Friday, August 25, 2017

Chapter 25 The Heavenly Banquet

After years of being a Christian and working with the food pantry, Sara Miles finally comes out to her mother about being a Christian. Her mother had been an atheist most of her life and stood against the destructive components of the Christian church. But Sara finally decided to share with her mother about what she loved about Christianity over lunch. "It wasn't official Eucharist. It was real communion, with all the incomplete, stupid, and aching parts still there. Made by human hands, out of meat and hope, incarnate: what the Russian mystics called "a foretaste of the heavenly banquet, where none are left behind."" (278)

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Chapter 25 The Heavenly Feast

While others found the food pantry to be way too much because of all the crazy people and the noise and the abundance of food that was free, Sara Miles describes how this fact alone mimics the sacramental way of being. "I thought the sacraments were a sign of God's grace precisely because they were so over the top: so abundant, so beyond human calculation, spilling over the unprepared and pious alike, feeding the world wildly." (267)

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Chapter 24 Sharing Jesus

After a couple of years of working for St. Gregory's food pantry, Sara Miles describes how her sense of mission changed. "My only sense of "mission" now was to show others that they, too, could feed and touch and heal and love, without fear. To catch them up in the desire to see more, taste more, without caring if they got a doctrine right or became a regular at my church. To get them walking, without the safety net of ritual correctness, along the path that Jesus blazed and to share the feast of their lives with others." (266)

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Chapter 24 Containing God

"When it came right down to it, the God that I'd found was a God who lived on earth, who knew what it was like to walk around in a body, fight with religious authorities, hurt his mother's feelings. "We walk the road, Lord Jesus, that you trod," went one of my favorite hymns." (264)

"And rather than protecting me and sealing me off in a community of shared doctrine and rules, this truth thrust me into the wildness of faith. I didn't need a creed to artificially connect me with other believers: It was the ragged vastness of our different spiritual lives that pointed, for me, to a larger force. It made me even more of a believer to accept that none of us, fundamentalist or radical or orthodox, Muslim or Jew or Christian, could adequately sum God up." (264-5)

Monday, August 21, 2017

Chapter 24 The Cost of Faith

There are many different costs when it comes to believing and following the way of Jesus. Sara Miles describes some of her battles with understanding the costs of faith after her conversion. One of the hardest things to come to terms with was how very much alike we all are in the body of Christ. "Christianity, if it was all I'd come to believe, demanded that I understand exactly how like everyone else I was. And it was this realization that would not go away, even as I battled with the costs of faith." (262)

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Take This Bread Book Study Discussion

After a few months of reading Take This Bread by Sara Miles, we will be gathering for discussion about the book and the questions that have been online next Sunday, August 27th, at 9:00 am in St. John's Parish Hall. I hope you will join us!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Chapter 23 Who is God?

One of the biggest religious questions of all time is simply a question of identity: who is God? Every one who lives into a spiritual life asks this question, or a similar form of it, at some point along their journey. 

""I don't have the slightest idea what God is like, really," preached Rick. "All I know is what I see God doing, in my own life and in the lives of the people around me."" (257-8)

How would you describe who God is?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Chapter 23 Christian Fighting

Sadly, Sara Miles found that there was a lot of push back against her idea of having food pantry on Sundays. She was surprised and disappointed, though she fought hard for her idea. 

It is surprising to many people how much Christians fight among themselves, and on a wide variety of topics. In the last ten years, Episcopalians have fought themselves on every level, in congregations, in dioceses, in provinces, in the national General Convention, in the Anglican Communion. 

