Often when I was younger, many of our church youth leaders would tell us that ‘if Jesus had lived today, he would have had the last supper with a Big Mac and a Coke.’ I can understand why they may have said this, to reinforce the transformation of the mundane into the holy. But I wish they hadn’t.
There are, of course, many problems with the image of a ‘McEucharist’, but I want to take particular issue with the idea of the Eucharist as ‘fast food’.
It is easy to think of bread as a fast food in our culture. Bread is often a mass-produced, long-life commodity which we buy in and consume largely as a useful container for whatever lies between two slices. We don’t think about the bread much, it’s just always there.
Recently, though, I have started to play around with making my own bread. One thing which instantly struck me about the process is that it takes a lot of time. It’s not like baking a cake, where you mix some stuff up, and pop it in the oven. To make bread, you have to mix, knead (beat it about for 10-15 minutes) and then… wait.
To get a good loaf of bread takes time. You have to wait for the dough to rise. Then you knock all the air out and let it rise again. You may even knock it back and let it rise once more before you put it in the oven to cook. Even using fast-action yeast, you’re looking at at least 2 hours of waiting where you are not doing anything else at all. If you make sourdough (I haven’t yet!) it could be some days between you starting out and getting your first loaf.
I don’t make my own bread anything like every day – I don’t have time (or so I say). But I have learned something. The bread I do make is so much nicer than any I buy in Sainsbury’s. It’s more flavoursome and has more body to it. Good things, they say, come to those who wait.
Which brings us back to Advent, and to Jesus, who we remember through the breaking of bread, and who called himself the ‘bread of life’. All of that, though, comes later. Because in Advent, we wait for a while as we hope that the dough will rise…