“This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
This afternoon, I came to the conclusion that I needed to overthrow the state, and so I baked a loaf of bread. It seems like an odd response doesn’t it? What does yeast rising have to do with revolution, and perhaps more to the point: why would I need to overthrow the state in the first place? The simple answer is that I’ve come to realize how deeply my imagination as a Christian has been held captive by the state.
In principal, I would affirm that my primary identity is as a Christian—that by virtue of my baptism—my primary citizenship is in the city of God. In principal, this would mean that I affirm an ethics and a politics revealed by Jesus, one that calls me to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, take care of the sick, and visit those in prison (Matthew 25). The trouble is, what I affirm is only a principal. How often do I actually do any of these things?
Now I might excuse myself and say that it is because I am an intellectual, that it’s okay that I don’t do these things personally because my job is to encourage others to do them by spending my time thinking, writing, and preaching. That would probably make me a Pharisee. Or I might say that I am too busy, and that I cannot do it all. But in my heart of hearts, I know that’s not true either. If that were the reason I should be able to say that I do at least one of the things on this list a good portion of my time. I don’t.
The real reason is that as a Canadian citizen, I tacitly trust that the state will feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, take care of the sick, and visit those in prison for me. This is problematic not only because the state often fails to do these things, but because, as theologian William Cavanaugh puts it, “the city of God is not so much a space as a performance.” That is to say, being the church is not simply being a part of an institution, being the church is exercising a set of practices entrusted to us by Jesus.
When I look at myself next to Jesus, what he did and what he taught, my own inner thoughts are reveled and a sword pierces my soul: in principal I am a citizen of the city of God; functionally I am a citizen of the state.
So this Lent I’ve decided to stage a coup. I’ve decided to liberate my imagination’s captivity to the state. I’ve decided to bake bread.
Why multigrain over munitions? It’s not an obvious choice.
When God led the people out of oppression in Egypt, God sustained them in their journey away from empire by sending them manna daily. Similarly, in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us that the coming of the kingdom is connected to the gift of daily bread.
It seems there is a relationship between the liberation of a people’s imagination from captivity, and with seeking only what is needed for a day—between the inauguration of the city of God, and the recognition of our lives and resources as gifts. Maybe it’s because when we only labour for what we need for a day, we don’t need armies to protect our excess production. Or maybe when we only desire God’s gift of daily bread, many of the things that distract us in our chaotic lives fall away, and we have time to become bread for others.
I guess by baking my daily bread this Lent I am hoping to sustain my imagination’s exodus from its captivity to the state. It’s a small, prayerful practice, a first step in moving towards taking up my citizenship in the city of God as Jesus describes it in Matthew 25. But every revolution has a beginning. Bread needs only a little yeast to rise.
Jeffrey Metcalfe is the Incumbent of the Parish of the Magdalen Islands in the Diocese of Quebec. He is a co-editor of Catholic Commons.