He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread. Tearing apart of a loaf, as the crust breaks, crumbs fall and the heart is exposed. Bread tears along the strands which cling together like sinews then suddenly part opening up the heart of the loaf. Whole, it is of little use, but broken it becomes the bread of life. We do this every Sunday, reminding ourselves of our brokenness and our inability to heal without first being broken, recognising the place of the fracture. That’s what we call it when the bread is broken in the Eucharist. The Fracture. It’s a clean break, with, if the wafers are dry, a dull crack, as the large host wafer is broken in two after the prayer of consecration. It’s the most significant part of the whole thing, yet most people miss it because they are reading the liturgy, head down following the Lord’s Prayer waiting for the familiar words to read in response. Without the breaking of the bread, there is no sharing. In ironic fashion we all get a small individual whole wafer whilst some, a few, (The chosen? Or is it random?) will get a piece of the broken large wafer – always I think, this is not fair. Last Sunday in a brief interlude to the roof laying holiday, I was speaking on behalf of A Rocha about Eco-Church in Rhyl. Sussex Street Baptist church, a little haven amidst the, still, busy shopping streets. Behind a facade of scaffolding a warm community welcomes friends and strangers into the gathering. The form of service was unfamiliar to me, but with familiar elements. Hymns, prayers, electronics that didn’t quite work as they should, a rather longer talk than usual (for me that is, and even more unusual – by me) and communion which was shared at the beginning of the service, not the end. Not wrong, just different. A loaf of bread cut into two passed around. An extravagance in that gathering. Each person taking a turn to tear a small piece from the whole. Grape juice in small cups shared out then taken together. Prayer and worship leads out of the sharing of bread and wine in thanksgiving for all that was offered. Or prayer and worship leads up to the sharing of bread and wine offering us strength to go out. Whichever way, ‘he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.’ I’m drawn to the word breaking in that sentence, active, happening as the bread was torn in two they recognised who it was broken before them, yet strangely whole. This is my body broken for you, broken that we might be whole. As the bread breaks it becomes in that moment a place where healing can occur. The bread cannot be un-broken, but it can now be shared whether with butter and jam or plain from a just baked loaf. In a glorious (Malcolm) Guite-ian ‘juxtaposition’, breaking bread is wholeness preluded. Here opens possibilities that once lay only as potential. Here offered is the invitation to begin a sharing out of the goodness that is within. Here in a simple action of breaking apart, realisation dawns as a setting sun for the nighttime. The up side down, one world past, another now beginning of post Easter reflections. In the usual lectionary style our passage of Acts ends a verse early for in verse 42 we hear those who heard the message devoted themselves to, amongst other things, the breaking of bread. Easter, a timeless moment on our journey, just come, yet long remembered.
A fractured loaf
the crust breaks
crumbs fall and
the heart is exposed.
In the tearing apart
strands cling together
like sinews then suddenly
opening up the heart of the loaf.
Whole, it is of little use. Broken
it becomes the bread of life.
Breaking bread is wholeness preluded.