The White Bread of Faith: John 6

I grew up in the golden age of breakfast. Especially breakfast cereal. No one was yet telling us that we should eat a “balanced” breakfast, whatever that meant, nor were we yet sold on whole wheat. I saved up money from mowing grass to buy my own Cookie Crisp, Fruity Pebbles, and Lucky Charms cereals; Frosted Flakes were like a health food.

Do you remember when they started telling us that we should eat a balanced breakfast in Public Service Announcement commercials where they would show a bowl of cereal and then pull back the camera to reveal a glass of milk (more milk), two whole grapefruits, eggs, bacon, and oatmeal? These always came on early on Saturday mornings when we were sitting in front of the television, watching cartoons and eating bowls of milk and sugar the size of small paint buckets. I loved breakfast.

I love breakfast. I actually love all the foods shown in the PSA, except for grapefruit. But my favorite food is cinnamon rolls. My wife makes the absolute best: homemade, warm, yeast-risen, flakey, soft, and soaked in sugary cinnamon-butter. I’m drooling as I type this. She makes them for me on special occasions like Father’s Day and my birthday. But after my last blood test, I probably won’t get another batch unless I’m inaugurated.

A free PSA of my own. Let’s get one thing straight, maple does not belong in a cinnamon roll. I spent seven years in Michigan, where they were somehow convinced that you could add maple flavoring to anything and make it better. But that isn’t true of coffee or cinnamon rolls. Leave the perfect alone. I’m just saying.

The next best thing growing up was when we made toast with Wonder Bread, butter, cinnamon, and sugar. Remember how you judged bread’s quality by how it didn’t get in the way of the peanut butter and jelly? And if it did, you could flatten an entire loaf into a number ten envelope and mail it in with the complaint letter.

You could do that because there was nothing in there to keep it from compressing. White bread is white because we take out all the stuff that keeps us alive. The wonder of wheat is actually in the germ of the wheat. In that little golden cell are omega three fatty acids and nutrients that our cells actually need, but we don’t want what we need. We take the part we need out and throw it away.

What we have left is husk, the by-product of a life-giving staple.We just don’t want that which leads to life. We are like the people who come to Jesus in John 6:24-35. We don’t want that which will give us health; we want cinnamon rolls, white bread, Fruity Pebbles.

How do we become a people of life when we don’t want that which will bring us life? We have to change what we want, our Will. The will is a part of the spiritual self; it is the intention or that which is motivated. It is the mover of the soul. But the will can be distorted.

We all know that the will can be distorted, because we have all wanted to do something and set out to do something that is wrong.

It is hard to simply change our desires. In fact, I am not sure that we totally can. I still crave Fruity Pebbles. But what we can do is learn to desire that which is good.

Two simple practices. First is to hold up desires to God as an offering. Simply holding up a desire and asking God to bless or change it, or simply be with you as you withhold from fulfilling it can be deeply powerful.

Second practice. Do the good thing. I only started eating better in my twenties and thirties when I started eating better food and stopped eating badly. That change did not get rid of the craving for squishy bread and red No. 5. But I began to taste and enjoy real food, and that changed me.

Obviously, I am a work in progress, and so are you. What can you do this week to move closer to health? Maybe it is a few minutes of silent prayer each day. Maybe put Sunday’s Gospel up on your bathroom mirror and read it every day this week. Or maybe you are past this.

Wherever you are, learn to crave the Bread of Life, and we will break bread together on Sunday.


-daniel+