A Sermon Shared with the People of St. Matthew’s, St. Paul, November 28, 2013
Phillip Boelter

What are your favorite thanksgiving foods?

(Listen for responses.)

Today many of us will gather

with friends, loved ones,

to celebrate the bounty of the earth

at tables groaning with meats,





In the midst of our feasting

we hear these words of Jesus:


Do not work for the food that perishes,

but for the food that endures for eternal life,

which the Son of Man will give you.


I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will not be hungry.


Jesus wants to give  himself to us

the Bread of Life.


God is the One who gives us Spiritual food

Jesus is the Bread of life itself.


He beckons us into the kitchen with him,

looking more than a little like Rosa and Karen

and other members

of the Brother Lawrence Guild

here at St Matthew's.


I love this image

because bread-making is a lot

like the Way of Jesus in our daily lives.


It's  a little bit Mysterious.


Exactly how does that little package of dry yeast

added to the floury dough

make a lifeless lump of flour and water come alive?


I don't know how.

Maybe you science majors could tell us


It's a hidden process- with wonderful results

as the dough grows and grows and grows.


There's no easy and exact formula for true spirituality



The Way of Jesus is more like

an informal recipe

shared in the kitchen.


Faith will look, act and feel

different in each of our lives,

as God reveals Godself

through our differing personalities and gifts.


And, as Martha Stewart says,

that's a good thing.


God takes a pinch of hospitality

and a dash of contemplation

and adds a cup full of working justice

and throws in a handful of sharing in the community,


God provides us a place to work together,

And the raw materials,


and mysteriously,

the result is more than the sum of its parts.


It also takes time.


The Spiritual life,

like breadmaking itself,

is not for the impatient.


Eric and Matthew's  great grandmother

on their mom's side-

Edna Litchfield

had a recipe for homemade bread

that took six hours to complete.


Her neatly type written recipe card

called for letting the dough rise

and kneading it

again and again and again.


True spirituality isn't to be had in a day or a week, or a month.


Following the Way of Jesus

is a process,


with God as the yeast,

enabling us to grow.


This growth also demands  repeated and constant attention from us.


But again, like Bread making,

the results are oh so worth it.


To break open a crusty warm loaf

of bread and eat it-

is one of the best feelings in life.


Bread is Life giving.


But what does it mean to work for the food that endures

in a community of abundance

while so many among us still go hungry?


It's not just about spiritual hunger.

It's also about three square meals a day.


The incidence of food uncertainty,

not knowing where your next meal will come from,

has doubled in Minnesota over the past five years.


One in 10 Minnesotans misses 10 meals per month,

forced to make choices between food and other necessities

such as housing, utilities and health care.


Children account for 40 percent of Minnesota's hungry.


Being the bread of life

not only involves eating it ourselves

but also sharing our resources

concretely with those who have less than we do,

while also receiving what only they can give us.


Others among us may have all the physical food we need.


Our hunger is a different kind.


Instead of food uncertainty

some of us might be suffering from relationship uncertainty.


Our need is for a community of support

and love and service

where we we can get our emotional needs met,

and help others also.


In our time

broken  homes,

damaged lives,

starving for human interaction

are the new famine among us.


Whether or not our own families and friends are close by,

especially on this family holiday,

we all know someone who needs us.


This is where we can become part of something much larger than ourselves\

And our own families.


Jesus recognizes

that empty stomachs

AND empty hearts are both bad things.


He calls us to the kitchen

not just to eat the bread of life,

but to BE and BECOME

that bread of life for others.


But how do we get there?

How do we share in this bread of life?


Jesus says

the work,

the pathway to receiving and becoming living Bread

is to believe.


God has already reached out in relationship to us,

and continues each day to do so,

as we pray,

give us this day our daily bread.


The Greek root word used in the Gospels and elsewhere in the Christian Scriptures

 is Pisteuin

most often translated "to believe"

but it's not simply intellectual acceptance

of some mental precept.


It's a living confidence,

a trust IN and relationship WITH the divine Baker.


I hate to be the one to have to say this

but Jesus  didn't invent the word faith

and neither did the Apostle Paul or Martin Luther.


For centuries before Christ was born

this Christian buzz- word


was an ancient Roman virtue,

inscribed on the arches of ancient temples

and in the very social structures of Roman society.


It signified Faithfulness,

one of the four cardinal virtues.


It was pledged at the warm family hearth,

among parents and children,

between life partners,

and in the stony public square.


Put simply,

it was the willingness to continue in relationship,

to eat together,

and to work with each other,

no matter what.


The work of God,

to believe,

begins with  each of us saying

to God AND to each other,

I believe in you.

I trust in you.


Jesus says today-

This is the true bread that keeps us going.


It's ingrained in our deep structures


in the best times of our lives

this trust flows

as naturally

as the process of yeast growing

in a lump of dough,


as quickly

as a fresh hot loaf of bread disappears

from the table

when its surrounded by hungry children.


In a few moments we will take the bread of life

and the cup of salvation

into our own two hands.


As we celebrate

this Thanksgiving Day

let us pause in the midst of our cooking,

our feasting,

our serving,


as we approach this holy altar

in this place made holy

by our presence AND God's


to say again to God

and to renew our pledge to each other,

I believe in you.

I trust in you.


Listen to this well loved poem

from Alla Renee Bozarth.


It's called Bakerwoman God


Bakerwoman God,

I am your living bread.

Strong, brown Bakerwoman God,

I am your low, soft, and being-shaped loaf.


I am your rising bread,

well-kneaded by some divine

and knotty pair of knuckles,

by your warm earth hands.

I am bread well-kneaded.


Put me in fire,

Bakerwoman God,

put me in your own bright fire.


I am warm,

warm as you from fire.

I am white and gold,

soft and hard,

brown and round.

I am so warm from fire.


Break me,

Bakerwoman God.

I am broken under your caring Word.


Drop me in your special juice in pieces.

Drop me in your blood.

Drunken me in the great red flood.

Self-giving chalice swallow me.

My skin shines in the divine wine.

My face is cup-covered and I drown.


I fall up

in a red pool

in a gold world

where your warm

sunskin hand

is there to catch

and hold me.


Bakerwoman God,

remake me.




Womanpriest: A Personal Odyssey, Paulist Press 1978, Luramedia/Wisdom House 1988.

Moving to the Edge of the World, iUniverse 2000.

This is My Body~ Praying for Earth, Prayers from the Heart, iUniverse 2004.