By Lydia Wylie-Kellermann, reflection on the Beautitudes at Day House in February.
I’ve taken to making bread lately. I have a bread machine that makes great bread, but I found myself craving the act of kneading bread.
It feels like everyone around me these days are going through really painful times in their lives. While I am trying to walk beside them with love for them, I find that internally I am carrying a lot of the grief and anger inside of me—and I have turned to breadmaking.
A couple weeks ago, under a writing deadline, I escaped to a Mennonite retreat center in Three Rivers. I spent the weekend writing, in silence, and eating healthy meals cooked from food they grew in their gardens.
With this long stretch of Erinn’s health being poor, 48 hours to not cook for anyone or take care of kids or do laundry, was such a gift.
All those on retreat ate together in silence, before each meal someone from the retreat center would offer a short prayer that simply consisted of…
“Let us remember that food is God’s love made edible.”
Those words kept ringing in me. And when I got home, I got out the flour and the yeast and I began to knead.
I poured my grief and rage into the bread. A physical outlet in the kneading,
But I also poured my love,
Repeating the mantra- food is God’s love made edible.
I thought about the people around me in pain as I poured my love and prayers into the bread fist by fist.
Then I’d bake it and gift the bread…again and again.
Through the kneading there was healing for me in this tangible, physical act of creation,
My hands became part of what made God’s love edible.
And hopefully, there was healing in the gift and eating of bread.
I thought about breadmaking as I read the Gospel- the beatitudes we all know so well.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the word ‘blessed’ or ‘blessings.’ I’ve found it sneaking into my writing as I pray blessings upon one another.
In a piece I’m editing, Dee Dee Risher talks about parenting kids around spirituality. She talks about how every day when her kids went out the door, she laid hands on their heads and offer this blessing.
“Bless your mind for learning and creativity, your eyes for seeing beauty, your lips for speaking truth, your heart for loving and being loved, and your hands for creating beauty and justice in this world.”
I’ve thought a lot about that and feeling an urge to shower my kids heads with blessings. And also wishing for blessings upon my own head.
The beatitudes are this amazing list that turns societal norms on their heads.
Who our culture blesses
Is not the same as who God blesses.
It ends by saying their reward is great in heaven, and that’s great and good.
But what it made me think
Who God bestows love and blessings upon
Is our work too.
This is a wonderful list to think about who needs blessings.
For certainly all of them could use a little extra love here and now.
And for me, right now, I’m sending blessings, in the form of loaves of bread.
I want to bake loaves of bread
For those who are mourning
For those who are poor in spirit
For those who show mercy
For those exhausted in the work of peacemaking
For those hurt by persecution
May they see God’s love in the taste.
May they feel the power of grief and rage and prayer in each bite.
Today I poured that love and prayer into bread to bring here tonight. I held the hearts of people I love here who are doing caretaking for siblings and parents, who are cooking and feeding people, who are struggling in the cold, who are into decades and decades of offering mercy and peacemaking. I thought about the faces as I prayed to make God’s love edible.
It’s this bread that we will break in a little while. Bread that I hope feels like blessing. “This is my body broken for you.” Making bread these last few weeks has broken me open. As it enters our body, it gets inside by way of our own brokenness.
It reminds me of Dan Berrigan’s words that hung in our dining room growing up:
“When I hear bread breaking, I see something else; it seems almost as though God never meant us to do anything else. So beautiful a sound, the crust breaks up like manna and falls all over everything, and then we eat; bread gets inside humans.”
May we eat bread.
May we know God’s love made edible.
May we feel that blessing.
And then may we go out and shower one another with blessings
With the beatitudes as our guide.