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I want to challenge you all, where could you experience this sense of belonging?

PMG FILE PHOTO - Bella Bonanno"Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man's nostrils, and the man became a living person." — Genesis 2:7 (NLT)

I took some of my young high school friends out to the Young Life camp, Washington Family Ranch, to serve in the kitchen this past weekend. I got to wash all the dishes with a few of my good friends. It was dirty, loud, chaotic and humbling. We worked long hours, touched the nastiest things and did our best to make sure the kitchen was spotless at the end of the night.

There was a moment during the weekend when one of the girls was helping me scrape soggy cornbread off piles of muffin tins and she looked up at me and said, "I wish we could stay here forever." A high school girl, elbow deep in a trash can and covered with grease and cornmeal, told me she never wanted to leave that place. It was startling, and it got me thinking, what about the dish pit made her want to stay there?

I am taking a class about food and the Bible right now, and we have just reached the end of our quarter. Our last topic of discussion is the Eucharist (communion) and the message it imparts to Jesus' followers concerning the Kingdom, belonging and membership, and the collision of the Divine and created humans. Burley Coulter, one of Wendell's beloved characters from Port William, describes membership in the following way: "The way we are, we are members of each other. All of us. Everything. The difference ain't in who is a member and who is not, but in who knows it and who don't." We all belong to each other, and we all belong to God, whether we recognize both those truths or not does not make them any less true. In Genesis 2, God crafts humankind from the dust of the earth and his very breath. From the very beginning, we are not only made in the image of God, but a part of us, our very being, is gifted from God himself. We belong, to him and with him.

Since that moment in history, this belonging has never ended. All of creation, but humans especially, groan for relationship with the Creator. We know something is amiss, even when we don't have the language for it. In the same way, we recognize the deficit in our relationships and interactions with one another. Something is missing. We cling to family and partners, children and parents. We try on people and objectify them in attempts to feel something. We use each other, abuse each other and yearn for one another. But in our approach to one another, we for some reason cannot find what we truly desire — repair. Or maybe better put in terms we use more readily, reconciliation or redemption. Those can be found though; they are found in the garden, at the cross, at the tomb and now, at the Eucharistic table.

In our class, we've been reading a book by Norman Wirzba about food and theology. In the chapter on the Eucharist, he writes, "The goal of life is to enact relationships with each other so that the life people experience here and now can share in the divine, Trinitarian life that creates, sustains, and fulfills creation." In other words, we must be with one another to teach Jesus to each other. For that's the very thing Jesus did — he came to be with us. I realized after I read those words that's what we were experiencing at camp in the dish pit — sacrificial togetherness. It didn't matter if we were sweating and scraping plates, so long as we were together while we were doing it. It was a Eucharistic experience and that was what made it so we didn't want it to end. We felt connected to one another and to Christ. In some way, the dish pit became the garden, with God breathing life into us and on us. It became the foot of the cross, the empty tomb and even a table shared with Jesus.

I want to challenge you all, where could you experience this sense of belonging? Maybe you don't feel as if you "know it," as Burley Coulter says, but I want to encourage you that I think you can. It might not be in the dish pit at a camp, but it will be somewhere. And if you seek it out, you will find it. You only have to approach life as you approach the communion table, asking a genuine question: could Jesus have really been with us? Could we really be with each other?

Bella Bonanno is the area director for Crook County Young Life. She can be reached at 541-325-9862.

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