Bibles, Bullets, and Bread

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. – Deuteronomy 11:18

Remember when bread starters were a thing? They made a comeback with the pandemic, but I’m thinking of those Amish bread starters, the gallon bags of goop you’d be gifted by a neighbor, then have to figure out what to do with them. I recall being given one to make a loaf of bread with, then wondering what I should do with the starter that came after it. At some point, I was sure it would reach saturation and no one would want any. Everyone would have their own bread starter, and inevitably I would be stuck with it.

I learned some odd trivia from a pastor friend related to bread starters. He had spent time in Alaska, and it’s a practice up there to keep a bread starter in a bag hanging around your neck to keep it warm and alive. If the starter got too cold, the bacteria inside would die and the person wouldn’t be able to make bread. So they kept it close to their skin, warm, under their shirt.

My child, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. (Proverbs 4:20-22)

God’s word is something that should be kept closer to our hearts than a bread starter. We need no other comfort, nothing else to keep us going. While God provides for our every daily need, he also fulfills our need for bread…with his own body.

While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” (Mark 14:22)

Imagine that! No need for food or drink – our spiritual selves are sustained by our savior’s very body! This was always such an odd concept for me, but with a little thought it does make some amount of sense. Sure, we eat Christ’s body and drink his blood as part of Holy Communion, in, with, and under the bread and wine. A divine mystery, to be sure. But with the spiritual comfort and strengthening comes a real, physical strengthening of our bodies.

In the early church, Holy Communion was a real, full meal. The Last Supper was a celebration of the Jewish Passover feast, and it is with this parallel that Holy Communion was instituted. Of course, the small wafer and little bit of wine do not provide for us a full meal today, but the sentiment remains. Our body takes the nutrition of the bread and wine and uses it, much as we use the remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice to strengthen us until his return.

Now for something completely different (but we’ll come back to this, trust me). There’s a popular movie trope we’ve all seen: a character is saved from a bullet, a sword thrust, a dagger, what have you, by something in their breast pocket. Be it a locket, a bible, or a pack of $100 bills. It’s something close to their heart that saves them from death. It even has its own TV Tropes page.

Much as we should keep the word of God close to us for strength, we also gain no small benefit from it. No, not in the real sense of a bible protecting us from a bullet, but in other, arguably more important, ways.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:13-17)

We know these verses! Updated for the modern age, they may very well have included some references to bullets and bibles. Yet God’s word needs no update – it can still protect us through all of our trials and tribulations, extinguishing flaming darts of doubt and deflecting bullets of bullies.

Yet what good is armor if it is not worn? What purpose does it serve left on the sidelines? We battle for Christ every day. As author C.S. Lewis put it,

Enemy-occupied territory — that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed…and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign… (Selection from Mere Christianity)

We are campaigning for Christ. Yet what are we to do if we leave our fliers at home? Our carefully prepared speeches are in the car! Who will tell the news of the rightful King? Here’s the thing: even without a pre-written and rehearsed script, we should always be ready to give a response for the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15). And how are we best to be prepared?

You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates (Deuteronomy 11:18-20)

The word of the Lord should be EVERYWHERE. In your heart and soul, on your hand and head, in your mind as you lie down and wake up and speak to your children, in your house and on your doorframes. The more places it is posted, the more you are able to see it. The more you see it, the more you read it. The more you read it, the more you know it. And the more you know it, the more it is in your heart, on your lips, proclaimed to the world.