Table Worship at the Walters, Sunday, December 11 at 5:30pm

This Sunday is the 3rd week of Advent on the church calendar, and we will be focusing on Faith. Join us at the Walters (contact us for directions) at 5:30pm this Sunday. Bring something to share, and we’ll all eat together. After the meal we will continue our study of Jonah. Invite a friend; everyone is welcome!

Tough Love: The Jonah Way John D. Barry

 

I’m intimately acquainted with tough love. Anyone who has worked with me has received tough love; anyone I have worked for has been required to offer it. My wife knows that tough love is the only way to really get through to me. There is a sixth love language everyone and it’s called “tough.”

One of the central themes of the book of Jonah is tough love. Jonah doesn’t understand the love God offers Jonah’s enemies. And God loves Jonah, despite Jonah not knowing how to love his enemies or his God. Love is written all over the book. Yet, love as a verb—or even as a noun—is absent from this little book among the Minor Prophets.

Love in the book of Jonah is like Santa at Christmas. Everyone knows what he represents—he doesn’t have to say anything at all. He can feel like a cliché fat man in a suit, but he can also warm your heart—especially when Michael Buble sings about him.

The key to seeing the love in Jonah is first to read it closely, second to really understand it’s genre and context, and third to realize what’s not there. What is absent in this book?

A Very Close Reading of Jonah

Jonah is foremost poetic narrative. It’s narrative full or irony, parallels, and absurdities. As readers of Jonah, we often interpret it like historical narrative without acknowledging the creativity of the narrator. This does not mean that the book of Jonah is fiction, but it’s narrative is certainly creative.

You could think of Jonah as a dark comedy; it’s meant to illustrate points of truth through strange scenes. A part of your brain when reading Jonah should be saying, “Not computing.” And it’s those points you should especially pay attention to. In this regard, the book of Jonah can be read through a “top 5 worst” events lists: #1) The worst prophet gets a message and runs; #2) The worst boat ride ever; #3) The worst prayer ever delivered from the belly of a fish; #4) The worst sermon ever delivered; and #5) The worst response to God.

In this top 5 worst events list, we also see five deeply profound ideas about love.

The Worst Prophet Runs

The book of Jonah opens with a bang, dropping you straight into an ongoing story.

“The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.’ But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord” (Jonah 1:1–3 NIV).

In the time of Jonah, Nineveh was one of the four major metropolis cities of Assyria. Jonah lived during the reign of Jeroboam II of Israel (who reigned circa 786–746 BC; this is according to 2 Kings 14:25). If you were any other nation at this time, you would have hated Assyria—they were known for their cruelty in warfare. And the patron deity of Nineveh itself, where God called Jonah to go, was a goddess of love and war.

Rather than go to enemy territory, Jonah heads to Israel’s ally, in Phoenicia—probably aboard a Phoenician ship. Jonah could have stayed where he was, but instead makes a conscious decision to go to the opposite side of the known world. So why does he leave? It’s unclear exactly why, but it could be rooted in him not understanding that Yahweh is a God of the entire world, not just Israel. Yahweh is not limited to geography like the other gods worshipped in the ancient Near East. Jonah is running away from his responsibilities. He is a prophet on the run.

God desired Jonah to preach a message of tough love to Assyria. And the fact that he is sent to preach at all shows God’s love: God is giving them a chance to change their ways.

Love, then, is a powerful answer to hate and violence—in both the ancient Near East and today. God loved Nineveh, despite Nineveh’s evil. And we will find out in this narrative that love is also the answer to the hate in Jonah’s heart.

The Worst Boat Ride Ever

Once at sea, a storm hits Jonah’s boat and everyone panics (Jonah 1:4–5). This is a surprise, since Jonah is likely on a Phoenician ship—and the Phoenicians were known for their seamanship. Jonah’s trip to Spain—which is where he is heading—is not going so well for him or for others. This storm is deeply frightening.

Through a little divination by casting lots, the sailors determine that Jonah is responsible. And after a bit of dialog and the sailors trying to make land once more, they toss him in the sea (Jonah 1:6–16).

