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Words: Josiah Conder (b. Sept. 17, 1789; d. Dec. 27, 1855)
Music: Jesu, Jesu, Du Mein Hirt, by Paul Heinlein (b. Apr. 11, 1626; d. Aug. 6, 1686)
Note: English author, editor and publisher, Josiah Conder wrote this short hymn in 1824, for use at the Lord’s Supper. It consists of one stanza about the bread, and a second about the wine. Heinlein was a church organist over three centuries ago.
Bread is considered the most widely consumed food in the world. It’s close to being a staple, a basic and necessary item, in many cultures. Not only so, it’s versatile, and portable and can be eaten in many places where other foods would be less convenient.
Grinding grains or seeds, combining the resulting meal with other ingredients, and baking the mix, is a process that has been used since the beginning of human history. The Egyptians, centuries before the time of Christ, became expert bread makers, and added yeast to make the airier product we’re familiar with today. A document has been discovered listing fifty-seven kinds of bread, and thirty-eight kinds of cake, made in Pharaoh’s kitchens.
In England, John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792) was a hard-working civil servant, and an obsessive gambler. The story goes that, not wanting to leave the card table to eat, he would tell a servant to bring him some salt beef between two slices of bread. Other players, asked if they wanted anything, replied, “The same as Sandwich,” and the “sandwich” was born.
Around 1870, on Coney Island, German immigrant Charles Feltman began selling hot sausages in rolls. As to where that got its now familiar name, German immigrants brought not only their sausages to America, but also dachshund dogs. Since the sausages were long and narrow like the dogs, it probably began as a joke to call Feltman’s sandwiches “hot dachshunds,” or “hot dogs.”
The submarine, or sub, originated in Italy. Dominic Conti immigrated to America around 1895, opening a grocery store in New Jersey. There he offered traditional Italian sandwiches, long crusty rolls, filled with cold cuts, topped with lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, onions, oil, vinegar, and Italian spices. His granddaughter claimed he named them “submarines,” after seeing one of those long narrow naval vessels in the harbour.
But let’s go way back to the first of over three hundred times bread is mentioned in the Bible. In Eden, God told Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit of one forbidden tree, warning that disobedience would bring death (Gen. 2:17). Yet our first parents sinned (Gen. 3:6), and the Lord pronounced a sober judgment.
“In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19).
Possibly “bread” there means food in general, as it seems to do in the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). But in Genesis it does translate the Hebrew word for actual bread.
Long afterward, God miraculously provided manna for the children of Israel to eat during their forty years in the wilderness. The people ground it and baked it into cakes (Num. 11:7-8). It was referred to as “the bread of heaven [i.e. provided by the God of heaven]” (Ps. 78:24).
Centuries later, in response to listeners speaking to the Lord Jesus about the manna (Jn. 6:30-31), He used it as a picture of Himself. “The bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world….I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (vs. 33, 35).
The imagery is applied directly to Christ’s broken body on the cross, in the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 26:26; I Cor. 11:24).
“As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” Or as the Bible in Basic English puts it: “Whenever you take the bread and the cup you give witness to the Lord’s death till he comes” (I Cor. 11:26).
CH-1) Bread of heav’n, on Thee we feed,
For Thy flesh is meat indeed:
Ever may our souls be fed
With this true and living Bread;
Day by day with strength supplied,
Through the life of Him who died.
CH-2) Vine of heav’n, Thy blood supplies
This blest cup of sacrifice,
Lord, Thy wounds our healing give,
To Thy cross we look and live:
Jesus, may we ever be
Grafted, rooted, built in Thee.
1) In what way are we “giving witness” to the Lord’s death in this service? What does that mean?
2) What are your favourite hymns used at the Lord’s Supper (the Communion Service)?