“One early, cloudy morning when I was forty-six, I walked into a church, ate a piece of bread, took a sip of wine. A routine Sunday activity for tens of millions of Americans—except that up until that moment, I’d led a thoroughly secular life, at best indifferent to religion, more often appalled by its fundamentalist crusades. This was my first communion. It changed everything.”
Take This Bread is the memoir of Sara Miles, a woman who never expected to find herself at home in a church. Passionate about social justice, Miles was raised under the assumption that the Church was no space for those who wanted to extend love, instead restricted to the unquestioned faith of fundamentalists.
One day, for no apparent reason save the urging of the Holy Spirit, Miles was compelled into the walls of St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church in San Francisco where she was offered the Eucharistic meal; and in the taste of bread and wine, she says, “Jesus happened.”
“The mysterious sacrament turned out to be not a symbolic wafer at all but actual food—indeed, the bread of life. In that shocking moment of communion, filled with a deep desire to reach for and become part of a body, I realized that what I’d been doing with my life all along was what I was meant to do: feed people.”
Miles was so compelled by Jesus command to Peter to “feed My sheep” that she proceeded to start a food bank at St. Gregory’s and, in time, programs all over the city of San Francisco. Through the process of feeding men, women, and children from all over the city, Miles lived into an understanding of God and the power of Christ’s incarnation.
Through her memoir, Miles shares the story of the journey from working as a line cook in New York City to a journalist in war-torn Nicaragua to the birth of her daughter and eventually making a home in San Francisco—each adventure grounded in the need to feed others.
“The impulse to share food is basic and ancient, and it’s no wonder the old stories teach that what you give to a stranger, you give to God.”
She could not explain the impulse that pulled her into a local church one day, her own antagonism against the Christian religion at the forefront of her mind. But as she heard the words “This is Christ’s body, this is Christ’s blood—for you,” she could not escape the inexplicable surety that what she ate was so much more than simply a snack or a metaphor. This mystery drew her back to the Table week after week as she strove to understand why.
For Miles, the incarnation of Christ is vital to the meal of bread and wine. The physicality of the Gospel is what makes it so powerful and thus compels the Church to do the work to which it is called. To feed.
Take This Bread is a true story of the power of communion to satiate both physical and spiritual hunger, a poignant example of how the Eucharist can be a powerful tool for community building and transformation of lives. Miles’ theology does not fit within traditional orthodoxy, and her flippant dismissal of historic creeds and sacraments is upsetting to readers who hold them in high regard.
However even those who would push back against her theology can learn from her very real experience with God, whose heavenly kingdom is “a banquet where the weakest and most broken, the worst sinners and outcasts, [are] honored guests who welcome one another in peace and shared food.”
“They ate believing that God had given them Christ’s life and that they could spread that life through the world by sharing food with others in His name…that meal remained, through all the centuries, more powerful than any attempts to manage it. It reconciled, if only for a minute, all of God’s creation, revealing that, without exception, we were members of one body, God’s body, in endless diversity. The feast showed us how to re-member what had been dis-membered…At that Table, sharing food, we were brought into the ongoing work of making creation whole.”
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