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Pastor Glenn McDonald: Daily Bread

People have been baking bread for thousands of years.


But it sure hasn’t looked, felt, or tasted like Wonder Bread, the loaf that so many Americans grew up eating.


About 500 years ago, European bread-making began to reflect class distinctions. Peasants and laborers ate dark, coarse bread. High class people (that is, “the upper crust”) typically ate loaves made with finely textured, highly refined wheat flour. 


Such processed flour produced a lighter-colored loaf. 


“White bread” therefore became known as “rich people’s bread.” Only wealthy people could afford to buy it.


All that changed in 1921. 


The Taggart Baking Company of Indianapolis introduced a loaf made with batter, not dough. It was spongy, inexpensive, and light in color. Best of all, since it was factory-baked, it was untouched by human hands – a big selling point at the time. 


One of the company execs named it Wonder Bread. 


The package featured multi-colored balloons, since he had recently felt a sense of wonder when watching a balloon race staged at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.


According to Libby O’Connell’s book The American Plate, people from all classes and ethnicities could now feel as if they were privileged. Everyone could afford to buy the lightest-colored bread anyone had ever seen.


Not only that, Wonder Bread was one of the first national brands to be pre-sliced. 


As homemakers gradually entered the American workforce at mid-century, few had time to bake their own bread, let alone slice it. Wonder Bread seemed like a wonderful idea.


Gradually, however, it became clear that this new invention and its light-colored cousins that were also on the market were missing something important – like virtually all the nutrients that make bread such a crucial staple of the human diet. 


“Men and women shall not live by bread alone,” Scripture says. Or at least Wonder Bread. If you tried to do so, you would place yourself in danger of significant vitamin deficiencies. 


Factories – which were bleaching their flour in order to make it super-white – were unwittingly removing critical nutrients. 


By the 1960s, Wonder Bread began adding 12 of those back into the factory formula. Thus was born the marketing slogan that so many of us experienced as kids: “Wonder Bread builds strong bodies 12 ways.”


Of course, you could always just eat delicious, dark, whole grain bread with all the natural ingredients intact – which is exactly what American consumers began doing once again a few decades ago. That’s also why Wonder Bread’s share of the market has pretty much become toast.  


Or maybe you’ll just skip eating bread altogether: “No, thanks, I’m trying to cut down on carbs.”


That option would have been unthinkable in the ancient world. 


Bread was the central component of every meal.  It was literally the staff and the stuff of life. 


When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Give us today our daily bread,” he was talking to people who were sometimes only one day away from starvation. Bread made all the difference.


All of that provides the background to Jesus’ outrageous claim in John 6:35: “I am the Bread of Life.” 


He was essentially saying, “I’m the one thing you need to get through the next 24 hours; don’t try to do life without me.”


Which, if true, would definitely be a whole lot better than sliced bread.

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