Rev. Andrew Cunnington
14th August 2016
The Coded Message of Liberation Hidden Within a Loaf of Bread

She is completely blind and she lives alone with her Grandfather in a rambling six storey house in the middle of St Malo on the coast of Northern France.

It is 1944 and the town is war torn. There is the threat of bombing overhead from the allies, whilst on the ground the resistance and the occupying Nazi’s battle for control.

Marie Laure, that is the name of this blind girl and she knows her way around the town. Before he disappeared, who knows where, her father made a model of St Malo and she has memorised its streets and alleyway, by feeling around this model with her hands, day after day, until she feels that she knows every nook and cranny.

Marie Laure and her Grandfather work for the resistance. Every morning she walks to the bakers. Fifty steps from the front door, turn left at the tenth drain cover, keep going another seventy steps, feel for the brick wall on your right, turn left and so on. Watch out for the rubble beneath your feet, be careful that you talk to no one. At all costs, get to the bakers.

And every day she picks her way home again with a loaf of bread in her hands and when she gets home, her Grandfather breaks the bread and in the middle of the loaf there is a code and he transmits the code through an old radio hidden in the attic.

And the code in the middle of the broken bread, is helping day by day to liberate the people.

If you are looking for a good summer read, may I recommend “All The Light You Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr as a compelling piece of fiction.

I say fiction but the backdrop is non fiction and there is so much that is spiritual, without God getting much of a mention.

Just think of this.

The blind girl picks her way through the rubble of the city, carrying a loaf of bread and when the bread is broken, it’s a step towards salvation.

A mirror of discipleship, I thought as I read. A mirror of church.

It feels a bit like war in our Gospel reading doesn’t it?

I don’t know about you but…

I thought Jesus was all about peace. I thought his message was one of reconciliation. I thought the kingdom was about including people. All this seems to be about something very different.

This seems to be saying that everything is going to be broken open, torn apart and divided and only when it is, will the code word of salvation be revealed.

That doesn’t give me much comfort!

Then we catch the Epistle to the Hebrews just as the writer is giving an account of examples of faith in action from the beginning of the world to the present day.

This catalogue backs up the point, that faith is shown most strongly for what it is when everything is crumbling around you.

The Red Sea divides the people of the Pharaoh from the people of the Lord.

The walls of Jericho break apart to let the people of God come in.

The prophets speak against the current trend of the day. They risk their lives by doing so, and yet through such bravery, they show that faith is real.

Blind Marie Laure picks her way through the dangerous streets of St Malo. She has a loaf of bread in her hands and when it is broken, it will offer hope, it will point towards victory.

In the Eucharist I take the bread and break it and I say to you that it is the body of Christ.

When we share the peace we say to one another that we are the body of Christ.

If one is to be broken open, so surely must the other be also.

But the world, and maybe the church too, does not want broken loaves or broken people for that matter. Only the perfect will do, and because of that, the key to loving remains locked inside our outer crustiness.

But our service begins with a confession and its not just a plea for forgiveness towards a distant saviour, it is recognising, before each other, that our brokenness is real. We appeal to each other for mercy as well as to the heart of God.

If we can accept the brokenness within us we are on the way to being of use to the resistance.

For I believe that is what the church must become in our day.

The code is exposed. His broken body, His broken bread, Our broken lives and there is something about bringing what seems like three negatives together to produce the only positive there is.

One of the vessels placed upon the altar every Sunday is called the Ciborium. It just means container. We put the bread of communion in it. A hundred tiny loaves on a good day.

And when the contents have been blessed, the Ciborium is the container of the body of Christ.

It contains the blessed bread of Holy Communion, and from it we produce a fragment of a wafer, or a whole wafer with the cross of a broken man on it, and we say it is His Body and we say we are His body. No good are we unless broken too.

I think the church of St Matthew is one giant Ciborium and at the end of the service when we go our way into the world, we are the broken body of Christ being distributed. Each of us a fragment of his body, each one of us stamped with the outline of the cross, into the world wherever it takes us.

Imagine that it is in our broken selves, fed by Christ, that we become walking sacraments. Broken open so that the world can discover the code of love, which alone can bring liberty.

A blind girl, Marie Laure of St Malo. She bears that bread. She holds the code inside the crust of the family loaf. If she does not make it home. If she takes a wrong turning. If she speaks to the wrong person, all could be lost.

Thus can it be also that faith hangs by a thread in us.

The second half of the Epistle reading is the passage that breathes the most hope for us. For in it we are reminded that we are not alone. We hold the bread in our hands, we become the bread, we are the body and we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us. We look to Jesus and no other to be the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. With the combined strength of saints and saviour alike, we can run the race, we can have the perseverance to not let up, we can keep going even when the end is not in sight.

Marie Laure, each and every morning, amidst the rubble and between the bomb blasts. Bearing the loaf, which contains the code of liberation. Our discipleship and our mission caught up in this.

All the light we cannot see, a great summer read, and a spiritual challenge if you have ears to hear.

HEBREWS 11:29-12:2 LUKE 12:49-56