A Book To Chew On

This is a follow-up to the post about Purpose. 

I bought this book online back in 2020, in one of my pandemic lockdown book-buying binges. I bought it because it is about sharing meals as a community of faith, and that -- feeding people, coming to the table as a community, sharing a meal in the context of our faith -- is a deep-rooted but untapped calling for me. 

As in, a purpose. 

I'm not quite halfway through the book and I had to write about it. It's one of those books that, for me, makes me feel "ah" every few pages. Not just breathe it or say it but feel it in my whole body. Especially when I read the following sentences on page 36 when Emily M.D. Scott writes about what the people she encounters aren't finding at the big, fancy churches: 

"These people are yearning for a beating heart, and can't find it. What would it mean to drop the creeds and the chasubles [outer robes worn by priests] and see what is left? Bread, wine, the words of Jesus. A table. Water for baptism and oil for anointing. What would happen if we stripped it all away?"

First of all, simple. Simplify. I'm all for that. Drop the rituals, the way we've always done things. Get back to basics. Give people what they need. 

Secondly, the first time I read those sentences, I stopped at "the words of Jesus". So very rarely do I find theologians who suggest we don't need much more than the words of Jesus. That the command to love one another covers everything. That his calls to feed, support, lift up are more than enough for us to do. It's why the world needs more Jesus -- his words are all we need to guide us on the path of courage, mercy, justice and hospitality.

Right now, I think -- I hope -- I strive to -- feed people's hearts and spirits with my words. But I long to feed their bodies as well. To feed hearts and spirits, minds and bodies with supper church. With "church for people who don't like church" by offering a meal and conversation, the words of Jesus, a song, a prayer and a blessing. All bracketed by setting the table and cleaning up the kitchen! 

As I said, I'm not even halfway through the book so I don't know how it ends, I don't know if I'll feel the same way at the end, but right now, it's making my heart sing with the idea -- then wilt knowing I don't live in an area where that kind of church, or even community meal, will be supported. It takes about a year to get something new established, and I'm not sure enough people will stick around.  
(I know the excuses in a loosely-populated rural area: Too far too drive. Too cold, too dark, too busy, too tired.) 

Also, this book was published at the beginning of the pandemic. I'm not sure how her ministry has changed since then; I do know the author has moved from New York City, the setting of the book, to Baltimore, Maryland, where she is establishing a new church. 

But reading this book now confirms why I was compelled to buy it, and it underscores the age-old idea that we called, it's our human purpose, to feed each other, feed our need for connection and spirit, and to gather as people searching for something bigger and deeper than ourselves. That beating heart.

[The image is a book titled "For All Who Hunger: Searching for Communion in a Shattered World", written by Emily M.D. Scott]


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