‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.’ Acts 2:42
Breaking bread can conjure up so many images. There are few things to match the wonder of the sight, smell and taste of a freshly baked loaf. Still warm from the oven, spread with farmhouse butter. Wonderful. As told in the story of the men on the road to Emmaus; it is in this breaking of bread that Jesus is revealed to us.
It is not clear at all if the passage from Acts, describing the activity of the early church, is referencing Holy Communion when it mentions breaking bread. But what is clear is that it was an important part of their life together, which is clearly worth mentioning. In breaking bread together, the early church were not only sharing their food and resources but sharing their delight. Preparing food for one another and eating together is an important part of building up a church fellowship; but is there something more in the breaking? A sense in which something that belongs to one is broken for many. For breaking bread means its destruction. A loaf once pulled apart is no longer a loaf. Is it the breaking, as much as the bread itself, that is significant? And this breaking is not done alone, leaving an individual vulnerable. Together they broke bread. Each offering what they had, allowing what they had to be broken and shared, never to be regained; but the richness of fellowship, the hope that is at the heart of a developing community compensates for any perceived loss. Many things need to be broken to get the best from them; an egg, a seal on an important letter, a banana skin, a fire alarm, a loaf of bread.
In breaking bread together, we risk the giving over of ourselves for the good of all. We all know the difference between a room full of individuals eating their own packed lunches and a shared meal where food is brought, laid out and shared by all. The sandwich boxes are ‘broken’ open and everyone is enriched by each other’s delights. It is in this sharing, that comes from the breaking that builds us up in love and fellowship.
Ultimately the celebration of the sharing of oneself is exampled to us in Holy Communion. When the bread is broken as sign of Jesus’ self-giving. And in so doing his riches are shared out among us all. The depth and wonder of the love of God is shown to us in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. This symbolic ‘breaking’ is echoed in our breaking of bread around the Lord’s Table and it as beautiful to us as that broken loaf of freshly beaked bread. For in the breaking of the bread we are enriched, inspired and invited to shred in the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord. And we are enriched not individually but as aa community – for Jesus will be known to us in the breaking of our bread for one another.
The Lord bless you and keep you,