Week of 5 Epiphany: Saturday, Year 1   6 comments

Above:  Eucharistic Host with Wafers

Image Source = Patnac

The Bread of Life

FEBRUARY 11, 2023


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Genesis 3:9-24 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And YHWH God called the human and said to him,

Where are you?

And he said,

I heard the sound of you in the garden and was afraid because I was naked, and I hid?

And He said,

Who told you that you were naked?  Have you eaten from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?

And the human said,

The woman, whom you placed with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.

And YHWH God said to the woman,

What is this that you’ve done?

And the woman said,

The snake tricked me, and I ate.

And YHWH God said to the snake,

Because you did this, you are cursed out of every domestic animal and every animal of the field, you’ll go on your belly, and you’ll eat dust all the days of your life.  And I’ll put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed.  He’ll strike you at the head, and you’ll strike him at the heel.

To the woman He said,

I’ll make your suffering and your labor pain great.  You’ll have children in pain.  And your desire will be for your man, and he’ll dominate you.

And to the human He said,

Because you listened to your woman’s voice and ate from the tree about which I commanded you saying, ‘You shall not eat from it,” the ground is cursed on your account.  You’ll eat from it with suffering all the days of your life.  And it will grow thorn and thistle at you, and you’ll eat the field’s vegetation.  By the sweat of your nostrils you’ll eat bread until you go back to the ground, because you were taken from it; because you are dust and you’ll go back to dust.

And the human called his woman “Eve,” because she was the mother of all living.

And YHWH God made skin garments for the human and his woman and dressed them.

And YHWH God said,

Here, the human has become like one of us, to know good and bad.  And now, in case he’ll put out his hand and take from the tree of life as well, and eat and live forever from the tree of life as well, and eat and live forever.

And YHWH God put him out of the garden of Eden, to work the ground from which he was taken.  And He expelled the human, and He had the cherubs and the flame of a revolving sword reside at the east of the garden of Eden to watch over the way to the tree of life.

Psalm 90:1-12 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Lord, you have been our refuge

from one generation to another.

2 Before the mountains were brought forth,

or the land and the earth were born,

from age to age you are God.

3 You turn us back to the dust and say,

“Go back, O child of earth.”

4 For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past

and like a watch in the night.

5 You sweep us away like a dream;

we fade away suddenly like the grass.

6 In the morning it is green and flourishes;

in the evening it is dried up and withered.

7 For we consume away in your displeasure;

we are afraid because of your wrathful indignation.

8 Our iniquities you have set before you,

and our secret sins in the sight of your countenance.

9 When you are angry, all our days are gone;

we bring our years to an end like a sigh.

10 The span of our life is seventy years,

perhaps in strength even eighty;

yet the sum of them is but labor and sorrow,

for they pass away quickly and we are gone.

11 Who regards the power of your wrath?

who rightly fears your indignation?

12 So teach us to number our days

that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

Mark 8:1-10 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

About this time it happened again that a large crowd collected and had nothing to eat.  Jesus called the disciples over to him and said,

My heart goes out to this crowd; they have been with me three days now and they have no food left.  If I send them off home without anything, they will collapse on the way–and some of them have come from a distance.

His disciples replied,

Where could anyone find the food to feed them here in this deserted spot?

Jesus asked them,

How many loaves have you got?

They replied,


So Jesus told the crowd to settle themselves on the ground.  Then he took the seven loaves into his hands, and with a prayer of thanksgiving broke them, and gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people; and this they did.  They had a few small fish as well, and after blessing them, Jesus told his disciples to give these also to the people.  They ate and they were satisfied.  Moreover, they picked up seven baskets of full pieces left over.  The people numbered about four thousand.  Jesus sent them home, and then he boarded the boat at once with the disciples and went on to the district of Dalmanutha.


The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


This seems like a good time to quote Calvinist theology.  There are three covenants in Calvinism.  The first is the Covenant of Redemption, in which the members of the Holy Trinity agreed to redeem human beings.  Then there is the Covenant of Works, which is of pre-Fall origin.  The formulation is simple:  obey God and live (spiritually and physically); disobey God and die (spiritually and physically).   Grace did mitigate the penalty, as in today’s reading from Genesis.  Sin being universal after the Fall, a third covenant, one of grace, became necessary.  Since we are incapable of fulfilling the terms of the Covenant of Works, life and death are spiritual, not physical.  Jesus fulfills the terms of the Covenant of Works.  (Thanks to R. C. Sproul for his summary of the covenants in What is Reformed Theology?  Understanding the Basics, Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Books, 1997)

That aspect of Calvinism provides a useful prism for interpreting the readings for today.  Grace was present simultaneously with judgment; God expelled the mythical Adam and Eve from paradise and denied them immortality, yet protected them from immediate death.  The myth communicates a profound truth:  Although we cannot evade all consequences of our actions, often we do not receive all that we deserve.  This is grace.

Speaking of grace, we arrive next at the Feeding of the Four Thousand.  I do not care about engaging in the argument about whether this is a retelling of the Feeding of the Five Thousand (men) plus an uncertain number of women and children.  No, I have a different priority.  Read with me:  Jesus had compassion on the people, some of whom had a long trek back home.  Literally, as J. B. Phillips translated the text, his heart went out to them.  So he fed them.  His grace was abundant, to overflowing:  seven large baskets (hampers, really) full of leftovers.

This story is a foretaste of the Holy Eucharist, one of my favorite activities.  I am so attached to it that I seek to partake of it at least once a week, usually more often.  Jesus is the bread of life–spiritual life.  He is present (really present) in this sacrament.  So, each week, as I pray the Hail Mary silently and partake of bread (and often wine, too), I take my Lord into myself.  If I am what I eat (an apt expression in this context), I become holier for this simple act.  And my spiritual life deepens.  The body will die, but something of myself will continue.  May it do so in the presence of God.  That is called eternity in the afterlife.  May you do likewise.

That will be grace, for all of us.




Words by Sister Suzanne Toolan, R.S.M.

As published in Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), hymnal and worship book of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

1.  “I am the bread of life.

You who come to me shall not hunger,

and who believe in me shall not thirst.

No one can come to me unless the Father beckons.”

“And I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up on the last day.”

2.  “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world,

and if you eat of this bread,

you shall live forever,

you shall live forever.”

“And I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up on the last day.”

3.  “Unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man

and drink of his blood,

and drink of his blood,

you shall not have life within you.”

“And I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up on the last day.”

4.  “I am the resurrection,

I am the life.

If you believe in me,

even though you die,

you shall life forever.”

“And I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up on the last day.”

5.  Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ,

the Son of God,

who has come into the world.

“And I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up on the last day.”



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