What We Crave

By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

(Reflections from Barberton Community of Christ’s 5th Wednesday Swiss Steak Community Dinner)

Last night I went to church and engaged the tasks of meal making and hospitality preparing with a group of disciples who welcomed me as family though some I had never met.

As we waited for the community to arrive, we traded stories while mashing potatoes and cutting pies.

I talked poetry and theology in the dinner line, watching neighbors take heaping helpings of a home cooked meal-

Green beans
Mashed potatoes
Swiss steak
Salad
Coleslaw (you will want to ask Kay for the recipe)

Pies and brownies around the corner

Bread and butter on the tables

We were sent home with a potato masher, 3 containers of leftovers, and half a strawberry rhubarb pie…

And embraces so tender and genuine that I left the building with a teary warmth I’ve yearned for, the kind of whole-hearted community nurturing my heart seeks.

I can see the comfort this type of gathering brings, why the poor and the elderly show up to be tended in body and spirit.

Something here is the church as it’s meant to be- a grace offering with no agenda, love unrestricted.

And still, I couldn’t help feeling a pang of grief for these trying-to-be-faithful people as they struggle against the same trends of decline that have been afflicting and reforming the church all over. 25 members strong on a Sunday morning, they wonder what God wants to make of them, wonder why more young families don’t want to come. On a critical day, I could offer a whole list of reasons.

But as I bask in the lingering glow of being truly loved by the body of Christ, however small, a different thought emerges…

Perhaps quieter than all the other voices aimed at “fixing” the church.

It says things like:
These are my beloved, in whom I am well pleased
and
The kingdom has come near
and even this:
The salvation of the world is in loving community such as this.

For a moment, I hold in my heart’s gaze all the world’s suffering, including those responsible for inflicting it, and I imagine all of us in the dinner line together…

Ruthellen’s tender embrace welcoming each one, assuring us,

“there is plenty, take what you need.”

We sit at the table and stories are shared and souls are mended and the whole earth begins to heal.

This is what love can do. This is the secret treasure we hold that the world craves. This is what I long for deep in my bones. This is the hunger that keeps drawing us together.

This is how the living Christ shows up and breathes upon us-
Peace.

LIVING WORDS

Lenten Practice: Lectio Divina
Daily Act: Practice Lectio Divina
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“LIVING WORD, LIVE THROUGH ME.”

Living Words
By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

What does it mean
That words are alive?

Do they continue to speak
Long after the moment
They are written
Or uttered aloud?

Is their message the same
Even as they say different things
At different times
To different people?

Are living words literally words
On a page
In our mouths
In our hearts?

Or are they also what is being spoken
That is wordless?

Streams of sunlight through branch’s porous patterns
The tall grass trembling in the unseen wind
Season’s cycles of death and renewal
Breathless awe atop mountain expanse
Love’s embrace
Fresh bread
Birdsong
Birth

What is all this beauty saying?

And what of

Desecrated mountain tops mined and abandoned
Rubble and burnt bodies disfigured from bombs
Not enough rice in the bowl of the hungry
The calloused hands of the homeless
Pushing their carts down the sidewalk
Of the busy street where I
Sit comfortable in my car

What words are alive in
The warzone
The hospital
The famine?

Do we really want to hear?

What do these words on page
Have to say to these words enfleshed?
How do these words on page
Yearn to be words enfleshed?

Feed my sheep
Love your enemy
Welcome the stranger
Let the oppressed go free
The kingdom of God
Has come near

Am I a living word?
What is the source of all words
Laboring inside me to say?
Am I living what is being
Spoken within?

Speak us into being
O Holy Speaker
Open our ears to hear
Your word that breathes life
In all things
Living Word
Live through me

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people… And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” –John 1

The Practice of Lectio Divina (From the Community of Christ Guide for Lent)

Select a passage of text that you feel led to dwell in. Relax your body and breathing and offer a prayer for guidance as you interact with the text. Read the text four times, allowing time for meditation and prayer between each reading.
Lectio —read the text to get a sense of the story or setting. Imagine the scene, senses, emotions, and tensions involved in the text.
Meditatio —read the text again to focus on meaning and understanding. What are the surface and underlying meanings? What does the text tell you about God? How do you relate to the text?
Oratio —read the text again to focus on your emotional response. Do you feel joy, sorrow, fear, anger, or guilt? Share your feelings with God in prayer. Ask for help in listening deeply to these emotions and meanings.
Contemplatio —continue in a time of receptive prayer. Breathe deeply and calmly, entering a deep silent state of listening. Wait for whatever God may bring to you in the quietness.

Record in a journal any impressions or insights that come to you and return to receptive listening. If no particular awareness comes, let your mind return to the text. When you feel your prayer and meditation has ended, offer a word of thanks to God to close your time with this practice.

Recommended Lenten Text: Isaiah 58:6–9
Pay attention to the questions that come to you as you engage in this practice. Live in the questions and see how they begin to shape your journey of repentance and renewal.

SACRAMENTAL EATING

Lenten Practice: Holy Attention
Daily Act: Eat mindfully and slowly. Savor each bite. Notice the texture, color, and taste of your food, and consider where it comes from. Give thanks for the nourishment that is yours this day.
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“AWAKEN ME TO YOUR PRESENCE IN AND THROUGH ALL CREATION.”

A Mindfulness Meal Meditation
By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

“To live, we must daily break the body and shed the blood of Creation.
When we do this knowingly, lovingly, skillfully, reverently, it is a sacrament.”
-Wendell Berry

We bless this act of eating. The blessing is for us- to see what is already sacred and life-giving- to approach this meal as sacrament. May we savor. May we be awake enough to feel the textures and linger in each taste. May we slow our pace enough to notice the holy in each bite- a communion.

Silence

We are mindful of all those in our world who do not have access to food, or who live in places where nutritious food is hard to find. While food is a basic human right, we are aware of how food has also become a justice issue and a matter of privilege. We are prayerful for those who hunger. We recommit ourselves in each act of eating to the cause of abolishing poverty in our own neighborhoods and across the globe.

Silence

We consider the devastation to our earth that has been caused by a food culture of separation and convenience. May we make wise choices as we consider the sources of our food and do our best to support, with our hands and wallets, the options most aligned with the thriving of all life. With the food before us now, we ponder the origins of the ingredients and consider the parts of the earth that have been gathered, and the people who gathered them, placed here at our table. What field? What plant? Whose hands? How did the sun warm and the rain nourish and the soil sustain?

Silence

We realize our absolute interconnectedness with all life knowing that what physically sustains us comes from the earth. My welfare resides in your welfare. Our very life depends on this complex system of lives of which we are a part. We are in awe and grateful to be alive on this planet. The act of eating humbles us. Each breath- sacred life. Each bite- sacred life.

Silence

We focus on hope- knowing that each day we have the opportunity to impact the earth and our local communities in positive, life-giving ways. We pause in reverence for this gift of LIFE that is ours this day. We pray that we will be wise stewards of our bodies and all the other bodies that share this sacred space as neighbors. May we live in ways that contribute to wholeness for all the earth, which leads to wholeness for ourselves.

Silence

Amen.