Fresh Language 3/Last Supper Thoughts
As you may have read in an earlier post, I have been enjoying Sara Miles’ unlikely story of conversion to Christianity. It all began when she unexpectedly found herself in a San Francisco church and taking communion. She spends a lot of time writing about communion, studying it, and describing what it means to her to serve and be served food/God’s body. I thought her take here was interesting in light of The Last Supper:
“. . . And then in the New Testament appeared the central, astonishing fact of Jesus, proclaiming the he himself was the bread of heaven. ‘Eat my flesh and drink my blood,’ he said. I thought how outrageous Jesus was to a church of his time; 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.
“As I interpreted it, Jesus invited notorious wrongdoers to his table, airily discarded all the religious rules of the day, and fed whoever showed up, by the thousands. In the end, he was murdered for eating with the wrong people.
“And then–here’s where the story gets irrational. I didn’t exactly ‘believe’ it, the way I believed in the boiling point of water or photosynthesis, but it seemed true to me–wholly true, in ways that mere facts could never be. I believe this God rose from the dead to have breakfast with his friends” (page 92).
And here: “All that grounded me were those pieces of bread. I was feeling my way toward theology, beginning with what I had taken in my mouth and working out from there. I couldn’t start by conceptualizing God as an abstract ‘trinity’ or trying to ‘prove’ diving existence philosophically. It was the materiality of Christianity that fascinated me, the compelling story of incarnation in its grungiest details, the promise that words and flesh were deeply, deeply connected. I reflected, for example, about [her daughter]Katie, and about what it is like to be a mother and a mother’s child. The entire process of of human production was, if I considered it for a minute, about as ‘intolerable’ as the apostles said communion was. It sounded just as weird as the claim that God was in a piece of bread you could eat. And yet it was true” (pages 70-71).