Is there a message of love here? Perhaps, God could have destroyed the boat, killing Jonah and all the men aboard. But he doesn’t. There is mercy—the sea calms after Jonah hits the water and a great fish is sent to swallow Jonah (Jonah 1:15–17).

We know this to be the case because the narrator makes it clear: “Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17). In parallel, Jonah 4:6–8 likewise emphasizes God’s providence—making this a recurring theme throughout the book. God mercifully saves, despite the actions of Jonah. But he also does not hesitate to change the circumstances to accomplish his purposes. This is tough love.

The Worst Prayer Ever

Once in the belly of the great fish, Jonah offers a prayer of thanksgiving (Jonah 2).

“In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry” (Jonah 2:2 NIV).

Statements like these are common in Thanksgiving psalms (compare Psalm 18:6). This is odd because Jonah is still in the belly of the fish—he hasn’t been delivered from the realm of the dead yet.

From a genre standpoint, Jonah’s prayer sounds familiar. There are many parallel prayers in other passages. Thanksgiving prayers were common in Israel—many of them are recorded in the book of Psalms and the Dead Sea Scrolls uncovered additional documents based in the Thanksgiving genre.

Jonah’s thanksgiving could be genuine and show his faith. He could be genuinely grateful and believe that God will do all the things that he says in his prayer. He could believe in his full deliverance so much that he is proclaiming it like it already has happened.

Or Jonah could be simply following the religious customs of his time without any personal change of heart. This view is rooted in what’s missing here: an admission of guilt or sin and repentance. Jonah is praising God for his rescue through thanksgiving, but he is not admitting why he ended up in the belly of the fish to begin with. Furthermore, Jonah is saying he will return to the temple, not go to Nineveh (Jonah 2:4, 7). He even makes a vow in his prayer, but what vow is he referencing (Jonah 2:9)? He has made God no guarantees that he will obey and go to Nineveh.

Yet, God again shows Jonah love. Despite Jonah’s contriteness, God shows him love by preserving his life and taking him back to dry land (Jonah 2:10).

The Worst Sermon Ever Delivered

Upon dry land, God sends word to Jonah again: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you” (Jonah 3:2 NIV).

Jonah then delivers what could be described as the worst prophetic sermon ever: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4 NIV). What? That’s it. Imagine saying to a congregation, “Forty days and you’re going to be overthrown” and then just walking off stage. There is nothing here about Yahweh at all.

Jonah’s message here is ambiguous. The word often translated as “overthrown” or “destroyed” can also be translated as “changed” or “turned.” If the people repent, they will be changed. If the people don’t repent, their city will be destroyed.

Amazingly, the people repent and begin to fast—and the king gets on board and commands this be done (Jonah 3:5–9).

Jonah’s message of repentance to Nineveh was simple and it worked—despite Jonah’s faults. Love is seen in how God uses it to turn the hearts of the people.

Love is also seen in God’s great mercy against the violent people of Assyria: “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened” (Jonah 3:10 NIV).

The Worst Response to God

Jonah can’t tolerate this response from God. Despite all the mercy he has personally received, he cannot imagine a world where God loves the people of Nineveh.

“[Jonah] prayed to the Lord, ‘Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live” (Jonah 4:2–3 NIV).

Now that he is alive, out of the belly of the fish, Jonah demands to die. He is probably being sarcastic, but it’s still clear that he does not understand the God he serves (Jonah 4:1–3).

When those who once hated Jonah are filled with love for his God, he does not respond with love himself. Instead, he wishes they were dead.

I love God’s response: “Is it right for you to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4 NIV). He questions Jonah’s very ethics. Jonah feels righteous, but God essentially asks him, “Really—are you sure about your position?”

In this region, it could have easily been 120 degrees, so Jonah builds a shelter and God helps by sending Jonah a plant to shade his head (Jonah 4:5–6). But a worm comes along and eats the plant, at the command of God—there is a metaphor here (Jonah 4:7–8). The point of the metaphor: Why be disappointed about things you have no control over—especially for that which you did not earn?

Jonah required more convincing than Nineveh. Thus, God loves him the tough way.

But Jonah is tough too—he still demands to die. God responds gently, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” (Jonah 4:9).

But this doesn’t change Jonah’s mind. So God has to explain it:

“You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” (Jonah 4:10–11 NIV).

