Sunday message: Not by bread alone

Lent 1 – March 1, 2020

Scriptures:
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11

We often talk of a quick trip to go and buy bread and milk. There are so many shapes and sizes and sorts of bread in the world. The smell of freshly baked bread can also be very inviting. Earning dough, or earning your bread could be a saying for making a living. Bread is truly one of the most basic necessities in life. One often hears the saying, “The best thing since sliced bread.” I read up on theatlantic.com that this common phrase, “the best thing since sliced bread,” has a clear origin. I quote, “The common phrase ‘the best thing since sliced bread’ as a way of hyping a new product or invention may have come into use based on an advertising slogan for Wonder Bread, the first commercial manufacturer of pre-wrapped, pre-sliced bread. With such products rapidly penetrating the American home, automated bread-making was not only an invention benchmark but also a key indicator of the mechanization of daily life from the 1930s onward.” [i]

One thing is certain, bread never seems to go out of fashion. We know there is a significant number of people who suffer from gluten-intolerance, which in its extreme form is known as celiac disease. For these folk, gluten-free bread has also become available – marvellous!

The love for bread even goes a step further when bread dough gets used to make pizzas and when we often love turning to pizza if we don’t have time to cook.

Now, when according to Matthew 4:4 Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8 in response to the devil tempting Him by saying, “…command these stones to become loaves of bread”, there is rich meaning to this temptation. We know that Jesus had been fasting for forty days in the desert and afterwards He was famished.

This indicates how radical the relief would be for Jesus to turn stones into bread.

This is when Jesus continues referring to Deuteronomy 8 by saying, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Yes, bread can be our sustenance, but it is very temporary. Jesus can be nourished right away, by changing some of the rocks around Him into bread. Will it hurt anyone if Jesus does that, changing a rock into a pumpernickel or a flat stone into a tortilla? If Jesus is God’s child, why shouldn’t He have what He wants? [ii]

The Tempter tells Jesus that He can have it the easy way. More often than not, we as humans all succumb to the easy way. We take the road of least resistance. It is part of who we are, to flow downstream, rather than swim upstream. How often don’t we pass on what’s eternally best for what will satisfy us for the moment? Jesus gets what the temptation is to take the easy way; “One cannot live by bread alone. Obedience to God is more important than my own comfort.”

There is more to life than just filling our tummies. There is our soul, the spiritual dimension of who we are. The hunger of our inner eternal being needs to be satisfied too. This seems to be part of Jesus’ need after spending forty days in the desert, fasting.

I find it rather startling to observe that for many of us “every word that comes from the mouth of God” could be neglected. When we have everything we need, and when we focus on our physical needs alone, it can easily happen that our souls remain under-nourished.

Yes, I can go for counselling, I can do yoga, spend time in nature, or be with my loved ones and that might be fulfilling. However, it does seem that there is a deeper need that I am not taking care of.

How easily don’t I rather spend lots of time checking what is up on Facebook or Instagram, or even my regular email, but when it gets to spiritual food, every word that comes from the mouth of God, I put this on the back-burner?

An observation that I tend to forget, is one that occurred when I came to Canada. Here in Canada, we have so many material needs fulfilled that there seems to be a condition that could be described as affluence of the north. What I found scary, was that this is indeed so much part of Christianity in the North, but for the South, there is a deep hunger for the things spiritual.

The material needs are often not taken care of as well as the spiritual needs, but folks in those regions crave for “every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

How come we are so okay with allowing our souls to starve?

Would it perhaps be a wise thing to tend to that which is not only bread but the words that come from the mouth of God?

The same applies to the other two temptations that we won’t be pausing at today. I wish there was enough time for them all. Jesus chooses the opposite of what we would think is common logic. Isn’t this passage about Jesus experiencing every single bit of the tests we undergo?

Getting back to the stones not being changed into bread, and rather living from every word that comes from the mouth of God, there could be great ways in which God provides for us. God provides these words in written form, something for us to read.

We’ve received brains with which a person can study God’s written word. There might also be no harm in meditating about God’s written word. Wow, even though the written word of God comes in such a variety of versions for the English language, it could do us a lot of good by memorizing parts of the written word of God. If Jesus is the Son of God, more in need of the words that come from the mouth of God, would we, who are mere humans not also be in need of satisfying our need to hear what God has to say to us?

These are means by which God could speak to us and communicate the love that God has for us. It becomes possible to understand that God isn’t even nearly as demanding as the world can be. God loves us and extends forgiveness and grace that we don’t even need to earn.

Would the bottom-line of Jesus’ temptations in the desert be summed up in these following words? Jesus did it all on our behalf. He resisted the ultimate temptations. There is no way for us to resist them 100 percent of the way and we can look up to Jesus who fulfilled it all for us, once and for all.

When we celebrate communion today, this is a powerful sacrament that has bread as part of it. The bread reminds us of Jesus’ body that was broken for us. This same bread reminds us that there is so much more, not just the edible bread, but also the living relationship that is offered freely to us to be in communion with one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen


[i] Art Molella, How the Phrase ‘The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread’ Originated, at https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/02/how-the-phrase-the-best-thing-since-sliced-bread-originated/252674/

[ii] Brett Younger, Disabling Temptations, Feb 2, 2020, on ministrymatters.com

 

Copyright 2020 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church

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