Table discussion cards are a great way to get the discussion going without having to make small talk about how much you love Aunt Hilda’s banana pudding. Table topic cards will be available in each week’s content.
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Are you hungry? What do you want to eat? Do you have food at home, and time/ability to prepare it; or do you go out to eat? The answers to these questions will vary depending upon who and where you are in life. At my house – in a small rural town in Tennessee – we have places within walking distance of our home where we can harvest food from the ground, purchase it at the grocery store, or at a local restaurant. Those who aren’t able to walk and who don’t own a car sometimes ride bikes, motorized wheelchairs, or drive golf carts to get food. Many – like the elderly in our senior apartments and local nursing home, the children in our schools, and the people living in our subsidized housing units – have difficulty affording, obtaining, and preparing their choice of nutritious food. So, our local food banks, soup kitchens, and government subsidized food and transportation systems do their best to help those with limited resources to help themselves.
But what does it mean to you … to be “Well Fed?” The answer might surprise you, as it did me, over thirty years ago …
My first summer vacation, after working in corporate America for a year after graduating from college, was to visit a friend who was establishing a music school in the Dominican Republic. One day we took a trip into the country with the Sr. Warden of the local Episcopal Church to visit his family. The dusty road we walked was lined with waist-high aloe-vera plants that served as a menacing hedge between us and the cocoa bean fields. As we arrived at Rodolfo’s home, one of his younger sisters – a child of maybe 7 or 8 years – ran to meet us. She had completed her two-mile round trip to the river to fetch water for the morning’s chores outside the family’s humble home. Her bright shining face smiled up at me as she handed me her day’s supply of protein, an egg, as a gift to welcome and thank me “for coming all the way from the USA to visit her.” My understanding of what it means to be “hungry” and to be “well fed,” changed in that moment – forever.
Who are the hungry people in your life (family, friends, and neighbors)? Where do they go to be fed?
“Holy Food for the Flock: The Care and Feeding of the Spirit”
by Ms. Kathleen Crevasse
When my children hit the preteen years, I was low on ideas and energy for making healthy and creative meals – and the results tasted like it to me. A wise friend suggested lighting a candle as I prepared dinner to make me mindful of what I was doing – feeding the people I love, and to ask God’s grace into the moment. This small act shifted my mindset and made all the difference. To this day when my house is full of people to feed (and I am sometimes overwhelmed and less than full of grace), I return to the ritual.
I face a similar challenge in my ministry. This summer I will have served as the director of Christian Formation at my church for 20 years. I worry about serving up the same-old, same-old to my congregation. I know there are family favorites that would be missed if they came out of rotation, but what new dishes should I be offering given what I’ve learned in 20 years about spiritual food and soul-nourishing practices? I answer to the same charge Peter heard: Feed my sheep. But what is holy food for my flock?
I was spiritually well-fed as a child. I had a regular diet of church on Sundays, attendance at catechism classes, grace before dinner, prayers at bedtime, Hail Marys whenever an ambulance or firetruck passed by. The rosary beads passing through the hands of my mother and grandmothers were seen and heard with the eyes and ears of my heart. In my neighborhood, in my large extended family, at my church, there were people who knew me by name. (And unlike too many I know, I was never served side dishes of guilt or shame by my church or spiritual guides.)
I had numinous experiences – making my first holy communion, the air charged and sparking; peeking through a cracked bedroom door as my grandfather prayed on his knees, whispering his prayers in Irish (I called it Gaelic once and was promptly corrected); climbing massive pines in the woods and sprawling apple trees in orchards where the wind lifted my hair and whispered to me.
I yearn for the lambs I’m called to feed to know these moments. I want the children in my care to hear the stories of God and God’s people shared in the rich tradition of Godly Play. I want them to see their parents on their knees intent in prayer and wonder what they’re praying. I want all of my sheep to hear a hymn or have familiar words wash over them that give them chill bumps or comfort or both.
I’ve learned that one of the best ways to tend to the spiritual nurture of others is to make sure I’m feeding myself well. I need to tend to the practices (time in nature, prayer and silence; walking labyrinths; poetry) that fill up my reservoir. Barnard of Clairvaux warned that to feed others well, one should be like a reservoir, filling up and then letting loose the abundance as opposed to being a canal that “simultaneously pours out what it receives.” On good days, I remember this. Just like on good days, I remember to light a candle and offer a prayer when preparing a meal.
