I grew up on Wonder Bread . . . it was what I thought bread was supposed to be. Wonder Bread was originally produced by the Taggart Baking Company of Indianapolis. It made its debut on May 21st, 1921, after having run advertisements for a while that only stated that a “wonder” was coming on that day. From that day on, Wonder Bread grew in popularity before becoming a national brand in 1925. It was the perfect advertising campaign in that it caught the attention of the people and drew them in to purchase the product.
As I stated, I grew up on Wonder Bread . . .
Wonder Bread fascinated me as a child . . . fascinated me because it was more than mere food, it was a toy too! As you remember, Wonder Bread had that spongy, soft, malleable quality to it. It always kept its shape. You could place a watermelon on top of a loaf of Wonder Bread and it would spring right back to its original shape. You could rip a piece of the bread off, shape it into a square, roll it into balls . . . you could dunk it in milk and it would never get soaked. You could leave it in the bread box for months on end, and it would still retain its shape and freshness. It always made you sit there and wonder, “Is this stuff really bread?”
It was not until my young adult years that I was exposed to other breads. It happened when I got married . . . the wife would tell me that Wonder Bread was not good for me. That there was a reason for its wonderful resilience . . . chemicals, lots of chemicals. Real bread, she told me, didn’t do that stuff . . . real bread got stale . . . real bread couldn’t be made into shapes . . . real bread did last longer than Methuselah. And, besides, it had all of those chemicals that were not good for the human body. Eventually, Wonder Bread disappeared from our pantry . . . and, from my life.
Wonder Bread was a sort of “modern day miracle”. This morning, the topic of bread . . . a sort of “wonder bread” . . . is again the topic. If you read this passage from the start of chapter six, you would have seen that Jesus was pretty busy doing some amazing things. Chapter six begins with him feeding the five thousand . . . feeds them with five loaves of bread and two fish . . . and, then has twelve baskets of leftovers once everyone is fed. Then later that night, he takes a stroll on the lake . . . literally! As the disciples are heading over to the other side of the lake, Jesus comes walking across the water to join them. Two pretty big miracles set the stage for our reading this morning.
The reading begins the next morning with a question and answer period with the disciples. They are curious about Jesus. In particular, they are curious about how he is marked by God to be the “One”. They want to know if he is the “One” they have been waiting for according to the scriptures; and, if he is . . . what are they supposed to do. And, Jesus answers them by talking about bread.
In the story of the great exodus from Egypt and captivity, the sign from God was manna . . . bread from heaven. Remembering the feeding of the five thousand, was that the bread that they were looking for from God as a sign? The point of any miracle is not the actual miracle . . . not what happens, but to whom does the miracle point to. All miracles point to something beyond themselves . . . typically to God. Miracles reveal the spiritual . . . miracles reveal God. And, that is what Jesus tells them.
Jesus tells them that he is the “bread of life”. This is not a physical bread that is to sustain them, but a spiritual bread . . . it is a “wonder bread”. The bread that Jesus offers them never spoils . . . it always retains it shape and always bounces back . . . it never changes . . . it is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. It is bread that will always fill the soul. It is the means of connecting with God. Jesus declares to them: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” Jesus is the original Wonder Bread.
Bread is a central symbol of our faith as followers of Jesus . . . a central symbol of our faith as members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). It sits upon the table in the center of the sanctuary’s altar . . . a place where we gather together to remember . . . to remember the meaning of the bread as the means of relationship with God that comes through Jesus and his example. Not only does it make us remember, it makes us think . . . we think about what that bread means to us as individuals, as a congregation, as the body of Christ in the world . . . we think about its power to provide us respite in a busy and frustrating world in which we live . . . how it strengthens us . . . sustains us. It truly makes us “wonder”.
That is the power of the bread . . . the miracle of the bread . . . it takes us beyond that which we experience and thrusts us into a different realm . . . the realm of life. A life that can never be taken away from us if we embrace it and strive to live within it. When you consider all of this, it is no wonder that this is truly Wonder Bread that sustains.
We need this Wonder Bread. That is why each and every Sunday morning the invitation is offered to all who are gathered here to come to the table and receive the bread and cup. That is why each and every Sunday we celebrate this act of remembrance . . . this act of renewal and commitment . . . this act of life. Jesus truly is the “bread of life”. Our world’s Wonder Bread may have faded long ago, but the real Wonder Bread still lives. It is here at the table we stand in awe . . . and, we wonder. Amen.