Table manners can change the world (Liner notes: Sunday 10.28)

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When we truly lean into regular communion practice we find that it changes our world. Invited, included, and celebrating the mystery of Christ’s solidarity with us and in all things, we mightiest see the world differently. It might just change the way we see the world - as a place of possibility, equity and justice.

Sara Miles, a self described “lesbian atheist liberal journalist” discovered this one morning when she walked into a church and received communion. Her eyes were opened and she saw the ramifications of a life rooted in a eucharistic rhythm - life broken, poured out, shared and put back together again in the real world. She started a food pantry around that same communion table and a network of pantries across the city, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars all for the cause.

Feed my sheep, feed my sheep,” I repeated. “He didn’t say, ‘Feed my sheep after you check their ID.
— Sara Miles

A pretty powerful thing when you think about a piece of bread and a sip of wine on an odd Sunday morning.

It’s all in her excellent book Take This Bread: A Radical Communion, the spiritual memoir of a twenty-first-century Christian. One of my favorite lines is this:

“What I found wasn’t about angels or going to church or trying to be ‘good’ in a pious, idealized way. It wasn’t about arguing a doctrine - the Virgin birth, predestination, the sinfulness of homosexuality and divorce - or pledging blind allegiance to a denomination. I was, as the prophet said, hungering and thirsting for righteousness. I found it at the eternal and material core of Christianity: body, blood, bread, wine, poured out freely, shared by all. I discovered a religion rooted in the most ordinary yet subversive practice: a dinner table where everyone is welcome, where the despised and outcasts are honored.”

Amen to that!

In Acts 6 we see an early Christian community grappling with the full ramifications of what these table manners of Jesus look like. There’s a story where the Jewish widows aren’t getting enough to eat while the Greek widows, are. A scandal to be sure. So we are introduced to this incredible young man named Stephen who, with six others, waits on tables and does his part to set the world to rights. They say he performed many signs and wonders and had the face of an angel. That’s Bible talk for “he did bold things as a messenger for God, seeking justice.”

What might signs and wonders look like for us today in the spirit of Sara Miles and St. Stephen?