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Feeding sheep and being fed

POSTED: May 25, 2012 7:00 a.m.

I spend a lot of time these days in my garden. My Westies and I find the place endlessly entertaining. They search for toads, lizards or earthworms as I weed, water and wonder about whether this garden will produce food for our table.  Invariably as I putter around, my mind wanders back to the tables of my younger days.
Food played the central role in our home and in our social life. We gathered around the table when an unexpected guest appeared at our homes.  Family celebrations included anyone who appeared; the more the merrier.  We would laugh, talk, and share oft repeated stories which served to unite us closer because of our corporate memories of the time or of the teller.
Food united us when we mourned. Food came from everywhere, tables laden with comfort food ... food grown from ground our families had farmed for many generations. It was familiar. We knew the smell, the feel and the taste of this food. It had fed and sustained us. Food from these places and in these hands had healing power for our hunger and our hearts.
 I did not grow up worshipping in the tradition in which I now serve. However, I have a vivid and precious memory of my first communion in this tradition. I remember kneeling at that altar rail. I held out my hands to the priest, he placed the wafer in my hands and said to me, “This is the Body of Christ; the Bread of Heaven”.  I placed that wafer in my mouth and it was deeply “familiar” to me. In my heart I “knew” this food.  Jesus Christ was indeed made known to me “in the breaking of the bread”, as He had made himself known to his  disciples all those years ago. 
Readers of the column know that one of my youngest parishioners, Kaylynne, speaks with wisdom beyond her years.  I will always remember her words as I handed her a smaller piece of “the Body of Christ” rather than a larger wafer.  She said, “ Why do you make Him so small?”. Her words to me continue to be the touchstone for my ministry.  Jesus told us that if we loved Him, we should “feed his sheep”. If we make the effort, He will make himself known to us and to them “in the breaking of the bread”, not just in Holy Communion, but in things ordinary and familiar.
For the next year or so I will be away learning more about feeding sheep and being fed. I humbly ask for your prayers and be assured you will be in my prayers.

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