There is a man…

There is an annoying man at Church. He has spent his entire life as a member of the congregation of that church. He was baptized there and has worshipped there Sunday by Sunday to this day. So what annoys me about him? He talks to me before the Sunday Eucharist rather than letting me pray quietly, he engages me in conversation as I go up to the Altar at the Eucharist.

Then I find out more about him – he was a traffic warden (maybe not the best thing to find out) but now he is retired spends his time doing the gardens for a round of elderly people. He heard it mentioned by the Rector that she would like some sort of Calvary created at the front of the Church – within two days he had created a rockery (using the pieces from a stone cross that fell from the church roof in the gales). And then, at the Palm Sunday service he gave us the following together with two other devotional pieces that were printed on gloss paper – we are often visited by Angels in disguise.

Passover Bread

I am back to the subject of Bread. I did warn you that it had become an obsession of mine. This time I can put this bread journey down to my Priest Alison. We are having a Eucharist at the Lent Group on Thursday and she asked me to provide the bread. Now I have fed them on my sourdough loaf and I am sure this is what she had in mind.

But then I ask myself “What was the bread eaten by Jesus and his disciples at the Last Supper?” This meal was a commemoration of the flight of the Jewish slaves from Egypt and so food was needed, and quickly. Bread making, as I have said before, is not quick. But the mothers (practical and sensible as they have to be in the face of their men’s impetuous decision to abide by God’s will and flee immediately) knew that meals had to be provided. So fires were lit in their ovens for one last time and flour, oil salt, eggs and water mixed together. There may even have been dried fruit mixed in to provide sweetness. Then the mix was spread out, probably on a terracotta tile and baked in the oven for half an hour. During the time the unleavened bread (unleavened – no yeast introduced to start fermentation and therefore carbon dioxide bubbles to make the bread rise) took to bake they must have rushed around gathering clothes and chosing which kitchen utensils they could not do without. Then the bread collected from the oven and wrapped for the journey.

I return to my question – what was that bread? Current Jewish practice uses Matzo bread – a biscuit wafer not dissimilar to our communion wafer. These are made under carefully supervised conditions from white wheat flour that is kept in very dry conditions to preclude any chance of fermentation. The resultant Matzo has a very long shelf life but I feel bears little relation to the bread eaten at that first Last Supper. It is virtually certain that the wheat grain used for modern baking did not exist in the Middle East in Biblical times so this gave me a clue for the bread I was to make. Durum wheat, barley, emmer wheat, einkom wheat and spelt were probably available but in the light of this uncertainty I decided to use wholegrain wheat as this is the nearest to handmilled wheat done at home. I discovered that although most people have a clear idea of matza as similar to crackers, there is no requirement that matzah be crisp for any purpose, including the seder. Yemenites and Iraqui Jews traditionally made a form of soft matza which may look like Greek Pita bread or like a tortilla.

So my recipe for Pesach (Passover) bread:

250g wholegrain wheat flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon caster sugar 240ml water

120ml oil (I used rapeseed oil, possibly olive oil would be more correct)

4 medium eggs.

Put the flour, salt and sugar into a bowl and mix well. Bring to the boil the oil and water in a large saucepan and then stir in the flour mixture after turning off the heat. Keep stirring until the mixture comes away from the sides of the saucepan.

Add the eggs one at a time stirring vigourously to prevent them becoming scrambled eggs! Keep stirring until the mixture becomes smooth and thick. Leave to cool.

Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Flatten the dough onto the tray and prick all over with a knife (I used a biscuit pricker that I made some years ago at a Scout camp in Sweden). Leave it to rest for half-an-hour.

Preheat the oven to 190C / Gas mark 5. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes until browned.

So is this the bread eaten by Jesus and the Disciples at the Last Supper? No – it uses the wrong flour, it uses refined sugar. But it is an honest interpretation by me and will be explained on Thursday when bread is broken at the Eucharist. An expression of love.Image

Unfair game with jelly beans

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It was my turn to lead the Lent study group. As I said before our theme this year is food. I decided to base a parable on jelly beans. So hundreds of shining beans were scattered over the table. I handed out tools – ovengloves, a teaspoon, one sweetcorn prong, a pair of sweetcorn prongs and some kitchen tongs. The remainder of the people were told that they could ony use one hand to gather jelly beans one at a time. So a mighty scramble ensued.

Those with their hands gathered hundreds, the teaspoon and spike users tens; and the tong users and oven glove users struggled. Then those with wealth were told they could donate up to 10% of their wealth to those less well off. This was done, especially since there was such a disparity of wealth.

Then my first bombshell – those with tools were told to pay for those tools to those with wealth. Even if those tools were less than useful to the users. Then again the rich could donate to the poor, again up to 10%.

THen a final reveal – the “donated” jelly beans were to be paid back to the donors with 50% interest. This of course left the poorest with even less and the richest with even more.

It was a simple game but provoked discussion about the meanings in the game – inappropriate technologies sold to developing countries, arms sales and the need for Jubilee debt relief. A simple game with global meanings.

Food

This year our Lent group is talking about food. It fascinates me that this essential for life can have so many facets. We have explored each of our relationships with food – the aspects of guilt: guilt about overconsumption, guilt about not using small local shops, guilt about food miles, guilt about food waste. These guilts were so general in the group. Many of us remembered boycotting produce from South Africa. Now we can buy from South Africa but should we given the vast food miles of importing this from so far away. We discussed other regimes around the world and if we should boycott their produce as we did South Africa but realised that the issues, or the knowledge of those issues, have made such action problematical.
We realised that our choices are enabled by our relative wealth. We looked at third world food projects and food projects nearer to home. The inequality of food should give us pause. We have choices about food and the freedom to make a moral judgement about those choices. Maybe we should be more prayerful about each packet we put into our shopping basket. We have to confess being seduced by supermarket offers that encourage us to overbuy and then waste food.
We have lived by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives, so that it will be possible to live by the assumption that what is good for the world will be good for us.

Choirs

I have again joined a choir. I love singing with a choir. In normal life singing is an elitist occupation – the X Factor hopefuls alternately lauded and then derided. Our society does not seem to have a place in general for tuneful singing.
But then there are choirs. Some choirs are elitist, selective of their members. I have been in such, sneaking in under the radar. My present choir has an open door policy. I look around and see a cross-section of adult society – teenage students to those whose age has made them careful as they walk. And met together for a single purpose – to weave voices together under the direction of our choirmaster. In so doing they become so much more than their individual efforts.