Thursday, September 26, 2013

Bread Potluck vespers: A Seven Year Plan

(copy/pasted from


September 25, 2013 at 12:05 PM

On Saturday, Becky told me that approximately every seven years the body rebuilds itself. Atom by atom, cell by cell our physical being changes, until our body has only a handful of cells in common with the body we had before—until we are different. Becky and I had this conversation squatting in a patch of blueberries below Hilgaard Pass, palms stained blue, tongues tart with blueberry juice. I’m glad these blueberries will be part of my next body, Becky said. I love the idea of bodies being built by food—not just nutrients and calories—but by the experience of eating: apple pie shared with friends in a lamp-lit room, morning coffee and croissants savored over conversation at Chalet 5, or Sunday Eucharist, which happens twice for many of us here at Holden, once in the round in front of the altar, than a again after the service, when we huddle around the Lord’s Table and serve each other seconds of blessed bread and wine.

In Luke 24, the disciples recognize Jesus when he breaks bread with them. They’d been walking together since the beginning of the chapter but it is the act of blessing food and eating together—that reminder of taking Christ’s body into their bodies—that allows the disciples to understand the change that had been happening in their hearts the whole time.

Last spring I found the summer theme, “Made known in the breaking of the bread,” an odd choice. Why choose verses so attached to food when the Holden kitchen had just been contracted out, changing our rhythm of eating as a community? Several weeks ago, when I returned to the Holden for the first time since June, I changed my mind. After 170 miles on the trail, I visited Holden as a hiker, with a sore back and a body made skinny and shaky from long walking days. The day I entered the Railroad Creek Valley, Villagers gathered at the top of Chalet Hill for a potluck. We laid lawn blankets on the grass and ate black beans and baklava, cucumber, feta, quinoa, orzo, kale, zucchini, cantaloupe, and meat-mash. I heaped my plate and sat cross-legged beside friends, people whom I knew and people whom I didn’t know yet, who had taken time on their Saturday to cook for community. As someone who was working to rebuild her body, I needed that meal, the calories and the nutrients, but also the company, the scenery, and the flavor of foods crafted by people I love. I want the memory of that potluck meal to be part of my body, my cells, my next seven years.  

Perhaps Jesus’s disciples would have recognized him sooner if they’d met Christ on the road to Emmaus during a more certain time. But they’d watched empire slaughter their savior. They’d seen a person who symbolized salvation hang on a cross, body broken and deflated by death. It took the table to break them away from sorrow, to bring them back to flesh, hope, and a body that had been changed from dead to alive. At the table, in community, their world began anew, with a meal that would become part of their changing beings.
When I returned to Holden to start the new school year, I found a different village than the one I left: a village laced with red caution tape and trenched in by heavy construction. Yet even in the midst of all the clanking trucks and orange vests, I found meals with friends that filled me not only with calories but hope, meals that allowed me to see and know my community here at Holden: Claire’s croissants; Kari’s apple pie; Gary’s BBQ, cooked on the pit behind the kitchen; dinners eaten outside during the last warm evenings of summer; breakfast fruit held out an extra five minutes by Juan so that us latecomers can still enjoy pineapple and blackberries; extra oatmeal toppings added to the line by Rachel, who loves hot cereal as much as any Holden staff member; coffee in the registration window brewed in small batches by Bonnie and Tressa; blueberries on the trail; seconds at the communion table, and bread baked and eaten by our community here tonight. When we eat together we talk. We sit, we chew, we listen, and pause our work for fellowship at the table. In the midst of altered rhythms, these shared meals allow us to recognize Christ in ourselves and others here in this valley. I want this kind of eating to become part of us: a piece of the self we’re rebuilding, part our next seven years and the people and place we’re becoming.

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