Saturday, December 3, 2016

Give us this day our daily bread

Traditional Swiss holiday and Sunday
bread available in every bakery and
Supermarket. This one baked by Esther. 
“Give us this day our daily bread” from the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:11), takes on a whole new meaning for me in the Swiss context. Perhaps it is true of all of Europe, but most of my experience comes from the German-speaking countries.

Normally when bread is eaten, it is the main feature of the meal. It is eaten with cheese and cold cuts and/or jams and other spreads like Nutella. And for many families, bread is the main part of both their breakfast and supper. I remember some students on their European cross-cultural programs complaining about how much bread they had to eat.

The main meal in Switzerland, which is at around noon, is very similar to dinner in the USA, with salad, meat and accompanying vegetables or pasta. Bread is almost never eaten during this meal. For many people in the USA, however, bread is often only an accompaniment, not the main part of the meal. Toast at breakfast with eggs or cereal; a sandwich at lunch where the bread holds together what we’d rather eat; buttered bread with jam eaten along our main meal at dinner. Bread is an accompaniment in each case, not the main part of the meal.

Because of how important bread is in the Swiss diet, there are bakeries everywhere. There are three of them within a 10-minute walk from our apartment, and 10 that I am aware of to serve the 5,500 inhabitants of the small town of Aarberg. They are the ONLY business open on Sundays. It is of utmost importance to have fresh bread available at all times. I am always surprised when we want to buy bread near closing time, how the most popular kinds are already sold out.

One of several shelves of bread at a local
In addition, all grocery stores have a large bakery section, usually
baking their own breads. We have three such stores in our town. Recently, many larger grocery stores in the US feature delis with many European-style breads available. The only difference is that in Switzerland, there are NO shelves lined with loaves of spongy breads like in the USA.

Some modern versions of the Bible in English give a more general translation of this verse, like the NLT: “Give us today the food we need” or The Message: “Keep us alive with three square meals.” These definitely contemporize the meaning when bread is not the main staple of the day’s food, and are appropriate in English for the US American context. I was disappointed to find, however, that a popular German version does the same thing, rendering the verse something like “Give us again today what we need to live.” This is so general that it doesn’t even include food, unlike the modern English renderings.

Earlier I wrote a blog post on how this verse should be translated “Give us this day our daily tortilla” in the context of Mesoamerica (Central America and Mexico) because of how often they eat tortillas, and how important corn and tortillas are to their diet. In the context within which I now live, this verse in the Lord’s Prayer gives Jesus’ message much more significance. “Give us this day our daily bread.”  

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