Sara Miles is the founder and director of The Food Pantry, and serves as Director of Ministry at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco. She is the author of Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion. Here she explores what it means to her that Jesus has given us all the challenge of "being Jesus." He gives us the power and presence to feed the hungry, to heal the sick, to forgive sins, and to raise the dead. Just as the disciples were astonished by this grace, so are modern day Christians. It is far easier to relax with our beliefs in Jesus than to be Jesus to our family, friends, co-workers, and strangers. Miles goes right to the heart of the matter when she writes:
"We can jump right in, instead of waiting for a committee to authorize our work. We can come and see what God is doing, all over the place, instead of worrying that we're not good enough. We can get over our fear of strangers, free ourselves from superstition, and find sweet streams of mercy in the middle of the world's driest places. We're not alone."
It is at the pantry at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church where Miles discovered that ordinary people can do Jesus' work. She shares stories from her experiences with Chinese grandmothers, heroin addicts, drunkards, and homeless families. The author and those who work with her dispense food to 800 people every Friday. Nirmala, a Chilean woman tells Miles: "It's an ashram here, honey. This isn't just a food place. It's a spiritual place. The pantry is spiritual nourishment there's a lot of karma you can work out with people here. We're all so different, but we elevate ourselves a bit here, spiritually, by being with each other." Miles also consults with other churches around the country interested in developing new approaches to worship and service. She finds a deep yearning for anything that can help create communion.
Healing is another work Jesus gave his followers, and the author talks about the difference between this and curing. Healing accentuates love, presence, and faith in the mysterious activity of God. She salutes Jesus who "shows us how to enter into a way of life in which the broken and sick pieces are held in love, and given meaning. In which strangers literally touch each other, and doing so make a community spacious enough for everyone. In which the deepest desires of our hearts draw us to health. Don't be afraid, Jesus says: your faith will make you well."
Miles and Paul, a close co-worker, call Jesus "the Boyfriend," a colloquial version of the ancient Christian name of "Bridegroom." She offers commentaries on the difficulties of practicing forgiveness and raising the dead. But the Boyfriend opens doors which even make these two challenges possible and says "just give the people something to eat, just touch them, just say you're sorry. And our lives had changed." Miles has come up with the perfect ending for a book on service: "Go and do likewise." Walk the talk, be Jesus (or the Boyfriend) in all your days and deeds.