This is not the start of some bad joke; it is the start of Sara Miles’ memoir “Take This Bread: the spiritual memoir of a twenty-first-century Christian.” There is no punch line that comes next, but instead a life changing experience: Sara took communion for the first time without knowing what she was doing and was fed in a new and totally unexpected way. The experience and subsequent journey caused her to realize what she had “been doing with [her] life all along was what [she] was meant to do: feed people” (xi). Becoming a Christian did not cause Sara to all of the sudden be gifted by God, she has always had the passion and gifts to feed people. She had done it in restaurants, even in the midst of wars, but being fed propelled her to want to feed others in a new and ever more meaningful way.
Although she has come to appreciate liturgical ritual and form in a new way, she continually praises “an invitation to jump in rather than official entrance requirements,” which for her communicates the belief “that God could be located in experience, sensed through bodies, tasted in food; that [her] body was connected literally and mysteriously to other bodies and loved without reason” (64).
I am not suggesting that anyone try to duplicate or even imitate St. Gregory’s, the community that Sara randomly walked into on the fateful day. She would not suggest that either. They do not have the formula for “saving the church” or even just growing it; Sara points out that even with their unique liturgies, artistic expression, and the massive food program that Sara started, they are not a mega-church, cramming people in on Sunday morning. But if numbers of people and offering totals are all you are looking for, you are in the wrong place. Churches who think those are the most important sign of life are already dead.
As Sara’s story shows, the numbers are far less important, far less Christcentered, than the quality and quantity of mission, sharing of love, and recognizing and living as the one unified incarnated body that humanity is. Communion “showed us how to re-member what had been dis-membered by human attempts to separate and divide, judge and cast out, select or punish” (77). It is at the table, when we share God’s feast with one another that we express the work to which we are called: “the ongoing work of making creation whole” (77).
The book is also full of wisdom about prayer, reading the Bible, welcoming strangers, asking questions, the impossibility of being “a Christian by yourself,” and even some examples of how frustrating systems/institutions can be (96). But all of this simply adds to her main point and purpose, to share the good news of God’s “radically inclusive love” (93). We do not get to partake of God’s sign of immense love in the Lord’s supper because we are worthy, special, “good enough, holy enough, deserving enough to receive it” but because Christ feeds us “so [we] can go out and, you know, be Jesus” (265).
Jesus is for you!