Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Take This Bread

So, as a follow up to God's Problem, where the question of human suffering and biblical interpretation led Bart Ehrman to agnosticism, we will read Take This Bread, the spiritual memoir of Sara Miles.

Sara was raised a secular atheist. A chef, an activist, a writer... religion, particularly Christianity, was the farthest thing from her mind. Then one day, out of curiosity, she stepped into a church, participated in the eucharist, and was changed forever. In her own words, "Mine is a personal story of an unexpected and terribly inconvenient Christian conversion, told by a very unlikely convert: a blue-state, secular intellectual; a lesbian, a left-wing journalist with a habit of skepticism."

But the inconvenience of it all didn't matter. it happened, and she couldn't ignore it. As a chef, the core of her life was food, and feeing others, that act of 'eating God' spoke to her in a profound way, and in the scriptures she found a powerful spiritual doctrine to correspond:

"Poking around in the Bible, I found clues about my deepest questions. Salt, grain, wine and water; fig trees, fishermen and farmers. There were Psalms about hunger and thirst, about harvests and feasting. There were stories about manna in the wilderness, and prophets fed by birds. There was God appearing in radiance to Ezekiel and handing him a scroll: 'Mortal,' he said, 'eat this scroll,' and Ezekiel swallowed the words, 'sweet as honey,' and knew God.

And then in the New Testament appeared the central, astonishing fact of Jesus, proclaiming that he himself was the bread of heaven. 'Eat my flesh and drink my blood,' he said. I thought how outrageous Jesus was to the church of his time: he didn't wash before meals, he said the prayers incorrectly, he hung out with women, foreigners, the despised and unclean. Over and over, he told people not to be afraid. I liked all that, but mostly I liked that he said he was bread, and told his friends to eat him...

I couldn't stop thinking about another story: Jesus instructing his beloved, fallible disciple Peter exactly how to love him: 'Feed my sheep'... It seemed pretty clear. If I wanted to see God, I could feed people."

And so that is what she did, opening food pantries in her town to feed the needy. Because that is what Jesus wanted her to do, feed his sheep.

Sara covers many themes in this book; conversion, faith, spiritual discovery, scriptural interpretation, political activism, 'good works', the difficult but necessary path of being 'one' with god's people, women in the ministry, etc...

Here is Sara Miles This I Believe essay about her conversion, and you can read excerpts from her book here, here, and here.

We'll discuss this book Aug 13 at The Exponent. I can 't wait to see what you thought.

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