrew, hitting his chest with his fist):  "Bread for Life".

  Then,  he gave me a  whole stack of fresh baked bread, so fresh it was still hot to the touch.  That bread reminded me of my beginnings, filled my
deepest hunger, and strengthened me for the journey.  Oh, I ate that bread, and it bound us  together, filling my body and soul. and Jesus was there.

Jesus said, "I am the bread of life."  Bread for the journey,  celebrating life began, sharing love along the way, binding us together;  bread for life.

Later on, I returned to the states, began seminary, and along the way married.  That marriage turned bitter and violence erupted in its midst.  One
cold and lonely night when darkness had snuffed out the light of life, and hope seemed nowhere to be found, and hunger--deep hunger--was all
around,  I ran outside, wanting to run away from it all.

  I sat down, sitting outside the station of life,  no new beginnings to celebrate, no life along the way, no joy, no sweetness, no bread coming to
fill me,  no jesus.   Nothing. nothing at all.

Under that dark night sky, I felt engulfed by a deep longing for life, and a hunger that would not go away.

    In the midst of that darkness, tears streaming down my cheeks, a light shone, and a voice spoke:

I am the bread of life. I was there when you were born. I was there in the celebrating and sharing of fresh baked bread when you were 4,
and in the breaking of bread when you were baptized. I was there in the stack of bread given when you were hungry, and I am here now
--when you have no bread.  I am the bread of life.  Feed on me, and you will not die but live eternally.

And as I sat, I was filled not with the sweet smell of fresh baked bread, but with the sensation of life bursting forth, like the shoot coming from
the stump of Jesse, and the rainbow emerging after the flood, like life after death.

We all have joys to celebrate, decisions to mark,   lives to live.....but when your sweet bread has run out,  and your joys have disintegrated,
when cancer or divorce or loss has engulfed your life, know that it is Jesus who is still there and who comes saying:

I was there when you were born. I was there in your joy, and even in your grief. and I am here NOW.

I am the bread of life,  food for the journey,  faith to move on; and I am enough to fill you,  to fill your emptiness ease your hunger, heal your
hurts and carry you through forever.

Take.  Eat.  Bread for the journey.  And when this is gone, feed on Jesus.  Feed on Jesus the Bread of Life, who will fill you forever.


Rev. Pat Hernandez

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