14th March 2022

The other weekend I found myself at a bread baking course for beginners, a Christmas present I hadn’t been expecting, but much appreciated all the same. The day was excellent, and I came away amazed at what I’d achieved, reflecting on the ancient skills and arts into which I’d been inducted. Bread making is found right across the globe, using flour based on whatever materials are available locally. It’s no exaggeration to say that human civilisation took a significant step forward when we discovered how to make this staple of our diet. We rightly pray, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’!

But my thoughts darkened as later that same day I watched the news and saw again the awful suffering and wicked devastation going on in Ukraine. A land known as the breadbasket of Europe because of its rich, fertile soils is being turned into an ugly wasteland, its people displaced and in mortal fear from Russian bombardment. What has any of this to do with human civilisation and flourishing?

When the reporters interview ordinary Ukrainians, I’m constantly impressed by the unselfconscious way in which they so often speak of God and prayer. They don’t curse him for allowing all this to happen, but quietly display an assurance that he sees their suffering, holds them close and will bring their nation through this time of testing. Theirs is clearly a spirituality that knows the Jesus who said, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’ (John 6:35).

Ken Stewart