Wednesday, April 16, 2008

WTFWJD?

Reading Sara Miles' Take This Bread, amazing read that I would recommend to sacred, spiritual, and secular alike. The story is an autobiographical account of Miles' rediscovery of her faith in Christ through her rediscovery and deeper understanding of the Eucharist. Miles handles deftly her apprehension of sharing her recently re-discovered faith to friends: "to most of my non-believing friends, Christian was shorthand for fanatic fundamentalism, anti-intellectualism, and right-wing intolerance." Miles discovers, as I believe many are, that a great majority of Christians are not the closed-minded republican clods but in fact are still listening closely to hear the voice of God amidst their holistic involvement in the missio Dei. Miles also finds in the ritual/sacrament of communion the heart of what she believes to be central to the missio Dei: that love means "giving yourself away, embracing outsiders as family, emptying yourself to feed and live for others."

In the Eucharist, Miles sees more than a ritual of remembrance shared by insiders (at one point Miles observes that often the term "people of God" is tantamount to "those who think like us") but a glimpse into the way that God works in the world, a glimpse into the heart of Jesus' ministry ("Feed my lambs"), and a directive for the work of all Christians who remain supported by the Holy Spirit. Based on her past experiences working as a cook and her work as a journalist in war-torn Nicuagra, Miles sees that so much of our relationships, interactions, and actions are centered on food.

The sharing of the common meal leads Miles to establish food pantries around the immediate neighborhoods around her in the Protero Hill section of San Francisco. When Miles floats the ideas around the Episcopal church that assists her in her re-discovery she is met with some hesitation and resistance in the beginning. At one point, the parish secretary who is privy to the behind-the-scenes meetings that will determine if the food pantry becomes reality under the terms Miles has provided (that it be operated in the sanctuary, on the altar, laid out like communion, run by volunteers, and doesn't require IDs or paperwork for eligibility) offers the somewhat interesting observation that those faced with this dilemma should ask themselves, "What the fuck would Jesus do?" Led by their faith (and their answer to this slightly irreverent alteration to this common question), the congregation allows Miles to establish the pantry, which exceeds expectations and the physical limitations of the church building. In response, Miles heads out further into the community around her to locate and establish more pantries. As she continues in her endeavor to feed the hungry, she begins to understand and articulate her work as sharing a "physically expressive, participatory experience of
communion, open to all."

I strongly suggest Miles' book be attached to your reading list ASAP. Insightful, irreverent at times, but deeply spiritual story of how many are returning to the Christian faith through unlikely experiences with community and ritual.

Inspired by the parish secretary's response, I would also suggest that we do some good by printing up new bracelets with WTFWJD to combat our prudish, close-minded tendencies and continue what seemed to be a rather successful way of uniting Christians through armwear. That's just my opinion.

Thank you for your continued prayers for my family. We are taking it day-by-day and reminding ourselves often that grieving is a process, not an event.

Congratulations to Johnny and Stephanie who recently welcomed Maya Isabell into the world and to Heidi and Eric who welcomed Clara Nell into the world, as luck would have it both on the same day. Blessings and Peace to those families as they welcome new additions.

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