Jonah is exclusive about his love. It belongs to his people, from his God, for those whom he loves.

Jesus directly commented on this problem, saying:

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:32–36 NIV).

And that is the end of the sermon. Is there anything more to say than that?

Table Worship at the Walters, Sunday, December 4 at 5:30pm

Join us this Sunday for a Table Worship gathering. This is the 2nd week of Advent on the church calendar. To celebrate, join us at 5:30pm at the Walters (contact us for directions). We’ll start with a shared meal, so bring something delicious to share. We will then focus on Love as we look at the book of Jonah.

Invite a friend; everyone is welcome!

What is Advent?

Welcome to Advent 2016!

But what is Advent? I found this article to be helpful, written by an Episcopal Priest and taken from www.christianity.com/christian-life/christmas/what-is-advent.html

Enjoy!

 

What Is Advent?

For many Christians unfamiliar with the liturgical year, there may be some confusion surrounding the meaning of the Advent season. Some people may know that the Advent season focuses on expectation and think that it serves as an anticipation of Christ’s birth in the season leading up to Christmas. This is part of the story, but there’s more to Advent.

The History of Advent                                 

The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming,” which is a translation of the Greek word parousia. Scholars believe that during the 4th and 5th centuries in Spain and Gaul, Advent was a season of preparation for the baptism of new Christians at the January feast of Epiphany, the celebration of God’s incarnation represented by the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus (Matthew 2:1), his baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist (John 1:29), and his first miracle at Cana (John 2:1). During this season of preparation, Christians would spend 40 days in penance, prayer, and fasting to prepare for this celebration; originally, there was little connection between Advent and Christmas.

By the 6th century, however, Roman Christians had tied Advent to the coming of Christ. But the “coming” they had in mind was not Christ’s first coming in the manger in Bethlehem, but his second coming in the clouds as the judge of the world. It was not until the Middle Ages that the Advent season was explicitly linked to Christ’s first coming at Christmas.

Advent Today                                   

Today, the Advent season lasts for four Sundays leading up to Christmas. At that time, the new Christian year begins with the twelve-day celebration of Christmastide, which lasts from Christmas Eve until Epiphany on January 6. (Advent begins on the Sunday that falls between November 27th and December 3rd each year.)

Advent symbolizes the present situation of the church in these “last days” (Acts 2:17Hebrews 1:2), as God’s people wait for the return of Christ in glory to consummate his eternal kingdom. The church is in a similar situation to Israel at the end of the Old Testament: in exile, waiting and hoping in prayerful expectation for the coming of the Messiah. Israel looked back to God’s past gracious actions on their behalf in leading them out of Egypt in the Exodus, and on this basis they called for God once again to act for them. In the same way, the church, during Advent, looks back upon Christ’s coming in celebration while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people. In this light, the Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” perfectly represents the church’s cry during the Advent season:

O come, O come, Emmanuel,

And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appears.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

While Israel would have sung the song in expectation of Christ’s first coming, the church now sings the song in commemoration of that first coming and in expectation of the second coming in the future.

Advent Liturgy and Practice                        

While it is difficult to keep in mind in the midst of holiday celebrations, shopping, lights and decorations, and joyful carols, Advent is intended to be a season of fasting, much like Lent, and there are a variety of ways that this time of mourning works itself out in the season. Reflection on the violence and evil in the world cause us to cry out to God to make things right—to put death’s dark shadows to flight. Our exile in the present makes us look forward to our future Exodus. And our own sinfulness and need for grace leads us to pray for the Holy Spirit to renew his work in conforming us into the image of Christ.

One catechism describes Advent spirituality beautifully: “When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’”

Advent and the Christian Life                                

While Advent is certainly a time of celebration and anticipation of Christ’s birth, it is more than that. It is only in the shadow of Advent that the miracle of Christmas can be fully understood and appreciated; and it is only in the light of Christmas that the Christian life makes any sense. It is between the fulfilled promise of Christ’s first coming and the  yet-to-be-fulfilled promise of his second coming that Karl Barth penned these words: “Unfulfilled and fulfilled promise are related to each other, as are dawn and sunrise. Both are promise and in fact the same promise. If anywhere at all, then it is precisely in the light of the coming of Christ that faith has become Advent faith, the expectation of future revelation. But faith knows for whom and for what it is waiting. It is fulfilled faith because it lays hold on the fulfilled promise.” The promise for Israel and the promise for the church is Jesus Christ; he has come, and he will come again. This is the essence of Advent.