"The endless fights among the faithful had prompted Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, to write that "unity is a gospel imperative when we recognize that it opens us to change, to conversion: when we realize how our life with Christ is somehow bound up with our willingness to abide with those we think are sinful, and those we think are stupid."" (255)

""In plain words," as the archbishop said, "unity is a gospel imperative to just the extent that we find it hard."" (256)

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Chapter 23 Sunday Dinner

Among her ideas to expand the reach of the food pantry, Sara Miles wants to start a food pantry on Sunday afternoons at St. Gregory's. She was hoping that people would come for church and lunch and volunteer at the food pantry as an outpouring of love from Sunday morning. "I believed the food pantry represented the best of St. Gregory's practices and values: its openness, its inclusion, its beauty, and its invitation to participate in creating something together." (251)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Chapter 22 Abundance

Sara Miles had written a prayer for the food pantry, which was sung every week with the Lord’s Prayer. It went like this: “O God of abundance, you feed us every day. Rise in use now, make us into your bread, that we may share your gifts with a hungry world, and join in love with all people, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (247)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Chapter 22 Multiplying the Loaves

Unfortunately in San Francisco, the poverty situation is in a place where even being open every week and having opened 9 other food pantries, St. Gregory’s was still having to turn away people at the end of the day because they didn’t have any more food. Then something big happened.

“Then I saw the news: St. Gregory’s Pantry was awarded two hundred thousand dollars. We were going to get an escrow account, disbursed at twenty thousand dollars a year for ten years, because “St. Gregory’s Pantry has a tiny operating budget and no staff, but it has accomplished great things.”” (245)

Friday, August 11, 2017

Chapter 21 Baptism

One of the children who started coming to the food pantry started asking Sara Miles about the baptismal font outside the back of the church. Explaining baptism to this girl made her think about baptism in a new way. “Baptism, if it signified anything, signified the unavoidable reality of the cross at the heart of the Christian faith. It wasn’t a magic charm but a reminder of God’s presence in the midst of unresolved human pain.” (236)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Chapter 21 Matrimony

When the state of California allowed gay couples to get married, Sara found herself in a position to be able to get married. Her partner and herself agreed, and got married at the courthouse. However, the next day, St. Gregory's had a blessing and celebration for them and a few other couples. 

“A year later, Mercedes would hand me an envelope at the food pantry, apologizing that it had taken her so long to give us an appropriate wedding present. “Sara y Marta,” she’d written on the greeting card, which was in flowery Spanish and featured embossed, entwined gold bands. Inside, Mercedes had tucked a Western Union money order for two hundred dollars, which she’d put aside, week by week, from her housecleaning wages. “Your holy matrimony and true love,” she’d printed carefully at the bottom of the card, “is a gift from God.” I cried as I read over the prayer from the marriage rite in the Book of Common Prayer. It had new meaning for me. “Make their life together a sign of Christ’s love to this sinful and broken world,” the prayer said, “that unity may overcome estrangement, forgiveness heal guilt, and joy conquer despair.”” (235)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Chapter 21 Rites

Healing happened at the food pantry, without any doctors, nurses, or priests. Many came and were healed through the love and prayer they received.

“I didn’t believe in miracles. And yet I had begun to believe in healing. I saw that you could be changed, opened to experiencing your life differently, made more whole, even as your body was falling apart. That you could be healed from fear by touch, even when you remained sick.” (231)

When have you experienced healing?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Chapter 20 Reframing

Sara’s friend Steve would visit from seminary sometimes and enjoy the simplicity of the food pantry. While other people see the food pantry as helping people, the volunteers saw it as community building. “”Like, its not about doing charity for poor people. We’re bringing people together to share food and praise God. What else do you want? That’s church.” “That’s communion,” I said. “Jesus’s Table.”” (223)

Monday, August 7, 2017

Chapter 20 Cooking with My Brother II

Sara Miles and the priest Paul Fromberg start cooking lunch for the volunteers every week. They cooked real food, and a wide variety of it, and while they did they talked about everything. One of their conversations was about the Virgin Mary.

