Sunday, September 24, 2017

World Communion Sunday: A Host of Breads and Circuses

The first Sunday in October is celebrated by some Christian denominations as World Communion Sunday. Originating in the 1930s, out of the Division of Stewardship at Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, PA, the day was meant to unite Christians around the world as everyone came to Christ's table. The day, first called Worldwide Communion Sunday by Shadyside pastor Dr. Hugh Thompson Kerr, was slow to grow. It was during World War II that more congregations and denominations caught the spirit of the day as they sought to unite a fragmented, divided and warring world.

The provision of bread is found throughout scripture as a demonstration of God's providence and care: from Abraham's and Sarah's baked cakes offered to three strangers to Christ's breaking of bread with the pilgrims at Emmaus, from the unleavened bread of the Passover to the institution of the Lord's Supper by Paul. God provides the gift of daily manna in the wilderness, and Jesus provides his followers with the example of praying for "our daily bread".

Bread, in all its flavors and forms, is a dietary staple around the world. Breads are made with local grains in varying proportions. Some breads are long, skinny loaves. Others are round, ball-shaped loaves. Crusts can be thick and golden or crackly and crunchy. Chewy sourdough or fluffy sandwich bread. The varieties of bread are endless.

Bread has also been used by nations and governments as a symbol of their own providence, as a rallying cry for patriotism, as a criticism of others, as a call to sacrifice, as a tool for political control. The Roman poet Juvenal criticized the Roman citizens of his day (c. 100 CE) as having abandoned their historic civic duties and caring only for "bread and circuses" (panem et circenses) - the free grain and populist entertainments that were the means of acquiring political power in his day. As we observe World Communion Sunday 2017, consider the messages and meanings of the posters below in their own time and in ours.

Posters top to bottom:
World War I home front poster. Don't Waste Bread. UK.
1938 poster for General Franco's nationalists. Por La Patria El Pan Y La Justicia (For the Nation, Bread and Justice). Spanish. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
1932 election poster for German National Socialist Party. Work and Bread for all. Vote National Socialist. Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archive #2/42/155.)

World War II poster. Economisez... (Save the bread. Cut it into thin slices...and use all the crust for soups.) France.

Did you know there is a Museum of Bread Culture?

Find a reflection on the reading from Hebrew scripture for Proper 21(26)A/Pentecost 17A here.

This week on Art&Faith Matters on Facebook, an ancient image for World Communion Sunday. Click on the link below.

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