Take This Bread

Isaiah 55: 1-9 (inclusive text) “Ho, all you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, buy food and eat! Come, buy wine and milk, without money, without price! Why spend your money for what is not bread, your wages for what fails to satisfy? Heed me, and you will eat well, you will delight in rich fare; bend your ear and come to me, listen, that you may have life: I will make an everlasting Covenant with you– in fulfillment of the blessings promised to David. See, I have made of you to be a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander of the nations. See, you will summon nations you never knew, and nations that never knew you will come hurrying to you- for the sake of YHWH, while I may still be found, call upon me while I am near! Let the corrupt abandon their ways, the evil their thoughts. Let them return to YHWH, and I will have mercy on them; return to God, for I will freely pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways, my ways,” says YHWH. “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.

Lent 2010: A Theology of Enough

The Isaiah passage for this week raises some interesting questions that disrupt a simplistic take on Lent as merely the season “to give up” or even to “take one” new practices. Isaiah probes deeper – asking his minority community in exile: “What are you really hungry for?” “What do your feed yourselves with?” And perhaps most interestingly for our contemporary context “What do you spend your money on which doesn’t actually nourish you?” Calling out with the cadence of a merchant at a busy market, Isaiah invites his listeners to come, even with no money in our pockets, and to fill arms and baskets with Yahweh’s good food and drink.

———————————————————————————————- While taking communion for the first time in her forties, Sara Miles had an encounter with the Divine. “God is real!” she proclaimed to herself, and “God is in my mouth!” She wept and her hands shook as she struggled to assimilate this powerful embodied experience into her previous assumptions about life. Week after week she came back, to a funky, artsy Episcopal church in San Francisco, hungry for the Mystery. Clint placed Sara’s book, Take this Bread, in my hand a few Sundays ago. And I devoured it. Her story moves quickly, from a chance Eucharistic experience after wandering into St. Gregory’s to check out the architecture, to a powerful desire to extend the table even further. She partners with the local Food Bank and opens a neighborhood pantry in her church’s sanctuary. It is not a program, but a community of prayer and one ultimately run by volunteers who rise up from the ranks of those who come weekly to shop for a free bag of groceries. Rather than pious church ladies doling out food to the poor with a do-gooders smile, think instead of crack addicts, prostitutes, noisy Chinese and Russian immigrants, and the mentally ill, homeless and abused. Together, the volunteers receive and organize pallets of food delivered Friday morning by the food pantry truck, welcome visitors with a snack and a random number (no ID or proof of income necessary), and invite them into the church in small groups to shop with dignity and in peace. (Fresh produce, bread, cereal, and dried goods are piled up on and around the altar, and in the center of the sanctuary they place a ‘holy compost bin’ for scraps). In a matter of weeks they are feeding two hundred and fifty folks, in a few years they have launched nearly a dozen additional neighborhood pantries around the city. And along the way they learn to see God breaking into the world, incarnate, in the flesh of one another. For the poor who volunteer, the physical work and intimacy of the distribution of food, gives them a place to contribute even as they struggle with very real challenges in their own lives. For the sick in mind and body, St. Gregory’s pantry is a community to anoint them with scented oil, and pray for healing and release from pain. For the volunteers from the “regular” Sunday morning congregation (who tend to be wealthy and educated) the pantry gives them an opportunity to find meaning and freedom in unlikely friendships. Ultimately the boundaries between different kinds of people: well-off and needy, believers and nonbelievers, sober and struggling, healthy and sick begin to become pliable, and to bend and crack as the light of God’s kingdom shines through.

Ho, everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters: And you that have no money, Come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, And your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, And delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me: Listen, so that you may live.

The worship team has been considering organizing a book study for the Great Fifty days of Easter. I think we may have found our book, rising organically from the hands of the librarian in our midst! I encourage you to order a copy of Sara Miles’ Take This Bread and we will dive into it together starting the Wednesday after Easter (April 7). Also join us tonight and Sunday as we continue to journey together in the wilderness adding Isaiah’s questions to our own as we meditate on where and how we encounter God’s Enough. Peace of Christ to you this day, Courtney PS. Lisa and Teri are preparing Thai food for tonight, all are welcome! Jesus and hand-made spring rolls, what’s not to like? 6:30 Casa Semrad108 South Rosemont Ave. 214. 233-4605 for more info.

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