""Right. Here's the radical thing about Mary: She doesn't need a man to have a baby. Her virginity means that her womb belongs to her." "And that she's willing to be taken over," I said, reaching for a spoon. "To let God move in her and not know what's gonna happen next." "Exactly," said Paul. "The thing about modern fundamentalists is that they think they can control God like a piece of technology and that they're the only ones who have the secret code." It was a huge relief to me to have a friend who could get beyond conventional discussions about religion. So many of the arguments between left- and right-wing Christians, fundamentalists and Episcopalians, Roman Catholics and Pentecostals, seemed to hinge on the idea that their own sect had the correct practice, "the secret code," that would save the followers and make God reward them. That was idolatry, as I saw it: magical thinking, pagan religion. I didn't think God needed humans to practice religion at all: God didn't need to be appeased by sacrifices or offerings or perfectly memorized quotations from the Bible spoken in the right order. God was not manageable. Human beings might want rituals, but it was dangerous to confuse the rituals with an ultimately unknowable God. That led to crusades, sectarian killings, the casting-out of heretics -- in fact, to the murder of Jesus, who dared to challenge the religious authorities with raw truth. "The message of Jesus," Paul told me, mixing a black bean salad, "is the only cure for religion."" (221)

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Episcopal Sacraments

In Chapter 21, Sara Miles talks about the different sacraments and sacramental rites of the Episcopal Church and how they were translated into the life and community of the food pantry. The Episcopal Church recognizes two Sacraments: Baptism and Eucharist. Along with the Sacraments, the Episcopal Church recognizes five sacramental rites, which means they are like sacraments, yet not with the same kind of necessity. The Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer puts it this way, "Although they are means of grace, they are not necessary for all persons in the same way that Baptism and the Eucharist are." (BCP 860)

The sacramental rites include confirmation, ordination, matrimony, reconciliation, and unction. As you can see, not everyone is called to ordination, not everyone is called to matrimony. Yet, we recognize these rites as ways in which people experience God and God's grace. The Catechism doesn't leave it just to those seven ways though. One of the questions it asks and answers is "Is God's activity limited to these rites?" The answer is a resolute no. "God does not limit himself to these rites; they are patterns of countless ways by which God uses material things to reach out to us." (BCP 861)

Sara Miles finds all of them are part of the life of the food pantry in different ways. Where do you see these sacraments in your life?

Friday, August 4, 2017

Chapter 19 New Sight

Sara Miles describes learning many surprising things on her new Christian journey, however she wasn't always prepared for what Christianity taught her.
"Instead, religion was like learning how to see. I was trying to make meaning from things I hadn't previously paid attention to -- the events I hadn't bothered to see and the people I didn't want to." (211)

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Chapter 19 Wisdom

Sometimes wisdom comes from the strangest places as Sara Miles found out with her volunteers. Even the most outcast of the misfits could offer another wisdom for life. 

""Honey," she said, "you can't change people; you just have to forgive them."" (209)

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Chapter 19 Misfits

Sara Miles describes how the volunteers started eating lunch together each week. "I'd described the pantry from the beginning as communion. But I'd forgotten that communion was above all a meal. Those first few years at the pantry, the volunteers ate the way cooks do: poorly, in a hurry, carelessly." "We'd grab whatever was at hand and eat as we worked, until one day when the truck arrived so early there was no setup left to do, and I made a pot of soup. I had no idea how hungry we'd been. Soon I'd convinced the Food Bank to deliver all our food early, and I was cooking soup for ten, then fifteen, then twenty volunteers." (207) Soon all the volunteers were gathering for a meal together before the food pantry opened, gathering at a table together to share in a meal. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Chapter 18 Abundance

Sara Miles and her food pantry were facing an expansion problem. They didn't have enough money and they didn't have enough volunteers. They wanted to find a way to feed more people, but they didn't know how. God had an idea.

"Steve sent me a note complaining about yet another boring liturgy discussion at staff meeting. "But on the bright side," he ended his note, "some guy just phoned the office and wants to give you twenty-five thousand dollars. Call me."" (200)

When the courts had extra money from large settlements left over after all the class members in a suit had entered their claims, the money was given to charities recommended by the lawyers. In this case, one of the lawyers recommended the Food Pantry at St. Gregory's. This was a huge opportunity. 

Sara went to find other places to start food pantries.