Wonder Bread and Matzah

Yesterday I was at a discussion group with my friends Mark Sanchez and Randall Worley. Randall made the point that the move in the culture toward organic food reflects a deeper shift happening in the lives of men and women.

It made me think of Wonder bread. When I was a kid we used to say “They call it ‘Wonder Bread’ because you wonder what’s in it.” Randall made the point that a lot of the things in our food contain additives and preservatives that we are discovering cause cancer, obesity, and diabetes.

For much of my life the church has been like Wonder Bread. It comes in a shiny plastic bag with bright colors all over it. On the outside it promises what the church is supposed to contain, wonder. It promises the mystery of the gospel. You open that plastic bag, with the amazing reusable twist-tie, and you anticipate the delightful smell of fresh bread.

There is no smell.

This is the first indication that you have something that isn’t fresh bread. It’s white like paint, not like flour. Every piece is exactly the same size (except for the two ends, the ones you never eat). And the flavor of this modern marvel matches the aroma. There is none. And there aren’t any nutrients either. In fact the nutritional value is so low that in the 1940’s Wonder Bread began adding artificial vitamins to the recipe. By the 1960’s this modern marvel contained 12 artificial vitamins, along with a large dose of preservatives, to give it some heft.
Even so, when you bite into Wonder Bread, it’s mushy, sticky, and doesn’t require much chewing. If you eat it you will be hungry again pretty soon. In fact, the most useful thing in the whole deal is the twist-tie. Those things can be reused.

I read a lot of magazines and articles talking about the “Dones.” These are committed Christians who are leaving the “church.” They have discovered Wonder Bread can’t sustain you. I think a lot of us are waking up to the fact we have preservatives preserving things that have extended beyond their shelf life.

Ironically, there seems to be a lot of talk about Christian unity right now. Much of it is coming from people who are embracing beliefs and morality that in the past has actually brought division to the church. This camp seems to want us all to jump inside that shiny wrapper and say, “See we are all Christians.” It sure makes me wonder.

So often we confuse unity with uniformity. Jesus and the apostles gave us the sign of unity. It was not being a group of people under an identical ideological label, or a group of people who shared the same wrapper. Our unity was around a table serving bread and wine.

People are hungry. They are hungry for unity and connectedness. But they are tired of spiritual cancer, obesity, and diabetes. And they are really tired of plastic.

Whenever I travel I meet folks who are hungry for Matzah. Matzah, the bread of affliction at the center of the Passover meal, is real bread. Matzah is baked on a hot oven floor and is made of two ingredients–water and wheat flour. Those two ingredients alone would make an inedible product, so it is pierced with hundreds of holes. The oven burns part of each piece, and that bit breaks off. Matzah is broken, bruised, and scarred. And every piece tastes different. Some are pleasant, and some taste like the box it came in. Even so, it’s real bread.

God wants us to be like that bread. Scarred, broken, bruised, and real. And he wants us to unite around that bread–that bread is the Bread of Life–Jesus the Messiah. As Paul rightly said, many of you are sick and have fallen asleep because you fail to discern the Lord’s Body. Because we have lost sight of Jesus in the Bread, we have lost sight of the Bread in each other. And this bread makes demands on us. We have to embrace the cross with this bread, and give up our immature belief that we can pick and choose what parts of the Bible to obey. Wonder bread lets you be an adolescent and still get a shiny plastic wrapper. Matzah demands you remember that we were once slaves in Egypt, but now we are free. The lifestyle of slavery is no longer allowed.

And I guess that’s it, the cross. This bread is pierced, scarred, and striped. It is Isaiah 53 in your mouth. It is the costly grace that changes your life, not the cheap grace that looks good at first.

One final point: The company that made Wonder Bread went bankrupt a few years ago. It’s still on the market, but no longer a force in the culture. I think that really tells us where things are headed.

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