 

Justin Holcomb is an Episcopal priest and teaches theology at Reformed Theological Seminary and Knox Theological Seminary. Justin wrote On the Grace of God and co-authored with his wife Lindsey Rid of My Disgrace and Save Me from Violence. He is also the editor of Christian Theologies of Scripture. You can find him on FacebookTwitter, and at JustinHolcomb.com.

 

Table Worship at the Walters, Sunday, November 27 at 5:30pm

The church season of Advent is upon us, believe it or not. This Sunday The Table is gathering at the Walters for worship (contact us for directions). We will gather for a shared meal at 5:30pm. This week’s food theme is “Leftovers.” Following the meal we will center ourselves on the Advent theme of Peace, looking at the book of Jonah.

Invite a friend, and join us!

Thanksgiving Help

thanksgiving_cornucopiaThis Sunday, at 10am at the Majestic Ballroom (1027 N Forest St), The Table is joining our sister church, Mosaic, to fill and deliver Thanksgiving baskets to low income families. If you can help to fill a basket, we have specific things needed, so please contact us and we’ll let you know how you can help.

Our next worship gathering will be on November 27th at the Walters’.

Preconceived Notions and John 6

 

My kids are getting to the ages where they like knock-knock jokes and riddles. On our road trip this summer we would share riddles to pass the time. For fun, lets see if you can get these 2 riddles:

1) I travel all over the world, but always stay in my corner. What am I? A Stamp.

2) What kind of coat is always wet when you put it on? A coat of paint.

Riddles help us to look at the world differently. And sometimes they reveal our Preconceived Notions w/o us knowing it. See if you can get this riddle:

A father and his son are in a car accident. The father dies in the crash, and the son is taken to the nearest hospital. The doctor comes in and exclaims: I cannot operate on this boy. Why not? the nurse asks. Because he is my son, the doctor responds. How is this possible?

How is it possible that the doctor cannot operate on their son, when the father is already dead? Any guesses? The answer is that the doctor is the boys mother. Did you have preconceived notions you were not aware of? When I first heard this riddle I was thinking about how maybe the father who died was a stepfather and the doctor was the biological father. Or maybe the boy had 2 dads. In the moment, it did not occur to me that the doctor could have been a woman. w/o getting into a big discussion about gender and the workforce, I can say that b/c of culture and my upbringing, I had preconceived notions.

Preconceived notions are opinions that are formed beforehand without sufficient evidence. And we all have them. And they are informed by various inputs in our lives: Media, Culture, Upbringing, and more. And we all have our own preconceived notions of God. We agree w/ Paul in Romans 11 and proclaim:

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?

We believe that fullness of God is beyond our understanding, and yet we approach one another and God Himself w/ our preconceived notions of who He is. If you are a more Liberal Christian, you might say that JC was a guy just like us, giving us the best example of humanity, while deemphasizing the sacrifice of JC. If you are a more Doctrinal Christian, you might say that JC is found only in the creeds of the church, which deemphasize the life of JC on earth, while highlighting the realities and benefits of the cross. Whether you agree w/ my assessment or not, you probably agree that our perception of who JC is informs how we interact w/ others and God, and defines who we consider to be preaching the gospel and who is preaching something else.

 

Text

At The Table this fall we have been studying the life of JC seen in the book of John. And today I want us to look at John 6. So grab a Bible and turn to John 6. It has been our hope this fall to expose our preconceived notions of JC and discover Him again. I sometimes wonder how my version of JC would get along w/ JC Himself. So w/ all this in mind, lets look at John 6.

