To learn more about “Take This Bread,” please read the introductory post. Be sure to peruse The Nightstand in that post, which has resources for those wanting to learn more about the topic and themes of this month’s selection.
I’m not sure how it happened, but this past Sunday, I found myself holding a bowl of gluten-free crackers and a bowl of wine, repeating holy words over and over again: The body of Christ, broken for you. The blood of Christ, shed for you.
It was sacred and it was haunting and it was humbling, all at the same time.
I’d been the worship leader that day, not the one who sings Jesus-tunes, but the one who welcomes the church body and initiates the Prayer of Confession and muses aloud over the beautiful absurdity of the Assurance of Salvation. Speaking into a microphone is something I know how to do, something that doesn’t scare me but brings a sort of new life, especially when it involves speaking of Christ.
But I wasn’t prepared for the communion piece.
I wasn’t prepared for my brothers and sisters, young and old, black and white and Asian and Latino, to stream down the aisle. I wasn’t prepared for the silence and I wasn’t prepared for hallowed thank you’s. I wasn’t prepared for the tears, and I wasn’t prepared for the way time seemed to stop, for the Spirit who seemed to magically hover right in our midst.
This bread and wine, this meal, this body, this life is at the heart of the Christian tradition, and, as Sara Miles writes in Take This Bread, “at the eternal and material core of Christianity: body, blood, bread, wine, poured our freely, shared by all.” (p. xiii) This experience, found on a Sunday morning at your neighborhood church or through the words of this month’s Red Couch Book club selection, unites us together.
Maybe that’s why her words have felt like a holy communion for me, a meal to feast on and think over most every night. Take This Bread has eerily brought me back to the beginning, back to the origins of our faith: to the God who cares for orphans and the widows, to the Spirit who beckons in the mostly unlikely of believers, and to the Christ who welcomes all to the table.
I don’t know about you, but I found myself most intrigued by how the story of the food pantry continued, despite opposition. When volunteers within Saint Gregory’s couldn’t be found, individuals who’d once stood in line for food themselves took over the ranks. When money couldn’t be found, word got out, and a friend of a friend began allocating that thousands of dollars be given to the work of the church’s food pantry. What Sara Miles deemed not calling but the simple act of what Christians should naturally, already be doing, became its own life force.
Does your heart pound like mine at that very notion? What, like the food pantry for her, is a life force in and of itself for you?
It’s also reminded me that church—or at least my westernized version of church—is not necessarily supposed to be comfortable. Instead, it’s supposed to be messy and human, a no-questions-asked place for all. It’s supposed to be a place for transformation:
“It doesn’t promise to solve or erase suffering but to transform it, pledging that by loving one another, even through pain, we will find more life. And it insists that by opening ourselves to strangers, the despised or frightening or unintelligible other, we will see more and more of the holy, since, without exception, all people are one body: God’s.” (xvi)
Would you agree? Wouldn’t you agree?
At its core, I want the life of faith Miles writes so candidly and honestly about, just as I want the walls and the doors and the roofs of my church to be open to everyone, without exception, simply and solely because they are God’s children.
Maybe, given the mosaic of denominations Christianity represents, this pipe dream of All-Are-Welcome admittance can’t and won’t ever apply—but I, for one, still think we can be the change we wish to see in our churches and in our world. You and I can do our part to welcome everyone to the table, simply and solely for their stamp of humanity.
So, let’s talk about how this book has impacted and changed us. Consider some of these discussion questions, or share with us what you’ve been ruminating over since finding your way through her words:
How might your church welcome in the least of these?
How might your family be the arms and legs of Jesus to those who need it the most?
How might your community reach out and say, “Here, take this Bread,” to any and all who come knocking?
And how might you experience the miracle of feeding others and a faith that isn’t a theological argument, but “… a lens, a way of experiencing life, and a willingness to act?” (vi)
I can’t wait to see how Sara Miles’ holy words change us all.
Our December book is A Widening Light: Poems of the Incarnation, edited by Luci Shaw. Come back next Wednesday December 2 for reflections on select poems from Red Couch contributors. We will also be hosting a linkup for you to share your own reflections on A Widening Light. Pick a poem from the collection and write a post about it, then share it with us. You’re also welcome to link to any posts you’ve written about our 2015 book selections. The linkup will run all month long. You can also join the Red Couch Facebook group for ongoing discussion throughout the month.