Editor’s note: “Give us this day our daily bread,” Jesus teaches us to pray (Matthew 6:11). This rich metaphor of “daily bread” can be lost on us as we are now more likely to buy bread from the store. Beckah Selnick explores its deeper meaning.
Katy is an Anglican priest in the Church of England whom I met while serving through the ELCA’s Young Adults in Global Mission program. Katy taught me many things. She is an example in grace, servanthood, wisdom and unconditional love. Katy also makes bread every day. She once told me that making daily bread is good for working out the frustrations of life, but really, she does it as an act of prayer.
Recently, I joined her in this communion, in the spiritual practice of making bread.
Baking bread begins with some version of five simple ingredients: grain, yeast, water, salt and honey. I find so much meaning in the ingredients:
Grain—a long-held symbol of bounty.
Yeast—a living thing.
Water—a symbol of renewal and of our baptism.
Salt—a return to the earth, a remembrance of tears.
The spiritual practice of baking bread makes me think a lot about what Jesus means when he instructs us to pray for “daily bread.” In his Small Catechism, Martin Luther said daily bread is “everything included in the necessities and nourishment for our bodies.” Making daily bread is a spiritual practice in connection, peace, patience, creation and nourishment.
I’ve come to find that stillness is just as good for the spirit as it is for the bread.
Bread is, at once, ancient and fresh. The bread Katy and I make and that to which Luther refers share the same history. Bread, even in its many iterations, is as central to humans today as it was in the first formation of societies. Grains were first domesticated in Western Asia and bread was first sold commercially in Egypt thousands of years before Christ. Stories of bread live on through the Old and New Testaments. Katy makes bread today in the United Kingdom just as I do in my kitchen in Chicago. The need for daily bread connects us with each other and the ancestors who went before us.
Bread is, at once, complex and simple. Gluten molecules form in bread through mixing the ingredients and kneading the dough. This manipulation of dough—the time when the frustrations of life may also be worked out—arranges molecules into a straight line. Air is introduced to the process through nothing more than waiting and resting. I’ve come to find that stillness is just as good for the spirit as it is for the bread. Through simple yet complex acts of molding, working and waiting, I practice trust and patience.
Bread is, at once, art and necessity. The variations of bread recipes and techniques are seemingly endless, but the basic process remains the same. While Katy and I are home bakers, some people have found careers or even fame in baking. Some of our neighbors depend on only bread or grains daily. No matter the color, flavor, temperature or display, bread’s purpose remains the same: to feed.
Daily bread is so much more than food: As Luther taught, it is necessity, nourishment, clothing, shelter, peace, health and honor.
Whenever I wash my flour-covered hands after making bread, I feel a connection to Katy who bakes an ocean away. I patiently wait for my bread to rise in the oven and find peace in the stillness that waiting brings. Then, with a steaming loaf of bread in front of me, I give thanks and pray for the nourishment of all creation.
Daily bread is so much more than food: As Luther taught, it is necessity, nourishment, clothing, shelter, peace, health and honor. Daily bread is good friends and faithful neighbors. Daily bread is community and communion.
Bread is love. Bread is life.