Loaves + Fish = Great Idea!

13 05 2010

So I was reading the story of Jesus feeding the multitude, when suddenly it occurred to me … Jesus would  have been a great youth minister!

I mean, look at this model of ministry:

1. Free Food! It’s a well-known fact that teenagers (and college students…and well, maybe everyone) are 10 times more likely to show up when there’s free pizza.

2. Flashy Miracle!  I’m not saying that multiplying the food was a gimmick…but it certainly gave people something to talk about.  And really, it’s not all that different from ministries that give away iPods, or ministers who offer to shave their heads when enough people show up for youth group.  Bottom line is, we want our meetings to be absolutely positively cool enough for our students to talk about with their friends when they get to school the next day.

But the best part about Jesus’ model is that it doesn’t stop there.  The next day, when the crowd shows up again, Jesus has some sharp words for them:

You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free.  Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.

Gimmicks and free food are fine…at first.  But if we never challenge our students to move beyond a superficial understanding of faith, then we’re not doing our job.  If we feed their bellies every week and never feed their souls, then something’s missing.   As we introduce them to the Bread of Life, the invitation is always the same: “Taste and see that the Lord is good!”

Creepy, yes? This is what happens when you google "Jesus pizza." From brandius.net

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Back to Crowder: Psalm 40

11 10 2009

BK01I first discovered the 40th psalm during my sixth grade Sunday School class, and it has been one of my favorites ever since.  (Although I suspect that the reason I picked this particular psalm had less to do with its message and more with the fact that it used the word “mire,” which I thought was a great word).  So, it was fun to come back to this passage through the book’s Lectio Divina approach (although, the Message translation uses the word “ditch” instead of “mire,” which took out a little bit of the fun).

This psalm is about being rescued, and it is about waiting patiently for that rescue.  Crowder compares it to the show Gilligan’s Island (or perhaps, its modern-day equivalent??); with every episode, the viewer watches as the characters get themselves into some kind of predicament, knowing that the situation will be resolved by the end of the show.

But that’s not what keeps the viewers coming back.  Throughout the whole overarching narrative of the show, the viewers (and the characters) are waiting for a bigger kind of rescue, the kind which will finally take them back home from the shipwrecked island.

And isn’t that the story of the entire Old Testament?  From Abraham, to Joseph, to Moses, to Joshua, to Gideon, to David, to Jonah…none of these characters are perfect.  They always get into trouble, and in spite of their mistakes and flaws, God always comes to their physical rescue.  But throughout the Tanakh, there are hints of another kind of rescue that is coming, one which we recognize as being fulfilled through the person of Jesus Christ.  This rescue is of a spiritual nature, intended for all of humanity: one which will finally bring us home.

We are living out these two stories, as well.  I’m reminded of a certain exchange in John 6 between Jesus and his disciples:

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

Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, 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. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

“Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.”

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”

This passage occurs right after Jesus finishes feeding 5,000 people with just five barley loaves and two fish.  Yes, he is able to satiate our earthly desires, and provide us with all we need to satisfy our physical hunger.  But that’s not the whole story, nor is that even the most important part of the story!  He also has the solution to our spiritual hunger, an eternal solution.  This is the “big rescue” that we have been awaiting.  This is the final episode.





Word of God, Speak…

6 08 2009

BK01David Crowder’s book Praise Habit has been sitting on my bookshelf for about five years.  I’ve taken it down a few times, to read through the first chapter or two.  But somehow I could never bring myself to finish it.  (And at just 155 pages, there wasn’t even that much to finish!)

It is one of those books that cannot cannot be consumed in a day.  Or two, or even three.  In this small volume, Crowder introduces modern readers to the art of Lectio Divina (or, “spiritual reading”), and he gives us 21 psalms to practice with.  Using the Eugene Peterson’s Message translation, he follows each psalm with his own brief meditation on the meaning of the passage.  But, as I am learning, the real “magic” of the book happens off the page.

Crowder describes the practice of Lectio Divino as containing four steps: READ (“immerse yourself” in the Scripture), THINK (meditate on what God is saying), PRAY (converse with God about what he’s saying to you), and LIVE (let the Scripture change you).

I had heard of Lectio Divina before, but somehow that last step had never been emphasized before; I’m sure that the best Lectio-Diviners consider it to be a given, but it certainly changes things to have the “LIVE” step spelled out.

Because, as Crowder notes, “Jesus was the first one to become God’s word in the flesh: ‘The word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. (John 1)’

There is a long tradition that associates the Word of God with life.  In Genesis, the word of God spoken across the surface of the deep becomes the impetus for creation, and thus, for life.

And Psalm 1:2-3 reads as follows (incidentally, Psalm 1 is also first in Crowder’s collection of Lectio Divina Psalms):

Instead you thrill to God‘s Word,
you chew on Scripture day and night.
You’re a tree replanted in Eden,
bearing fresh fruit every month,
Never dropping a leaf,
always in blossom.

A tree replanted in Eden.  That’s beautiful, isn’t it?  That phrase evokes the idea of rebirth and of God’s new creation.  Something about meditating on the word of God brings that new life.  It is a way of living into the kingdom  of God and living in the way we were originally created to be (as Crowder says, living into our “genesis-shape”)

In all of our prayer and devotional life, I think we should be looking for the last step of the Lectio Divina: Live.  For those who have Christ, the Word made flesh, living within us, shouldn’t we be praying that God would allow his Word (in Scripture, in creation, in other people, in meditation, and elsewhere) to continue to be made flesh inside of us, too?





Daily Bread

29 07 2009

“I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”
– Jesus of Nazareth, John 6:35

my first loaf of bread!

my first loaf of bread!

One of my ongoing life goals is to become a baker of bread. There’s something wonderfully familiar and appealing about the smell — and taste! — of homemade bread. Last weekend, I came a little closer to my goal as I tried out the Farmhouse White sandwich bread recipe, which was advertised as beginner friendly and foolproof. Not to mention, delicious!

the first slice

the first slice