Friday, 27 July 2018

The Five Broken Gingerbread Folk

This story was written as a response to the Gospel reading on the morning of Sunday 29th July and read out as my sermon on that day. There are probably opportunities to make it interactive, using actual gingerbread man biscuits that can be broken and given to the congregation/children, or perhaps using paperchain people that can be expanded at appropriate points in the story (and then stretched out across the church afterwards). I didn't do that (this time), but if you'd like to nick the idea should you ever want to use the story, please feel free (and let me know how it goes!)

The reading was the famous passage from John 6:1-21 about the feeding of the 5000 with five loaves and two fish. I read a sermon which encouraged us to think of ourselves not as the crowd, or the disciples, or even the boy in the story, but the bread. (It's very good... Go read it here). This story is my attempt to help people do that, to think of ourselves as bread; gingerbread. Hope you enjoy.

ONCE upon a time, not so very long ago, in a land not so far away from here as you might think, lived a baker. 

A master baker. 

In fact, it would be fair to say he was the best baker in all the land. It was said that he could bake anything – not just bread, or biscuits, or cakes, but anything. Tales were told of his ability to make life-size gingerbread houses, with real running water in real taps, and of how he could bake up a batch of trees which bore real fruit – bread-fruit, of course – and how he once created a tray of little yellow marzipan mice, which apparently went squeaking and scurrying round the bakery at night, nibbling up the crumbs left on the shop-floor. People even used to say he was responsible for creating the land itself, baking it fresh in the heat of the first ever sunrise.

But that was a long time ago. People didn’t talk like that anymore. And whilst, years ago, the bakery used to be full of people coming to feast on all the good things the baker had made, in the years since, they had forgotten the bakery existed, and now they simply rushed past, about their daily business – and their daily busy-ness. Most people did not even know the bakery was there any more, so caught-up were they in the distractions of the world all around them. They didn’t even stop to look at the treats in the window as they went passed.

The baker still saw them, though. He saw them rushing by each morning, too busy to have had breakfast – and rushing by each evening, with not enough time to stop and get anything good to eat for their tea; and he saw those on the street, those who the busy and tired people also rushed passed; the people begging for money or food, or a job, and he saw that they were hungry. All of them. They were all hungry, but they were too poor, or too busy, or too tired to come into the bakery to get good things to fill them up. They had forgotten.

Then, one day, came the day that the baker knew something could be done about it.

He called together his apprentices and together they looked out of the bakery window.

“Look at the people”, the baker said. His apprentices looked.

“They are hungry!” cried his apprentices, “We must feed them!”

The baker smiled at them. “Whom shall we send?”, he asked.

The apprentices looked all around the bakery to see what they could gather. They hunted for anything that could help – anything that could go out of the shop and into the world around them. They searched from corner to corner, on high shelves, and under low counters. One even got down on his hands and knees, looking for the marzipan mice, but it seemed that they had all scuttled off,  hiding in holes in the skirting boards.

Finally, the apprentices came back together to show the baker what they had gathered.

“We are sorry,” they said. “All we have found are these five broken gingerbread folk, but what use are they?”

The baker looked down at those five gingerbread folk. It was true; they were broken, and battered. Some had missing eyes, or malformed legs. They were old, and crumbling, with buttons in the wrong places, and mouths that were upside down, and the baker’s own smile turned into a beam.

He lifted them up in his hands, broken as they were, and spoke to them.

“I am so glad I made you!”, he exclaimed. “I remember well the day I did – a large batch of gingerbread folk made to bring a smile to the face of all who tasted you!  There were many more of you back then – twelve rows in the tray – but I am grateful that you are left! You are the remnants of my choicest gingerbread folk; my gingerbread children!”

The baker hugged them, and placed them gently on the floor. 

“Now,” he said, “I want you to go out into the world and offer yourselves to the people you meet. The people are hungry and they need to be fed."

The gingerbread folk looked up at the baker. “With what should we feed them? What should we take?”

“You don’t need to take anything,” the baker replied. “No bread, no bag, no money in your purse. Only you. Offer yourselves to those who are hungry.

“Now, go, with my blessing, and may you, who have been blessed, be a blessing to others!”

And he placed his hand on their little gingerbread heads, patting each one kindly as they walked out of the bakery door, into the world outside.

It was not long before those five broken gingerbread folk found whole crowds of people – waiting for buses and trains, and rushing around in the street, and they saw just how hungry they were. And, remembering their master’s word – and his blessing – they tentatively began to offer themselves to those in need.

And something amazing happened.

Those broken gingerbread folk found that the more of themselves they offered to those who needed them, the more they had left to offer. As they offered a gingerbread arm or leg to those around them, they realised that – instead of becoming less – they were growing, and found they had more to give. One little gingerbread boy who gave his upside-down liquorice smile to a group of hungry children realised it quickly grew back; the right-way up this time, and a gingerbread women – whose back had been broken by the weight of the bakery’s financial-accounts book she had become stuck under in the shop – found that, as she offered her brokenness, her back grew stronger and she began to walk taller and straighter.

And then, they saw. When they offered their lives, they were not becoming fewer and fewer gingerbread folk, but – instead – they were growing in number, until there were not just five gingerbread folk, and not just ten – not even one hundred, but twelve dozen gingerbread folk, all of them feeding the people and truly being a blessing to them.

But, it was not just those gingerbread folk who noticed. The people around them did too, and they were astounded.

“How can this be?”, they asked. “Who can transform these folk like this?”

And the gingerbread folk told the crowd all about the baker, and of how he had created them, and blessed them, and of how –  if the people followed them back to the bakery to meet the baker – they need never be hungry again.

“Show us!”, cried the people. “Show us the way!”

So those gingerbread folk led the way back to the bakery, collecting more and more people and growing in number as they went.

And when – at last – they turned the final corner, and saw the familiar sight of all the good things in the shop window, the door to the bakery flung open, and out ran the baker, his arms outstretched, and the biggest beaming smile upon his face.

“Welcome back!”, he cried. “Oh, my good and faithful children! Well done! Come in – I have prepared a feast!”

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