Friday, June 23, 2017

Chapter 7 Prayer

Figuring out what it means to pray is never an easy task. Learning how to pray is something we do over and over again throughout our lives.

In an early conversation with a friend after her conversion, Sara Miles tries to describe what it means to pray.
""When you told me to pray," Jose would remember later, "it was incredibly earnest. You said prayer was like having this intense, profound longing that you just had to be with. That you put the longing in the hands of God, in a certain way. That it was important to be receptive to the unfulfilled, and not fill it or deny it." (page 70)

In what ways do you pray?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Chapter 7 Crossing

After experiencing her first Communion, Sara Miles goes on to describe trying to come to terms with starting to go to an Episcopal church, starting to become a Christian.

"My first year at St. Gregory's would begin, and end, with questions. Now I understand that questions are at the heart of faith, and that certainties about God can flicker on and off, no matter what you think you know." (page 65)

What certainties about God do you know? 
What questions about Christianity do you have?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Chapter 6 Connection

"There was an immediacy of communion at St. Gregory's, unmediated by altar rails, the raw physicality of that mystical meal. There was an invitation to jump in rather than official entrance requirements. There was the suggestion that God could be located in experience, sensed through bodies, tasted in food; that my body was connected literally and mysteriously to other bodies and loved without reason." (64)

How do you experience God in your life?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Chapter 6 Jesus

I don't know about you, but I have personally found this chapter very powerful. I don't remember my first communion. However, I do know the longing for it when I end up at services where I cannot take communion because of my food allergies. I too have cried at the altar rail from being a part of communion, and I have experienced crying at the altar rail because I could not take part in the literal eating of communion during that service. The Church believes that even if you cannot literally eat, for many reasons during a communion service, that if your intention is there, you have received. All well and good. There is still something powerful about the actual eating of the bread and drinking of the wine. 

Sara Miles goes on to talk about her confusion about what happened to her in taking her First Communion. She was repulsed, but also drawn toward it. 

"Yet that impossible word, Jesus, lodged in me like a crumb. I said it over and over to myself, as if repetition would help me understand. I had no idea what it meant; I didn't know what to do with it. But it was realer than any thought of mine, or even any subjective emotion: It was as real as the actual taste of the bread and the wine. And the word was indisputably in my body now, as if I'd swallowed a radioactive pellet that would outlive my own flesh. Much later on, I'd read what Jesus's disciples said about the idea of eating a body and drinking blood. "This is intolerable," they declared. Many of them, shocked, "could not accept it and went away and followed him no more." Well, it was intolerable." (59)

Have you ever found the idea about communion shocking?

Monday, June 19, 2017

Chapter 6 First Communion

Sara Miles experiences her first communion, un-baptized, unprepared, unsuspecting. 

“Early one winter morning, when Katie was sleeping at her father’s house, I walked into St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church in San Francisco. I had no earthly reason to be there. I’d never heard a Gospel reading, never said the Lord’s Prayer. I was certainly not interested in becoming a Christian – or, as I thought of it rather less politely, a religious nut. But on other long walks, I’d passed the beautiful wooden building, with its shingled steeples and plain windows, and this time I went in, on an impulse, with no more than a reporter’s habitual curiosity.” (57)

“There was no organ, no choir, no pulpit: just the unadorned voices of the people, and long silences framed by the ringing of deep Tibetan bowls. I sang, too. It crossed my mind that this is ridiculous. We sat down and stood up, sang and sat down, waited and listened and stood up and sang, and it was all pretty peaceful and sort of interesting. “Jesus invites everyone to his table,” the woman announced, and we started moving up in a stately dance to the table in the rotunda. It has some dishes on it, and a pottery goblet. And then we gathered around that table. And there was more singing and standing, and someone was putting a piece of fresh, crumbly bread in my hands, saying “the body of Christ,” and handing me the goblet of sweet wine, saying “the blood of Christ,” and then something outrageous and terrifying happened. Jesus happened to me.” (58)

"I still can't explain my first communion. It made no sense. I was in tears and physically unbalanced: I felt as if I had just stepped off a curb or been knocked over, painlessly, from behind. The disconnect between what I thought was happening - I was eating a piece of bread; what I heard someone else say was happening - the piece of bread was the "body" of "Christ," a patently untrue or at best metaphorical statement; and what I knew was happening - God, named "Christ" or "Jesus," was real, and in my mouth - utterly short-circuited my ability to do anything but cry." (59)

Do you remember your first communion? What was/is your experience?

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Holy Communion or Eucharist or Mass or the Lord's Supper

We have many names for the ritual of gathering together to eat the bread and wine which Jesus told us to do in memory of him: Holy Communion, Eucharist, Mass, or the Lord's Supper. They all mean the same thing: the community of God's people gathered together to worship God in the eating of bread and wine which takes on special meaning in some way as the Body and Blood of Jesus.

(The theological differences of transubstantiation, full union, real presence, are not what I am debating now.)

The history of traditions around the Eucharist, the giving thanks to God, is long and wide. Some churches celebrate with unleavened bread, some with leavened bread. Some churches use wine, some use juice. Some traditions specify who is allowed to participate, specifying that those who wish to do so must be baptized in their church, some churches accept the baptisms of other churches, while some churches allow anyone to participate whether they have been baptized or not.

The Episcopal Church has traditionally required people to be baptized before they are allowed to participate in Holy Communion. For some time, the requirement was also that people be confirmed. During revising of the Book of Common Prayer, eventually the requirement for confirmation was dropped. Lately, (the last twenty years) there has been some discussion about whether the church should drop the requirement for baptism for participation in Communion. The idea is called Open Table and suggests that since Jesus ate and drank with all manner of people, not asking whether or not people are baptized, that we should too. There is also some wisdom about experiencing what being a part of the community looks, feels, smells, sounds, and tastes like before they join.

The church that Sara Miles ends up going to in San Francisco, St. Gregory of Nyssa, has gotten special dispensation from their diocese and the larger church to practice Open Table as an experiment in theology.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Chapter 5 Democracy

One of the people who made a big impression on Sara Miles was Ignacio Martín Baró.  Baró was a Jesuit priest and scholar and psychologist in Central America. He wrote a great deal about mental health in places of oppression, especially in contexts of community and liberation efforts. Sara Miles had a number of conversations with him and during one them she remembers him talking about democracy.

"In that cool office, he talked not about blood but about democracy, which sometimes he'd call "fellowship."" "Democracy definitely means that people will make mistakes. "And," he added, "we should welcome them."" (page 45)

How welcoming are we of other people's mistakes? How forgiving?