· I wonder what you are hungry for this Lent.
· I wonder what new spiritual nurture you might try.
· I wonder who you will feed – and how you will make sure you are a well-fed reservoir so your abundance can feed those around you.
· I wonder what small practices could shift your mindset to be more aware of the presence of God’s Holy Spirit in your life.
Kathleen Crevasse, Director of Formation, Church of the Good Shepherd, Lookout Mountain, TN
My spouse, Carly, and I went to visit the Pleasant Hill Shaker Village outside of Bardstown, Kentucky, about 10 years ago. Most of what I knew about Shakers to that point was furniture-related, but we had read an article about this historic landmark and decided to make a weekend trip of it.
We toured the old buildings, we ate in the fantastic restaurant, we slept in the 19th-century inn that managed to be at the same time well-appointed and plain. We spent time walking the grounds of the village, and listening to tour guides talk about Shaker life, worship, and interaction with the outside world. The Shakers (known to historians as the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing) were “a celibate millenarian group that established communal settlements in the United States in the 18th century. Based on the revelations of Mother Ann Lee and her vision of the heavenly kingdom to come, Shaker teaching emphasized simplicity, celibacy, and work” (Encyclopedia Britannica Online). The Shakers began to decline in numbers by the end of the 19th century, but they are still known today—not just for their furniture, but for the simple nature of Shaker life. It is this group that gave us the famous song still sung by church choirs every once in a while: “Tis’ a gift to be simple, ‘tis a gift to be free…”
Even a decade later, I still remember the feeling of peace that attended walking through that village. Of course, part of that was cultivated by the non-profit that now manages the National Historic Landmark district around the village. But they cultivate that because of the real spirit of quiet and simplicity for which the Shakers were famous.
In the decade since we visited the Shaker Village, the world seems to have gotten busier and noisier every day. More devices, more media. Certainly more hatred and less peace. I’m not saying that we should all go live at the Pleasant Hill Shaker Village, as if that would solve the problem of how to live more simply. But what I am saying is that the Shakers had a reason for believing that a lifestyle adorned with simplicity would bring them, in a sense, closer to God. And every day of the last decade, I think I’ve become a little more convinced that they were on to something:
‘Tis a gift to be simple, ‘tis a gift to be free
‘Tis a gift to come down where we ought to be
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight
We all know that feeling we get when we are hungry. We may get tired, start
daydreaming, our stomach may start rumbling, etc…We all also know what it feels like to be hangry . Hunger to the point where we get to be a little angry/ short with ourtempers.
I can without a doubt say that I experience both feelings on a weekly (if not daily) basis.But, I have also experienced hunger on a deeper level. Hunger not for food, but for something more. Something that only God could satisfy, but I didn’t know it at the time.
I did not grow up in the Episcopal Church, I grew up in another Christian denomination. Growing up, my family attended church weekly. My mother taught my Sunday School class growing up, my father was active in the men’s group, my brother and I served as acolytes, and I sang in the choir.
There was never a time in my childhood that I didn’t associate church with feeling loved. That all changed, however, when I began to question my sexuality and heard a member of the church, who I looked up to as a grandfather figure, say that, ”… homosexuals would never have a place in the church.”
That shook my world.
I began to question everything that I had ever been taught and my hunger for something more began to develop.
I kept attending that church through high school, but I knew that I needed something more. I knew that more was out there. I knew that I could be fed again once more.
I did as any 18 year old in 2015 would have done and I turned to Google and I found Jesus and the Episcopal Church.
I read Wikipedia article after Wikipedia article on the Episcopal Church, Anglicanism,Anglican theology, liturgy, church history, etc…and I was beginning to be fed.
The hope that I thought was lost was now becoming real again.
I began attending the University of Tennessee in the fall of 2015 and found Tyson
House, a worshipping community that fed both my body and my soul. Through active participation in the life of the church, in the Eucharist, in living in a real Christian community, my hunger was being satisfied.
Since then I’ve had the pleasure to be involved with several different churches in the Knoxville area and each have fed me in a different way:
St. James was a community that taught me the importance of justice and standing up for the least and last among us.
