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Lenten Devotions: Pass It On

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions. This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.

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Sourdough starterMarch 7, 2014

“In the Word the walls will crumble down/
And all are welcome to enter in/
In the blood of Christ the great sacrifice
/The withered branches bloom again
/The withered branches bloom again/Pass it on/
Break the bread/Lift the cup/
Pass it on
/The broken will be lifted up” —Lyrics from the song "Pass it On" by Peter Mayer and Patricia O’Reilly

Thursday is my day off, and so it is the day that I like to bake bread. For the past year or so, I’ve been working with sourdough. Many people recall their mother or grandmother having some “friendship bread” or “starter” or “mother” inhabiting the kitchen counter or taking over the refrigerator. Whereas Garrison Keillor says, “guilt is the gift that keeps on giving,” it might actually be sourdough starter that gives and gives and gives. When people start running from you when they see you approaching them with a closed Tupperware container of this mysterious liquid,  which resembles some kind of primordial ooze, you know your friends have had enough of starter.

Father Dominic Garramone, in his great little book Bake and Be Blessed: Bread Baking as a Metaphor for Spiritual Growth writes, “Yeast symbolizes the enlivening principle in our lives, the core values and passions that make our lives worth living. For some people, work is at the center of their identity, so much so that when they retire or are no longer able to work, they lose their sense of self-worth. For others, life is centered on sports or entertainment, or on the acquisition of wealth. Other more positive values, like family, creativity, and service, can be the passions that give our lives meaning. For Christians, however, the yeast in our lives should be the good news of the kingdom.”

Today, the church commemorates Perpetua and Felicity, who were martyred on this day in 203AD. Obviously these two women (along with many other saints throughout the years) had some enlivening principle in their lives that gave them courage, hope, and stamina. Peter sings about this “something” as he invites and encourages us to “Pass it on/
Break the bread/Lift the cup/
Pass it on/The broken will be lifted up.”

In my humble opinion, there is nothing more elegant and grand than sharing good, warm, fresh baked bread with others. The aroma that fills the house is welcoming and pleasant to behold. The simple, basic ingredients of wheat, water, yeast, salt, and sugar—when mixed together, kneaded, and then baked in the heat of the oven—produce a product that is pleasing to the eye and delights the mouth and stomach.

I think of how Jesus, the Bread of Life, utilized the disciples as a pre-ferment, as a starter, as mother dough for the rest of us. Those of you who bake and work with sourdough know the ingredients are simple: flour and water. Flour and water combined with wild yeast spores, and all of the sudden there is something happening. And yes, even if you can’t see it, you can smell it. Jesus took these 12 average, regular people and worked with them for three years. He set them aside. One day in Bible class, someone said that he must have seen something in them that they didn’t even know they themselves had. I think that’s true. And just like sourdough starter, to be kept together in a jar doesn’t do any good. What needs to happen is to get mixed up with the rest of the recipe. This flavor, this energy of the sourdough is just like that of the disciples, of you and me. We are called to get mixed up in God’s loving recipe for the world. And when that happens we, along with the others, get transformed and made new.

Photo: Pastor Glusenkamp's sourdough starter. (Ron Glusenkamp)

 

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