Today I want us to primarily look at the latter portion of John 6, but for context we must first look at vs. 1-15. JC and His disciples, after performing miracles in Jerusalem, cross the Sea of Galilee and are followed by a crowd. And in this famous scene, JC feeds 5,000 men, w/ only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. w/o preaching a sermon to the crowd (that we know of), JC feeds people. A more Liberal Christian might say: JCs primary concern was physically feeding, and therefore this is what we should do in His name. And a more Doctrinal Christian might discount this emphasis, calling it the social gospel, and say: JC is revealing a greater spiritual reality in this miracle. The way we read our Bible reveals our perceptions of JC. And the crowd that followed JC had their notions of Him too. This crowd had begun following Him because of the miracles He had done. They hoped He could satisfy their physical hunger and their political ambitions as well. The crowds believed He was the political messiah. And knowing they wanted to crown Him as such, we are told in v. 15 that JC slipped away from the crowd. And in vs. 16-21, JC performs another miracle, by walking on water. JC leaves the crowds further behind and crosses the Sea of Galilee again.

Now looking at v. 22-24, we are told that the crowd realizes that JC is gone, so they go looking for Him. They cross the lake and in v. 25 it says: Rabbi, when did you get here? This begins one of the great dialogs of Johns gospel.

Jesus answered: Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.

JC says: You want me b/c I fed you, not b/c you understood the miracle. Do not seek food, seek eternal life. In v. 28, the Crowd responds: What must we do to do the works God requires? Their preconceived notion was that God required certain actions in observance of the law to receive His blessing. They are missing the point that eternal life is something that will be given to them, as v. 27 says. Their version of God was meeting God Himself . JC says in v. 29: All you must do is believe in the One sent by God. And so the crowd wants JC to prove that He is the One sent by God asks in v. 30:

What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.

The crowd, perhaps seeing the connection b/t the sent one of Moses and the bread he gave, say to JC: Show us a miracle like Moses and we will believe. As one commentator said: Their request is strange, coming so soon after miracle of the 5,000. Why would those whom Jesus had miraculously fed only a day before ask for bread from heaven? It appears that the controlling term is not bread but the phrase “from heaven.” JC had given them food from the earth, but for them to believe He is anything like Moses, they want to see manna FROM HEAVEN. Maybe their preconceived notions had the Messiah looking like Moses. And in v. 32, JC says:

Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.

JC says, it was not Moses who gave bread from heaven, it was God Himself who gives life. JC is redirecting the dialog to explain that this is not a question of what Moses did in the time of the Exodus but of what God is doing right now. It is not a question of manna from the sky but of a flesh and blood person who stands before them. But they are not tracking w/ JC and say: Yeah, this is the bread we are talking about. They do not get it, so JC explains the metaphor, in v. 35, saying:

I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Fathers will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.

He says: You want a sign from Heaven, I have come from heaven to do my Fathers will. He says: I am this bread that gives life, but you do not believe. And the crowd rejects His claim of coming from heaven, b/c they know where He came from; they know His parents. In v. 42: They said: Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, I came down from heaven? JC rebukes them saying:

Stop grumbling among yourselves… 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: They will all be taught by God. Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

The crowds preconceived notion was that messiah was a political good guy, a prophet like Moses or a King like David. JC sticks to the point and asserts that no one comes unless the Father draws them. He says: The bread Moses gave did not give eternal life. Rather, I am the living bread, eat of me and you will live. Meaning, all who believe that JC is the sent one of God, will have eternal life. JCs physical death is the price for the worlds spiritual life.[1] But this talk of eating flesh is weirding out the crowd. They know their Bibles, and would have been perhaps been thinking about Leviticus 17:10, when God said: I will set my face against any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who eats blood, and I will cut them off from the people And so the crowd asks in v. 52: How can we eat His flesh? JC does not back down form this image and says:

Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.

Seems like an appropriate passage as we head into Halloween week, eating flesh and drinking blood. But this was the reaction of the crowd, JC is talking strangely. He says, I am the one sent from heaven. The creator of life sent me, if you feed on me, believing I am sent, you will receive life forever. In other words, JC promises something far greater than manna in the desert. He offers life with Him now and victory over death at the last day.

