Bread is broken

Notes and commentary on the liturgical song text Bread is broken.

The words are written specifically for the tune Summertime by George Gershwin, as a simple solo, with no accompaniment. The idea sprang from a Celtic poem in The Open Gate (p72) by Revd. David Adam of Lindisfarne (published by SPCK/Triangle in the UK).

The use of a Gershwin tune in church worship, especially in the Eucharist, needs to be handled sensitively with congregations. Its appropriateness (or not) will vary with their backgrounds and preconceptions. Nevertheless there is precedent: this very tune has been used by the late Canon Michael Perry (Jubilate Hymns) for his setting of Psalm 137 Babylon, by the rivers of sorrow.

For liturgical use the full text is probably too long. So it is perfectly acceptable, desirable even, to use just one or two parts of its three distinct subsections:

Setting: [PDF]

Verse 1: Contrasting Christ's brokenness against our wholeness: Unless a grain of wheat ... John 12:24. In worship, we gather to become a healed, united community of different parts: the body of Christ.

"be the ground ...": The double-meaning of ground ("foundation" and wheat being ground down into flour to create bread) is deliberate.

Verse 2: Similarly, contrasting Christ's being emptied, drained and abandoned against our fulness. Our cup runs over, in contrast to his. This deliberately resonates with Ezekiel chapter 23 and its foreshadowing of the Gethsemane agony "let this cup pass from me".

Various gospel allusions: never thirst again, I am the Vine.