Good Samaritan taught me about worship and how our corporate worship feeds and sustains us to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world.
My current parish, St. Elizabeth’s, has fed my call to be a servant for the people of God. In teaching, worshipping with, and guiding the children, youth, and families of St. Elizabeth’s I have come to a realization: I am fed by feeding others. By feeding the hearts, souls, and bodies of my families at St. Elizabeth’s I am in turn feeding myself.
I think that is a large part of being a Christian. We come to Christ hungry, broken, and in need of love. Christ feeds us with his own body and blood, heals our wounds, and loves us all through it. We are then able to go out and feed others, heal the wounds of others, and love them for who they are: siblings in Christ.
My hunger has not gone away, in fact, it has increased. But, that’s not a bad thing. Nowadays I hunger for an ever deepening relationship with Jesus. I hunger for a deeper knowledge of what it means to be a Christian. I hunger for a just and Kingdom oriented world. I hunger for all of the people who were like me, without hope that God would ever love them. I hunger that they will be satisfied like I have been.
I grew up in a large family in a very small town. With a multitude of my mother’s cousins, my father’s patients, and our church, we five siblings were sheltered under a very large umbrella—we couldn’t go anywhere, it seemed, without being known. When I left for college I was happy for a little more breathing room, a little more space for possibility..
Eventually, though, I wandered into two big wildernesses where I was adrift, miserable, afraid of losing my sense of self. I entered the first wilderness when–after a year of reporting for a local newspaper, constantly engaged with other adults–I found myself alone with a newborn son all day and awake with him much of the night. I felt isolated, unknown. I thought I might possibly have left my mind in the delivery room. How could I ever, while parenting way out in the wilds of East Sevier County, reclaim the engaged communicator I had been?
Eventually I found a way: I reconnected with the nurse who had been our Lamaze childbirth educator and then met other Lamaze teachers in Knoxville. I really admired these women: they were smart, skilled, respectful of expectant couples, dedicated to helping them claim their joys and struggles. Eventually I prepared myself, too, to teach expectant parents about pregnancy, labor, and the first few weeks of parenthood. Those teachers showed me who I might become and how. They included me in their passionate care for new parents. I loved this work.
Scroll forward seven years or so, and again I wandered alone in a new wilderness. I had moved to Knoxville with my son in preparation for a divorce and had begun full-time work as an editor at UT, where I had met only a couple of colleagues. For a while I still saw those Lamaze teachers at monthly meetings, but I couldn’t manage for long to teach, edit full-time, and be a single mom. It seemed a scary, risky, lonely beginning to the rest of our lives. Where and how did we fit now? Who might help us make a new life? How could I find for my son the shelter of a community who cared, something like the shelter I had known as a child?
I had been away from church a long time, but I began to visit congregations. Eventually I reintroduced myself to an old acquaintance at St. John’s who I knew would take me under her wing and introduce me to many. She did.
Stepping out toward others at St. John’s became an adventure: in classes, at coffee hour, in a dinner group to which my friend invited me, I began to see just how rich meeting new people could be. If a new acquaintance and I did not have much in common, we could still enjoy seeing a friendly face and putting a name to it on Sundays. And many of those new acquaintances did become friends. Some were mothers who, like me, had been through divorce. Some were old enough to be Ben’s grandparents. Some had a world of experience and interests they were willing to share.
Life became like hiking up Mt. LeConte in wildflower season—there were always new specimens to discover. Each new person challenged me to see with new eyes and hear with new ears. They shared their stories with me. I shared mine. I asked a lot of questions. God was drawing me in, and I was grateful to discover that faith and relationships can be both sheltering and spacious. I did not have to figure out my life alone. I did not have to sing solo in the wilderness.
“The way to God is through community,” a priest said to me that Maundy Thursday in the National Cathedral. “Yes!” I think now. “I was hungry for them both and didn’t know it.”
I feel as if we have been hungry for quite some time. Absolutely starving really- I mean the kind of hunger you feel when you loosen your belt in preparation for a holiday feast complete with all the fixins’. Although I love food, I feel this hunger we have is not simply for food. What we are really hungry for, is time to truly connect with those who share this life with us. As social creatures, we crave a long, satisfying meal filled with delicious food, infectious laughter, and that comfortable feeling you have when you know you are completely safe with those around you. When judgment subsides and you know you are loved and known.
