Dear one’s, consider Grandma Ollie-Mae’s Raisin Bread.
Ollie-Mae was only eight months old—just starting to change from Newborn to Infant—when her parents left the Appalachian Mountains for the western slopes of Washington’s Cascade Range. She grew up in the foothills of Mount Rainier, close to the Cowlitz River and Winston Creek.
There she learned to bake from her mom
—especially, she learned how to bake Molasses Raisin Bread, learned how to bake it like they did back in West Virginia.
Later, she moved away to Minnesota. She had children and the one thing she made sure to pass on to each of them was how to make Ollie-Mae’s Molasses Raisin Bread.
Her children in turn passed it on to their children, her grandchildren.
They all know how to make her Molasses Raisin Bread.
Consider Ollie Mae’s Raisin Bread, and as you consider it, consider too what we do here, this Maundy Thursday
—consider what it has to say to our small but fearless first communion cohort.
The recipe for this Raisin Bread was passed on and remembered.
The bread was made from Molasses—the sweetener used by poor folk in Appalachia—so it tastes of the memory of impoverishment among coal miners and their struggles to be free from a life of being in debt to the owners of the mines.
It holds within it a memory of a journey out of West Virginia and to the Promised Land of the North West.
It always makes too much, so friends, neighbors, and strangers are welcomes to the table… it is too large, so it must be shared.
Often times they baked this bread for birthdays, because there is joy in eating this bread, it makes the family thankful.
Memory is deeply ingrained in Holy Communion. Here, we do this strange and beautiful act of memory
—I restate before the congregation those words of the Apostle Paul that begin, “the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread…”
Paul remembers the Last Supper, which was an act of memory as well
—it was a Passover meal.
Jesus and his followers remembering,
putting it all together again
—remembering the flight from Egypt,
remembering the Angel of Death passing over the first born of the Hebrew Children,
remembering the flat bread that was easier to move,
the bread of affliction and slavery
transformed into salvation and freedom…
Yes, we remember and cherish in our hearts these things, this night.
We are also eating the food of poor folk—the food of slaves. Celebrating their liberation…
I pray this keeps us humble, even as we celebrate.
We also eat the food of a journeying,
Food that tastes of travel,
tastes of flight,
tastes of a people on the move
—a people baking their bread flat, because then it’s packable.
We eat the food of exiles and travelers this night.
We eat from a bountiful table
—there should always be too much here
… not because we are greedy hoarders,
but instead because God provides more than we’ll ever know
—at Christ’s table there is always more bread to be shared,
always a widening community,
always more than enough Jesus to go around.
We celebrate the Eucharistic Meal—(Greek for Thanksgiving Meal)… this is truly a joy,
to consider all that God has done for us,
all God has provided
—joy in the wonderful command of this evening—Maundy Thursday, Command Thursday, the command being: “Love one another,”
Joy in being fed by the bread of life…
Joy in God’s lavish gift for us,
Joy as we join all of God’s people on this journey to freedom,
Joy in joining and being the least of these
—who are the greatest in the Kingdom of God,
And also a Joy in remembering.
Joy, like that of an old family recipe,
so filled with meaning, that we can’t say it all.
We can only say: “Taste and see.”