Gift and Labor
We spread your table with these gifts of the earth and of our labor. – UCC Book of Worship (Service of Word and Sacrament I)
A friend of mine is a deacon in a church with an intergenerational bread-making ministry that provides fresh loaves for weekly Communion. They freeze some, too, for long holiday weekends when the team isn’t around to bake.
One such weekend, he arrived early, planning to pop a frozen loaf into the microwave. But there were no loaves to pop. Somebody forgot to stock the freezer. There was a grocery store nearby, so he dashed out, snatched a loaf off the shelf, and was back in no time.
Removing the wrapper, it hit him. How lovely the bread-making ministry was. How devoted the team’s labor. Their joy. Once he’d heard them singing as they worked. And their bread was delicious.
He wondered about the people who’d made the bread he was tearing up and distributing in baskets, all the workers who’d planted, reaped, milled, baked, packaged, distributed, and stocked it. Did they feel satisfied, too?
The mass-produced bread bothered him. And it moved him. During the service he was distracted with thoughts of production and land use, fair wages and working conditions, marketing and prices, distribution and access. He hoped it wasn’t sacrilegious to be thinking about economics right before receiving Christ’s Body.
The pastor lifted a basket of bread and said the usual words from the book, “…gift of the earth and of our labor.” It stung him. He’d heard those words many times before, but not what they imply. Not what they demand. He wondered what took him so long.
Risen Christ, when we eat bread at your Table, any bread, distract us with economics, for remembering you rightly is never to forget the justice we owe to everyone who works.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.