Mirrored Neurons
Communion message at Academia Church
By Joshua Trujillo

Luke 14:16-24 "... At that point the master of the house (or: householder), being indignant from the internal fervor of his natural disposition, said to his slave, 'At once go out quickly into the squares and streets of the city and at once bring here the destitute folks as well as crippled, maimed and mutilated people, even blind folks and lame ones!'
22. "And so later, the slave said, 'Sir (or: Master), what you ordered and instructed has happened, and yet there is still a place (= room).
23. "So the owner (lord; master) said to the slave, "At once go out into the roads and fenced areas (or: hedgerows; boundary walls), and at once compel (force) [them] to come in, so that my house may be filled to capacity!"

Communion, what is it? To be honest I never really knew what it meant up until this past August. I grew up in church where we hardly participated in the “Lord’s supper,” the “Lord’s table,” the “Eucharist.” We have now been functioning as a new church for six months and we have not done the “official” deed in our small congregation. Probably because we are riddled with the guilt of all of our “sinning” or maybe because we are full of excuses. Or maybe we just don’t want to do what it actually means.

In August of this year I witnessed something that has changed my life completely. I read somewhere that “Humans have what are called mirror neurons. When a human witnesses another human overcome with a certain emotion – be it love, sadness, anger, or what have you – the same neuron which causes that emotion triggers in the witness. This is no more obvious than in watching movies.
Why do I, who did not necessarily grow up with a loving father that was willing to give his all for my well-being, cry every time I watch John Q? How come when one baby starts crying in a room, the other babies in the room begin crying as well? Because of mirror neurons. In an effort to move people beyond just sacrificing money for a “cause,” to participating in a sacrificial community, we invite all people to the park to see what we are doing with their own eyes, hoping that mirror neurons will be triggered and people with the means to assist will be moved to compassion by the plight of their neighbor. In case you cannot tell by now I am referring to you, the community of Academia church. Part of the Lord’s precious body.

The announcement is that “God is in charge and this is what it looks like.” To go out into the lanes and streets of the city and bring in the poor, the maimed, the blind and the lame, outcasts and the unworthy. To sit together and share a meal as equals in God’s kingdom. Four months ago those mirror neurons kicked in and my wife and kids and one other friend started “Help A Human.” where we made sandwiches from our kids weekly lunch for school and went looking for the marginalized in our community. We landed at one of the worst parks in the San Fernando Valley-Hansen Damn park. Where a recent Daily News headline reads “Hansen Dam Park rape triggers $400,000 upgrade to deter crime.”

In particular, our spot is “by the library” where the article states: “Near the library, small knots of drug dealers trade crack cocaine and marijuana. Drunken brawls occasionally break out near the soccer field. And men are frequently cited for lewd behavior in the bushes near Osborne Street.” Sack lunches quickly became hot homemade meals and one friend coming out turned into fifteen where we sit and enjoy a meal together, as equals in the Kingdom with our friends in the park. Where we now know many by first name basis, where I get my weekly kiss from Tuna, an old woman who sleeps in the bathroom stall at night when the sting of the cold Santa Ana winds is just to much to bear.

Healing, reconciliation, resurrection, new creation is happening right before our very eyes. Not exactly in our friends in the park (although that is indeed happening) but in us! All those who participate week in and week out. Every week I get at least one phone call from someone moved to tears after having a meal in the park with the “least of these.” We have been participating in the “Lord’s table” the “Lord’s supper” the “Eucharist” without even knowing it, without ever setting foot in a church building. (We discovered our mission)

Kenneth Bailey states: ”The Eucharist can be understood as a foreshadowing of the great banquet. At communion, believers are invited, in the present, to participate in the messianic banquet of the end time. We remember the past, celebrate in the present and look forward to the marriage supper of the Lamb. The parable assures the faithful that they already have a place at that banquet.” Thank God that we are still invited to the great banquet, those of us “religious” people who don’t even know what we are doing, “not discerning the body.”

Some guy named Lawrence [Garcia] states: “we should cast-off the chains of guilt, unworthiness, and despair which so often cloud the joyous feast we call the Eucharist and begin dinning with the Lord who delights to sit next to sinners. On the other, as we approach the open Table our concerns should be that our needy, helpless, and marginalized brothers and sisters are provided for and honored as the greatest among us. It is when this is accomplished that Jesus will say to us, ‘For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you gave Me clothing, I was sick and you took care of Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.'"

As we come to the table today, lets keep this in mind. As we are bearing God’s image in the world, bringing the kingdom on earth, we don’t know who might be watching. Someone’s “mirror neurons will be triggered and people with the means to assist will be moved to compassion by the plight of their neighbor.”

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