This is one of my favorite days in the church year. It reminds us of the reality we ought to recognize every living moment – that we are intimately connected, even when we feel most alienated from each other. In the breaking of the bread, we are not only reminded of all the Christians around the world who share the holy meal, but we are invited to embrace the reality that God didn’t create Christians. God created people – to live with each other in a way that reflects the abundantly gracious fruitfulness of that first garden. These readings from a liturgy created by the Global Ministries division of the UCC/DOC call us to remember the gifts found in the breaking of the bread.
Breaking bread with untouchables
As they sat together and ate, the stranger picked up the bread and broke it. It was then that they recognized the risen Christ in their midst. We have had many experiences of recognizing God as alive and working in India. At St. Luke’s Leprosarium in South India we watched Dr. Jeyabalan exercise ministries of touch for people with leprosy. The staff shared their dream of expanding the hospital to care for people with AIDS, since many factors of their social exclusion are similar to those with leprosy. Then it was mealtime. As we sat on the ground among the patients, banana leaves filled with rice set before us, we experienced that moment of recognition. The risen Christ is at work among those who are most excluded in the world. God is inviting us to the table, to join that work.
–Rev. Mary Schaller Blaufuss, Global Ministries’ missionary serving in Bangalore, India.
Breaking bread with the hungry
For hunger is a curious thing: at first it is with you all the time, walking and sleeping and in your dreams, and your belly cries out insistently, and there is a gnawing and a pain as if your very vitals were being devoured, and you must stop it at any cost and you buy a moment’s respite even when you know and fear the sequel. Then the pain is no longer sharp but dull, and this too is with you always, so that you think of food many times a day and each time a terrible sickness assails you, and because you know this you try to avoid the thought, but you cannot for it is with you. Then that too is gone, all pain, all desire, only a great emptiness is left, like the sky, like a well in drought and it is now that the strength drains from your limbs and you try to rise and find you cannot, or to swallow water your throat is powerless, and both the swallow and the effort of retaining the liquid tax you to the uttermost. (Kamala Markandaya)
Breaking bread with travelers
The fallen immigrants are people without faces
Their names blown away in the wind and their bodies swallowed by the desert.
The sinister outcome of their death does not frighten statistics
Nor does it surprise humanity
Nor is there a single tear shed by the cold eyes of the world.
No one is moved by this heroism of men and women, of children, of elderly
Whose only sin was to dream of crossing a border, a desert, a river, a sea
In search of a promised land
And not find it but in the world beyond.
(unknown immigrant as written in a guest book at the migrant mission in Sonora, Mexico)
Breaking bread with neighbors
Father Nabil Haddad is Arab by birth; Christian by faith; Greek Catholic (Melkite) by religious tradition; and Jordanian by nationality. He moves about the city of Amman, and all of Jordan, for that matter, in what he describes as his “Eastern” or “Byzantine” clerical robe, a crucifix on a long chain hanging around his neck and visibly present on his chest. Oftentimes he forgets his hat.
“In Jordan, we don’t have a ‘Christian quarter,’ such as in Jerusalem”, he says. “I can go anywhere I please.” And go he does.
Whether he is attending Jordan’s Independence Day celebrations at the Prime Ministry or hosting and escorting the pope during his visit to Jordan, Father Nabil is always visible and out and about in this city of approximately 2 million-plus people.
Father Nabil says the cross he wears does not form some kind of wall between him and his Muslim neighbors. “Long before we build walls and barriers on the ground, we build them in our hearts,” he says. He goes on to say that Christianity teaches him to love his neighbor. “The Bible doesn’t tell me to love my ‘Christian’ neighbor. It says, ‘Love thy neighbor,’ no matter who they are.”