Happy Thanksgiving. May your hearts be truly thankful. Happy, content and fully conscious of the Great God who is the source of all good things. Amen.
Every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer we say, “Give us this day our daily bread”. Martin Luther explained this part of the Lord’s Prayer by saying,
“God gives daily bread without our asking, even to unbelievers, but we pray in this petition that He would teach us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving” (Sydow Catechism).
Of course, we understand that by saying “daily bread” we mean a lot more than just slices of Wonder Bread. By “daily bread” we mean everything that we need for health and life.
So, how in the world are we going to get out of here today? I mean, we’re here to thank God for all His blessings. But, we could be here for hours just NAMING the things included in our “daily bread”.
How about we just focus on ONE of God’s gifts this Thanksgiving Day. How about we consider our literal “daily bread”?
Suppose for a moment, that when we prayed for our daily bread we actually meant a SINGLE LOAF of real, wheat bread?
(Pastor places one loaf of Franz white bread onto the pulpit)
Now, this bread may seem to simple. Too meager a blessing to be the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving meditation. But if this bread could talk, what a story it would tell! What a succession of God’s wonders it would share!
So, let’s listen to the bread this morning. Let’s sit back and hear its life-story. Let’s see the gracious hand of God in the life of a single loaf of bread.
To begin this biography, we have to travel back in time. Out of the 21st century. Away from cell-phones and email accounts. On the winds of time we must float back long before America was settled. Long before Jesus was born, past the patriarchs of the Old Testament. Back past Jacob, Isaac and Abraham. Back beyond the great flood of Noah. Back, even past Adam and Eve into the void of eternity.
Whoa! You say, where are we going? I thought we where reading the biography of this loaf of bread, not the biography of God! But we all have ancestors. Every place a history. Every thing an origin. And here in the darkness of eternity lies the origin of this loaf of bread.
Just wait for a moment.
There! Did you see it? God just created the matter of the universe, and in it all the material needed for soil and substance, for water and wheat.
You didn’t see it? Well, that’s because He hasn’t made light yet. That should happen momentarily.
Yes, there now we can see everything clearly. Though it’s all quite a mess right now. As the Bible said, Now the earth is formless and empty (Genesis 1:2). Only chaos here. But soon, God will order this matter into a universe that we’ll recognize.
On the second day God will make the sky, separating the water below from the water above. And on the third day He will draw the water below away from the muck and mire of earth and create a separation between land and sea. And when that is finished, on that third day, with the soil all moist and tilled, God will PLANT for the first time.
Let’s listen to His voice. He says…
“…Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds…” (Genesis 1:11 NIV).
And it happened. Plants of all kind. Trees weighed down with delicious fruit. Peach trees. Pomegranates. Oranges. Pears. Over there, are rows of standing corn and…
…fields of grass?
Yes. Fields of grass. But not the kind that cattle graze on or that children play on. These fields are full of wheat grass. And here is where we find the great grandfather grain from which our loaf of bread has descended.
This loaf is from God, because He CREATED wheat! But it is also a gift from God because He GAVE WHEAT TO ADAM AND EVE as food. God said to them…
“…I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” (Genesis 1:29 NIV).
Lots of things have vitamins and minerals. Things like dirt and gravel. Rocks and mud. But these aren’t food. Wheat is food, because God gave it to mankind as food.
At some point today we’re going to want to go home and eat some of our own bread. So, we’ll have to skip over the generations of wheat that came between the first wheat and the wheat that made this loaf.
The wheat that produced this loaf of bread was grown in either Montana, North Dakota, or South Dakota. It is a variety called “Hard Red” wheat. It’s prized for it’s high protein content which enables the baker’s loaves to stand up tall instead of falling down.
Now, the hard red in this loaf might have been “spring wheat” which is planted in the spring and harvested in the fall. But it might have been “winter wheat”. Winter wheat is planted in September or December. It sprouts up only to freeze solid. It spends the winter under a cover of snow. Then in the spring it sprouts up again, producing a crop that is ready for harvest by early July.
Either way, the farmer who planted it spent a lot of time in a tractor. First tilling, then planting. And then, he had to do the hardest part. He had to wait. Man may plant and water and watch. But God has to makes the growth. It’s like Jesus says,
“…A man scatters seed on the ground. 27Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.” (Mark 4:26-27 NIV).
If it’s a slow year, a farmer might be tempted to tug on the crops in his field, but it wouldn’t actually do any good. God must bring the harvest and makes it abundant.
