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 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.
In this opening paragraph of Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion, Sara Miles introduces her tale of a remarkable, virtually instantaneous work God did in her life. She describes herself as a leftist radical lesbian atheist who, through this simple encounter with Jesus through the bread and the cup changed into a very different person: a leftist radical lesbian Christian.
And because God used bread to speak to Miles' heart, she began to feed the poor in her new home church, St Gregory's, by opening a food pantry. Her website describes the ministry this way:
The food pantry buys around five tons of food each week, for just pennies a pound, and offers it free to everyone who comes. Families select the food they need from a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, rice, pasta, beans, cereal, and dry goods The Food Pantry is run entirely by volunteers, most of them people who came to get food and stayed to help out"
Mindy and I both enjoyed Miles' honesty and directness in telling her tale.
She has two other books: in 2010 she published Jesus Freak: Feeding Healing Raising the Dead, and this year City of God: Faith in the Streets.
Reading Take This Bread there were a number of theological, political and moral issues on which I would disagree with Miles. Some of these issues would include the use of icons, the place of Mary in the church, and the nature of the communion table. But most peopledon't care a whit about those issues these days. It seems these days the only moral and theological issues that engage the public at large about the Church are those of sexuality.
From my reading of Scripture, I believe homosexual practice is sinful and same sex marriage is contrary to Jesus' teaching on marriage in Matthew 19. Obviously, Sara Miles would disagree with my beliefs. I'm sure many people would be happy in this situation to say that one of us is a Christian, and the other is not.
Fortunately, God's grace is pretty huge. Looking back through history, we can see Christians have disagreed on some pretty profound issues, such as slavery, governmental authority, and whether or not to eat a piece of meat that had been in front of a little gold statue. On some of these issues, we've come to a consensus in the Church, and some we haven't. But God's love always proves bigger than the issues Christians disagree about.
Reading the work of Sara Miles, she expresses her love for Jesus eloquently, and even more clearly, she has written of God's love for her. About that, what is ultimately the most important thing, we agree.