Thursday, January 2, 2014

Bread for the Journey

There is a book that sits on a table in our bedroom waiting for me to read it.  It's the spiritual memoir of Sara Miles called, "Take This Bread."  It's the story of how this atheist, left-leaning former journalist, lesbian stumbled into a church one day, received the Eucharist, and underwent a radical transformation that led to a journey of feeding all kinds of people and not in a one-time, "Here's a sandwich" sort of way, but a constant feeding of the multitudes of those who are going hungry in this country of plenty.

I thought of this book as I read through today's daily office readings for the morning on this, the ninth day of Christmas.  We have moved beyond the major saintly feast days, and since I don't do the "Saint of the Day" readings for the many minor saints, martyrs and prophets as assigned through Holy Women/Holy Men, I had the chance to read and reflect on the story of Elijah on the run from Jezebel and being directed by an angel to eat cake baked on hot stones and John's account of Jesus' miracle of the feeding of the five thousand.  And as I read these two passages, I was reminded that Miles' book awaits me for whenever I am done reading the multiple books assigned for the Education for Ministry program.  I look forward to it.  Mostly because Miles' introduction to a new life driven by Christianity begins with the bread of the Eucharist, which we believe is the embodiment of Christ.  It was taking in this bread that led to her change of heart.  And that is the theme that I see in both readings from this morning.  

Naturally, the cake Elijah consumed was not identified as Christ.  But I am mostly interested in that the cake baked on stones comes when Elijah, feeling scared and alone in the wilderness, lies down under a broom tree begging for God to just kill him and get it over with.  Instead, he gets roused by an angel who instructs him to eat the cake and drink the water that is there.  He does so once, and then laid down again.  No, no--this won't do.  So, the angel, again, wakes him up and tells him to eat again--"Get up and eat otherwise the journey will be too much for you." (1 Kings 19:7).  That's the phrase that stood out for me as I read through this and continued on to the selected passage from John, where five thousand feasted upon the bread and fish provided on a grassy plain.  I thought about the people who were fed to their heart's content, so that they can journey on.  I think this is the lesson to be pulled from these two readings: if we are to survive the journey, and not have it overwhelm us, we have to be fed.  This nourishment comes through the bread and wine of Eucharist; it becomes extended to others in our willingness to take our full selves to meet others who need to be fed.  Sometimes, this is a literal distribution of food to those who need it.  Sometimes, this is the willingness to enter into the place where somebody is in their suffering and pain and be present to that.  Sometimes, it is the ability to put our own suffering and pain on hold to share in the joy and celebration of another.  Always, this should be the out growth of having received the body and blood which is the symbolism of life, light, and Love.

For this Ninth Day of Christmas, I want to commit myself to living as one who is fed, both literally in this land of plenty, and spiritually as one who is striving to keep on a path with God.  I know that, for me, I must partake in the Eucharist as this is the food that supplies the energy to my cells so that I can continue to offer what gifts I have to others.  It is the bread for this journey called Life.  And it helps me to remain alive to the world around me.  

1 comment:

Phoebe McFarllin said...

Ps. 34:8 and remember vs. 19 as you move on in 2014ff.