The grain harvested for this loaf of bread was harvested in a highly technological way. Wheat is no longer cut by blade and hand. Nor is it cut by horse-pulled machinery. Nowadays, great big machines called “combines” roar through the fields day and night. First they cut the stalks of wheat. Then they breaking up the heads of grain separating the useless chaff from the valuable wheat kernels. When this is done, the combine blows the chaff away and shoots the wheat kernels into a bin.
This brings in a lot of other lines of ancestry for this loaf of bread . We could look at the history of metal, for a combine isn’t made of wood. Or the history of rubber, for a combine won’t cross the field without tires or treads. We could look into the history of the combustion engine. A combine can burn up to $500 dollars of gas a day bringing in the harvest!
We could even study rocket science and the history of satellites! The combine that harvested the grain for this loaf was guided through the field by a global positioning system. This ensured maximum fuel efficiency and made sure none of the crop was left behind. To make sure that the grain wasn’t too wet for harvesting, the combine even had a sensor that monitored the moisture content as the grain was gathered.
Each one of these complex systems introduces another line of ancestry that leads to THIS loaf of bread.
And all of these innovations and inventions were possible because God made man different than the animals. From Genesis 1…
“26Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth…” (Genesis 1:29 NIV).
And not only did God give mankind the capacity for wisdom, God also GIVES mankind knowledge and wisdom.
And from Daniel 2…
“…Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
21 He changes times and seasons;
he sets up kings and deposes them.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning” (Daniel 2:20-21).
From the combine the grain for this loaf of bread was loaded into semi trucks, hauled to huge grain elevators and finally loaded into train cars heading for Spokane, WA. That’s where the MILL for Franz bread is located.
After the huge milling machines pulverized the wheat, it became flour. Simple enough, right? Well, not for our loaf of bread. The flour in this bread is white flour. It’s made only from the inner core of the wheat kernel. So, fist the wheat was broken up, the outer layers of bran and germ removed, and then what was left was ground into white flour.
After this white flour was enriched with a dose of vitamins and minerals, it was loaded into semis and shipped to the Franz bakery in Seattle. That bakery is about 20 miles south of our church, just past the exit to the I-90 bridge.
Finally, the flour was mixed with water and yeast. It was allowed to rise for four hours. Then it was mixed with everything else needed to make this loaf. Sugar. Salt. Mold inhibitors.
We don’t have time to talk in detail about where all these things came from, but. But for your information, the yeast came all the way from Canada. The water from the Cascades. The natural gas to heat the ovens came from thousands of miles away. From reserves in the Rocky Mountains and from Alberta and British Columbia.
After this loaf of bread was baked, still other wonders touch it before it reaches the shelves. It was cooled on huge factory lines, cut into convenient slices and bagged. These actions sound simple, but this bread was packaged in a bakery that can produces over a thousand loaves in a single hour. I assure you, it is anything but simple. Slicing machines, conveyors and baggers introduce yet another line of ancestry leading to this loaf of bread.
When all the packaging was finished, a simple bread truck delivered this loaf to Fred Meyer, where my wife plucked it off the shelf and brought it home.
It seems kinda simple just sitting there, doesn’t it? Not exactly the greatest thing since sliced bread… well I guess it IS sliced bread. And it really is quite remarkable. So many different people, machines and technologies went into putting this loaf here. But only ONE GOD stands behind them as their creator and provider.
Today, bread will sit on nearly every Thanksgiving table among many other edible blessings from God. And as we gather around ours, we’ll bow our heads in thankful prayer. How could we not? For God has exerted so much loving care and astonishing power to set these gifts on our tables.
As it says in the book of James,
“17Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created” (James 1:17-18 NIV).
God gives us what we need for our body and physical life. But He also give more. He give us His own Son. Jesus calls Himself the “Bread of Life” that gives eternal life to all who trust in Him. In John 6, verse 35 it says,
“…Jesus declared, “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."
And in verse 40…
"40For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:35, 40).
Without Jesus, we’d always be hungry for righteousness, but never satisfied. For no matter what we do, our sins just get heavier and heavier, and our good works are never good enough. But through His Cross, Jesus takes all our sins away and fills us up with His righteousness. He is the “Bread of Life”.
Giving thanks for this ONE LOAF took more than a couple minutes. It’s a good think that Jesus give us eternal life along with the forgiveness of sins. Eternity MIGHT just be enough time to thank God for all His goodness.