And to me that is the key phrase: JC offers life with Him today and victory over death at the last day. In context, JC fed 5,000 men w/ real bread, no strings attached. JC cares for the physical wellbeing of His people. w/o saying a word, JC proclaims that the Kingdom of God is like a hungry crowd that gets fed. He offers a satisfied life w/ Him now. Perhaps this point is something a Doctrinal Christian would pass over. But that is not the end. He also offers eternal life, victory over the grave, for those who believe that He is the sent one of God, who gave His body as payment for our sin on the cross, so that we would not die, but rise w/ Him into eternal life. Perhaps this is a point that a Liberal Christian would pass over. But they would do well to wrestle w/ the thought that JC not only offers us satisfied life w/ Him today, but also gives us victory over the grave. This is the bread He offers us, live today and eternity to come. This is the meal He invites us to eat. But all too often, we prefer the preconceived notions we may have of JC to JC Himself. Perhaps we prefer the notion that JC was a political good guy, simply showing us how to live and serve. Or we prefer to lock Him in the creeds, detached often from today. And so when our version of JC meets our neighbors version of JC we feel threatened. And instead of dialoging we go into survival mode, dig into our defensive positions, pridefully assert our opinions on Facebook or at the dinner table, and live lives of maintenance and self-preservation. b/c of our preconceived notions, we miss opportunities of dialog and love. That’s why I wonder how my version of JC would get along w/ JC Himself. The good news is that JC offers life with Him today and victory over death at the last day. He cares for the physical wellbeing of His people, but does not stop there. He is the sent one, who offers His flesh as sacrifice, saying: eat of this and you will live. This is the bread He offers.

And if you look at v. 60 it says: On hearing it, many of his disciples said: This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it? And in vs. 61-65, JC essentially asks them: What will you do when you realize you are wrong, and see me return to heaven. He says: Only the Spirit gives life, and I speak the words of spirit and life. I am the bread of life. And v. 66 says: From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. Their preconceived notions of messiah did not get along w/ messiah Himself.

 

Today

My prayer for us today is that we would not become like these disciples who left. The Father did not draw them, so they did not believe. My prayer is that the Father would draw you close, that the Holy Spirit would reveal the preconceived notions you and I have of JC, and that JC Himself would reveal Himself more fully to us. The good news is that JC is the revealed messiah. He is the bread, the sent one from Heaven, and He invites us to life with Him today and victory over death at the last day. And so this means we need not settle for a life lived in survival mode, where we are constantly on watch in our defensive positions. Rather b/c of the work of JC on the cross, we can live a full life of peace, looking ahead to life fulfilled. We can leave the trenches and live into and share the resurrected life w/ others. So may we be found faithfully pursuing JC, as we live among our neighbors.

Amen.

 

[1] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Jn 6:51). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Table Worship at the Walters, Sunday, November 13 at 5:30pm

dailybreadThe Table is gathering this Sunday, November 13th for a worship gathering. We will again be at the Walters (contact for directions). Starting at 5:30pm we will share a meal. This week’s meal theme is soups and salads, so bring something yummy to share is you are able. We will then look at John 6:60-71, and ask, “What happens when Jesus becomes king?” Invite a friend; everyone is welcome. See you soon!

Election Thoughts

Psalm 47

Come, everyone! Clap your hands!
    Shout to God with joyful praise!
For the Lord Most High is awesome.
    He is the great King of all the earth.
He subdues the nations before us,
    putting our enemies beneath our feet.
He chose the Promised Land as our inheritance,
    the proud possession of Jacob’s descendants, whom he loves. Interlude

God has ascended with a mighty shout.
    The Lord has ascended with trumpets blaring.
Sing praises to God, sing praises;
    sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King over all the earth.
    Praise him with a psalm.
God reigns above the nations,
    sitting on his holy throne.
The rulers of the world have gathered together
    with the people of the God of Abraham.
For all the kings of the earth belong to God.
    He is highly honored everywhere.

Table Worship at the Walters, Sunday, November 6 at 5:30pm

Join The Table this Sunday, November 6th for a worship gathering at the Walters (contact us for directions). We will begin at 5:30pm with a shared meal. This weeks meal theme is Mexican food. After the meal we will sing, pray, and continue our study of the Gospel of John, asking “What happens when Jesus becomes king?” This week we will be looking at John 6:22-59, if you want to read ahead. Invite a friend and join us; everyone is welcome!

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