Shauna Niequist is a soul sister, a kindred spirit, a writer, a mama–and she’s a table girl, someone who has seen the goodness of God over and over in the faces of the people she gathers around her table. Bread & Wine is a love letter to life around the table, with recipes that take you by the hand and urge you gently into your own kitchen—knife, onion, oil, pan.
I love the table.
Love the gathering, love what God does when we look one another full in the face, when we listen to the whole story, not just the textable sound byte, when we let the candles burn down and the truth spill out over hours.
And that’s why I learned to cook, because I believe so deeply in what happens around a table.
For all my hours in the kitchen, though, I didn’t bake until very recently, until something drew me to breadbaking.
And bread baking drew me to consider the sacraments…
The sacraments are tangible ways to represent intangible ideas: The idea of a Savior, of a sacrifice, of body and blood so many centuries ago, fills our senses and invades our present when our fingers break bread and our mouths fill with wine.
We don’t experience this connection, this remembering, this intimate memory and celebration of Christ, only at the altar. We experience it, or at least we could, every time the bread and wine are present — essentially, every time we are fed.
During that last meal, that last gathering of dear friends and disciples, Jesus was inviting us to gather around a table and remember, in church buildings and outside of them, during the sacrament of Communion and outside of it.
Body of Christ, broken for you. Blood of Christ, shed for you. “Every time you eat the bread and drink the wine,” Jesus says, “remember me.” Communion is connection, remembrance.
My friend Shane says the genius of Communion, of bread and wine, is that bread is the food of the poor and wine the drink of the privileged, and that every time we see those two together, we are reminded of what we share instead of what divides us.
In our tradition, we take Communion as a part of the church service every month or so. We pass a plate of bread, and another with tiny cups of wine — juice, actually. The taste of grape juice always reminds me of church, because until I had children, that was the only time I ever encountered it.
We also celebrate Communion in less formal places — at a camp, or on a retreat. It isn’t terribly uncommon to take Communion together in a makeshift way, in a home or a backyard or on a beach, one person reading the Scripture, another passing the bread and wine around a circle of friends, a small group, or a team that serves together.
I believe that Jesus asked for us to remember Him during the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the wine every time, every meal, every day—no matter where we are, who we are, what we’ve done.
If we only practice remembrance every time we take Communion at church, we miss three opportunities a day to remember. What a travesty!
Eugene Peterson says that “to eyes that see, every bush is a burning bush.” Yes, that, exactly.
To those of us who believe that all of life is sacred, every crumb of bread and sip of wine is a Eucharist, a remembrance, a call to awareness of holiness right where we are.
I believe this bread and wine is to be torn and handled, gulped. I believe that we can practice the sacrament of Communion anywhere at all, that a forest clearing can become a church and any one of us like a priest as we bless the bread and the wine.
I want all of the holiness of the Eucharist to spill out beyond the church walls, out of the hands of priests and into the regular streets and sidewalks, into the hands of regular, grubby people like you and me, onto our tables, in our kitchens and dining rooms and backyards.
Holiness abounds, should we choose to look for it.
The whisper and drumbeat of God’s Spirit are all around us, should we choose to listen for them.
The building blocks of the most common meal — the bread and the wine — are reminders to us: “He’s here! God is here, and He is good.”
Every time we eat, every time we gather, every time the table is filled: He’s here. He’s here, and He is good.
She lives outside Chicago with her husband, Aaron, and their sons, Henry and Mac. Shauna writes about family, friendship, faith, and life around the table.
She offers a veritable feast, a love letter to life around the table with recipes, with the rich & filling wisdom on the powerful pages of Bread & Wine.