In a world swarming with people, what can be more empowering than knowing how to form healthy relationships and establish deeper connections with those around us? What can be more liberating than looking at people around you and understanding that by being kind, loving and helpful towards them, you are also being kind, loving and helpful towards yourself and God, the redeemer of the world.
Brené Brown defines connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from a relationship.
Most of my communication today comes from texts, emails, and social media. These forms of connecting are like saltines for our hungry souls. You might be thankful for a little something to chew on, but you need a whole lot more than one salty little morsel to truly satisfy your hunger.
Is it just me or does anyone else feel like our techy forms of communication are not cutting it? Does anyone else long for a good deep belly laugh instead of a meme-inspired chuckle? Does anyone else what to share a home cooked meal with loved ones instead of take-out alone over your iPhone. As we continue to justify our connection to each other through technology, I feel as if we are missing out on the genuine human connection God has in mind for us.
The only one who knows us and is connected to us fully is God. Although we are not in a face to face relationship with God, we are able to connect with God through our relationships with one another, the hands and feet of Christ in the world. The Holy Spirit is alive right now, on earth, in each of us.
The most important thing you can do today is start a conversation with someone you do not know. Who knows? The solutions to our community’s most challenging problems could be sitting just a few rows apart from us.
Every human being deserves a champion. Someone who will never give up on them, understands the power of connection, and insists they become the best they can be.
So, I challenge you this Lenten season to be a champion and strive to leave a legacy of relationships that will continue to exalt the kingdom of God for generations to come.
As disciples we can become so focused on feeding and serving others that we forget that without being fed ourselves feeding others becomes unsustainable. It is common for people to feel selfish and down right ashamed if they take time and energy away from others to care for their own being. They are hungry for permission to feed their own soul in addition to carrying out their discipleship of loving the Lord their God by loving their neighbors. What if in order to authentically love our neighbors part of our discipleship is allowing ourselves to be fed and sustained as well?
When Jesus washed the feet of his disciples that fated night of Maundy Thursday he didn’t simply use words, he used his hands, his actions to shock them into awareness that indeed something NEW, different was happening. Taking on a the role of a servant utilizing the touch of his hands with purifying water to clean their feet, the disciples had an experience of God’s love literally at the hands of His Son. When Jesus’ actions were complete, he stood up and said to them “I give you a new commandment that you love one another as I have loved you.”
I believe this is in large part why God sent his only son to be among us in the first place. God saw that humanity was off track, and we needed help finding our way back. Not ways, rules, limits that would hinder and bind us, but rather ways that would set us free to live in His love and in the flow of his Advocate the Holy Spirit. In getting back on track we might embody the spirit of the law rather than get tangled and lost in the legalism of the law. Where we needed instruction was at the end of the great commandment; we needed help with figuring out how to love our neighbors and his adjustment enters with as yourself. He takes as yourself and expands, educates, instructs that as yourself means you allow yourself to be loved as God has loved you.
Suddenly we must pay attention to “as yourself.” In clearly stating “you are to love one another as I have loved you,” Jesus takes the once throwaway part and makes as yourself THE POINT; the place of authentically accessing our discipleship, changing forever how we are to love one another and therefore be known as his disciples. We have to figure out practices to stay in connection, in relationship, in communion with our loving God so that we can truly take in and embody his love which empowers us to organically and faithfully love our neighbors and God Himself.
It’s easy in our culture to believe that at our baptism God gives us everything we need to be sustained for a life of discipleship. We come fully equipped AND we must humbly stay connected to and be fed by The Source. God calls us into an ongoing relationship with Him, his son, and his advocate The Holy Spirit. This on-going relationship like every other close relationship in our lives requires showing up, continuing to get to know each other, and humbling ourselves to be loved, sustained and fed by a loving God in an on-going way. In a society that preaches strength and power by way of hyper-independence, it can be jarring if not downright scary to allow ourselves to surrender to God’s ongoing care and allow his presence to sustain us rather than our own hustle. As disciples if we have any hope of genuinely feeding others, we must continually humble ourselves to be fed. Amen.