I have a whimsical cookbook that reads like an archaic alchemy text. Just deciphering the ingredients list can be an endeavor. Fortunately, I keep a lot of apparently exotic ingredients in my pantry, such as the high purity unrefined oils of the Oleacae species called for in one recipe. (Turns out, it’s just extra virgin olive oil.)
By referring to some common items with extravagant names, this cookbook makes the mundane seem more mysterious. In the end, most of the recipes are rather simple, but artful presentation can make the end product appear extraordinary. And no one partaking in the finished dish would marvel at how the cook obtained the green powder of Wah Sabi Isle.
As we celebrate our Bread Ceremony (some would accurately name it Bread Communion), we only see—and taste—the end result of the breads provided by members of our community. We might be able to identify some ingredients, but there are other components that we cannot know. Not unless the baker reveals them.
Each bread provided has a story. There are connections and memories and meanings that make that particular bread special to an individual. Ingredients that we cannot taste or discern just by taking a bite.
One of the benefits of being in community is that we create space for one another to share these deeply meaningful stories, and in bearing witness to one another’s stories, we partake in them vicariously. In a way, we are nourished by the sharing and hearing of one another’s connections and memories. We might consider that a spiritual or emotional nourishment that parallels the physical nourishment of the bread itself.
Although Sunday’s ceremony will hopefully be richly meaningful, I’m sure for some the most meaningful part of the morning will come afterward, when we have an opportunity to share stories in the Fellowship Hall about the significance of the bread we’ve brought. Revealing the invisible and intangible ingredients that connect us to the more obvious flavors and textures. And in so doing, turning something that would otherwise be hidden and mysterious to much of the community into a vessel of connection.
There are times when it can be fun and delightful to engage in a bit of whimsical obfuscation. But it is in our vulnerable and authentic sharing that we become more deeply interwoven into one another’s lives. May we bask in the gift of generous sharing this Sunday.