Chaplain’s Reflection

Deborah Chapman (2)June 2017

House of Bread
‘Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6.35).’

How do you feel when you’ve eaten a good meal? Not overeaten, but simply had your fill of good, wholesome food? Relaxed?…Tired – sometimes feel like resting?…Content?…Satisfied?…More energetic?…Like a need has been met?…At peace with the world? When we call food ‘wholesome,’ ‘whole’ is important! It has the connotation of survival – when a person is ‘whole’ they have everything they really need. Shalom means to be whole. Shalom in Hebrew or Salaam in Arabic, is blessing the person with wholeness. It’s saying, ‘May you always be content.’ That is the stuff of life in all its fullness! The apostle Paul says in Philippians 4.11: ‘I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.’ This is more than just food giving Paul strength. This is life to the full! Paul uses the analogy of food to tell us that there is more to life than food!

There is a great comfort in eating – and often when we feel needy, we turn to food for comfort. In our society, that is subtly rejected. So we get the twisted phenomenon of people seeking to bring security into their lives by controlling that most basic of needs for food – they try to control what their food does to and for them. They become anorexic or bulimic, or often both at the same time. They can no longer find comfort in food – it is their greatest enemy. They become self-destructive without realising it, by considering it ‘sinful’ to partake of that which gives them life – FOOD! People’s penchant for control extends to their relationship with Jesus, too. We tend to want to reject His Lordship over our lives. We don’t trust that He alone knows what’s best for us, and so we go our own way, as Frank Sinatra sang in ‘I did it my way.’

Bread is one of the thematic threads that runs through the Bible. When Jesus referred to Himself as the ‘…bread of life’, people of His day who read the Bible would have immediately thought of the OT book of Ruth – and they would have known that He was connecting Himself with the line of King David. They would have remembered the story of Naomi, a widow from Bethlehem, Hebrew for ‘House of Bread.’ She had moved with her family to Moab during a great famine in Judah. They would possibly have thought about how, though she was called Naomi (‘my joy’), when she returned to Bethlehem, having lost her husband and her two sons (they died in Moab) – she told everyone to call her Mara (‘bitter’).

Jesus’ mother Mary carried the same root – ‘bitter’ – in her name. Simeon said of her – ‘And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’ When Naomi returned to Bethlehem, ‘House of Bread,’ she not only found bread to eat, she was given a whole new life! Through her daughter-in-law’s marriage to their kinsman Boaz, she became the ancestress of both King David and Jesus! Mary and Joseph also went to Bethlehem, ‘House of Bread’, to be counted for the census, so that the Roman Empire could decide how people would be taxed (sound familiar?), and Mary, too, received more than her daily bread – Jesus the BREAD OF LIFE, was born! Jesus, who alone can give us the fullness of life that God desires for us, was born in the town named after that most basic of food that gives bodily life.

Having fed 5000 people, Jesus tells his disciples. ‘I am the bread of life’. The passage in John 6 tells us that “Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ Jesus was deeply concerned both about the bodily needs of human beings and about their complete wholeness of life, which was only possible in relationship with Him – God in Christ.

When we do good deeds that include provision of food and water to needy people, let’s not forget that there is more to life than food. ‘Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6.35).’



earlier posts.





  • About Myself

    The Rev Dr Deborah Chapman

    Born in a small town in Massachusetts, the first of 5 children, my parents took me to Argentina when I was a year old. This is how I grew up bilingual, with Spanish as my first spoken language. I feel very much ‘at home’ with the grand mix that is the Mothers’ Union throughout the world. ‘Home’ is not a feeling that is usual with me, having lived in five different countries in Latin America, as well as various places in the U.S., U.K., Spain, France, Papua New Guinea and most recently, in Sharjah (UAE). I am now a cleric with Permission to Officiate in the Archdeaconry of Gibraltar, accompanying my husband John who is the Chaplain at St George’s Barcelona.

    John, from Scotland, and I met in 1977, at the London Bible College, after I had moved to London in 1976 to study linguistics and then theology, having been accepted as a Bible translator with Wycliffe Bible Translators. We married in 1980, and thereafter worked together in Christian mission with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (1979-1991), and Latin Link (1991-2002) before both of us became ordained Anglican Deacons then Priests. I have been a Mothers’ Union member since serving my curacy at St Mellitus Hanwell (2005-2008), and served as the Mothers’ Union Chaplain for the Willesden Area of the London Diocese for just one year (2012-2013) before John accepted the calling to be Chaplain of St Martin’s Sharjah, UAE. There was no Mothers’ Union there, but I was very involved with the Women’s Fellowship, and through them with the Vacation Bible School for the children. It is a great joy to be invited to serve as Chaplain for the Mothers’ Union in the Diocese of Europe!

    I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour one night when staying in a hotel in Copacabana, on the shores of Lake Titicaca in Bolivia – my apologies if you need an atlas to work out where that is! I was 16 at the time. Nothing has brought me more satisfaction in life than allowing my Lord to guide me into that fullness of life that He promises in John 10.10. My husband John and our two married children and their spouses - Matthew (and Belinda) and Kirstin (and Elliot) are a huge part of the full life He has given me, as is the pleasure of serving Him as an ordained minister. I also enjoy walking, swimming, reading, writing, painting, cooking and being an occasional academic.