Sunday May 3rd 2020
Pastor Galen Zook
In times of tragedy and crisis, we often find ourselves going “back to the basics.” We become concerned with (and some might even become obsessed with) ensuring that all of our basic needs will be met. We want to make sure that we have food to eat, water to drink, clothes to wear. These things that many of us so often take for granted move to the forefront of our minds when we’re concerned that we’re not going to have enough.
In the first few days after news of the coronavirus broke and it became apparent that our society was going to experience massive shutdowns, people rushed out to buy toilet paper, bread, milk, and eggs — as if we were preparing for a snowstorm. Then as it became clear that this was going to last for a while, people began to stock up on dried goods such as pasta, rice, flour, and canned goods such as pasta sauce. Even now it’s difficult to find many of these items in the store.
But in addition to these basic necessities, I found it fascinating that stores were also selling out of things like banana bread mix, and chocolate chip cookie batter — things that we might consider “comfort foods.”
It turns out that many people have been baking more during the quarantine. CBS news actually did a story on this, referring to it as #QuarantineBaking. Apparently yeast sales were up 400% in the last month, and Google searches for banana bread recipes have spiked four-fold. The CEO of the Vermont-based King Arthur company said that their sales for the month of March rivaled the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday baking season.
Part of the reason for all of this, is that only are we stuck inside the house with more time to do things like bake, but in addition, for many people, myself included, baking is a way to relieve stress, and it helps bring a sense of peace and control in unpredictable times. The smell of banana bread baking is good for the soul.
The Early Believers
In the weeks and months following Jesus’s death and resurrection, Jesus’s disciples also experienced a sort of “return to the basics.” Following Jesus’s ascension into heaven, and the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost, the book of Acts tells us that the early believers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42).
For the disciples who were grieving the loss of their friend and teacher (who they now realized was also their Lord and Savior), I imagine that coming together to break bread together, to fellowship, and to talk about Scriptures and Jesus’s teachings gave them a sense of peace, and comfort in the midst of the chaos.
Of course, at the same time, as a community they were experiencing miraculous signs and wonders, and God was moving in their midst in a mighty and powerful way. People were being healed and turning to Jesus in massive numbers. Three thousand people were added to the community of disciples on the Day of Pentecost alone! Many of the followers of Christ were selling their possessions and goods and distributing what they had to those who were in need.
And the book of Acts tells us that “day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts” (Acts 2:46).
Breaking Bread Together
For those early Christians, breaking bread together was not just about making sure that their basic needs were being met. It was also a way of remembering Jesus, who referred to himself as the “bread of life” (John 6:35, 48), and who had instructed his disciples to remember the sacrifice that he made for them and for us every time they broke bread together.
As I mentioned last week, when we participate in Holy Communion, we break bread as a reminder that Jesus’s body was broken for us, and we drink wine/grape juice as a reminder that Jesus’s blood was shed for us.
In this season when we cannot come together to partake in Communion together, we are encouraging the practice of the Love Feast, or Agape Meal, which can be done in your own home, around your dinner table, as you share food and testimonies and prayers and Scripture readings with the other members of your household, or as you connect with other believers by way of phone or the internet.
For the early believers in the book of Acts, breaking bread and sharing meals together was also a way for them to share tangibly the Good News about Jesus Christ with those around them, through word and deed. As they shared their bread with those who were hungry, I imagine that they also shared with them about Jesus Christ, their Lord and Savior, who gave his life for them.
Sharing their bread with the hungry was a practical way for the early disciples to minister to those in need. In sacrificially selling their possessions and distributing the proceeds to those who were hungry, they were following in the footsteps of Jesus, who sacrificed himself for us. When they received thanks and gratitude from those with whom they shared their food, I imagine those early disciples saying, “oh this is nothing in comparison to what Jesus did for you and for me! Let me tell you about Him!”=
And in this way, as they fellowshipped and broke bread together, as they prayed and studied the words of Jesus, as they welcomed people into their community, and as they reached out to those around them, the Church grew, and “day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47).
Back to the Basics
I believe that in a similar way, God has been calling us back to the basics during this time. In this season with the Coronavirus pandemic, we are being reminded of what truly matters. Many of us are coming to grips with our own mortality, and with the finitude of life, especially as instances of the coronavirus are starting to hit closer to home.
As a church, we’re also being reminded of what it means to be the Church. We’re being reminded that the church is not about a building, or rituals, or ceremonies, but ultimately it’s about connecting with God and with one another, and we’re learning new and different ways to do that by way of technology.
The Coronavirus pandemic is also bringing to the surface the stark realities of injustice in our world and in our society. The differences between the “haves” and the “have-nots,” the reality that so many people are living paycheck to paycheck or cannot afford even the basic necessities of life, while others have more money and resources than they know what to do with.
I believe that in this time, we as the Church are being called to stand up for those who are oppressed and marginalized. We are being called to share our bread with those around us who are in need — and in so doing, to point them to the One who gave his life for us, who sacrificed Himself to bring about our salvation. We are being called to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ through both word and deed, to minister to both the physical and the spiritual needs of those around us.
Some of us do that through serving at the Food Pantry housed here at our church — and I’m so grateful for those in our church and community who have continued serving or who have stepped in to serve during this season. Others of us might have places of influence within our companies or organizations, and we can encourage our employers to adopt policies that ensure the safety and well-being of those under their leadership.
Others of us might choose to utilize social media to spread positive messages, in the midst of so much fear and anxiety, and to spread truth in a time of so much misinformation. All of us can minister to our friends and loved ones by calling them on the phone to check in with them, and offering a word of encouragement and support.
And we can all invite our friends and family to “attend church” with us, through tuning into livestreaming worship services each Sunday morning. It’s never been easier to invite people to attend church with us than now, since people can join in from the comfort of their own homes. And since most other events are cancelled for the time being, there are a lot fewer things competing for their time and attention!
There are many other ways that we can share our “bread” with those around us during this season, and in so doing to point them to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
My prayer is that we, like the early followers of Jesus, would be ready and willing to share the physical and spiritual resources that we have with those around us, and that we too would be known for our “glad and generous hearts” (Acts 2:26), and that we too would continually give God praise, as we spend time in the Word and in prayer and in ministering to those around us. May God add to our number daily as we share the Good News of Jesus Christ through Word and deed!