Taste and See: Promotion Sunday!

16 08 2010

Sunday mornings at 9:30 a.m. are not the prime time to have deep theological discussions with high schoolers.

There…I said it.

And therein lies the problem with Sunday School. Combine sullen students, outdated curriculum, institutional white walls, and slightly difficult questions…and the whole lesson is sure to be a disaster. This summer, I’ve worked really hard to try and combat some of those problems. As far as the decor goes, I owe a giant debt of gratitude to my mom and sister, who really helped spruce up the classrooms with some colorful and whimsical touches. I’ve been formulating our fall curriculum to focus on the experiential aspects and practices of our faith. And today, I discovered that feeding sugar to youth at least helps eliminate some of the sullenness.

Today was our first Sunday School lesson of the semester, and our main Scripture text was Psalm 34. Specifically we focused in on verse 8: “Taste and see that the LORD is good.” I love that God doesn’t beat us over the head with statements about who he is (in fact, in our 90-day challenge, I’ve been surprised by how few descriptors are given! One notable exception is the refrain “The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.”) Instead, he invites us to come and see who he is…and how he is. He is willing to withstand our (sometimes harsh) scrutiny and even to risk our declining his invitation. And that, to me, makes this invitation all the more powerful.

So our Sunday School discussion focused on what it means for us to have an invitation like this. Are we taking advantage of this calling, or just mindlessly accepting what we are told? Do we, in fact, believe that God is good? How do we know this? Why do we believe this? If there is a good God, why is there evil in the world?

And then we moved into the imagery of tasting and food. How exactly are we supposed to “taste and see”? Does God make himself present in literal food? Are we supposed to eat the Bible? (Some say yes :))

On the altar I had placed a jar of honey, a loaf of bread, and a half-gallon of milk, and we ended our class today with a feast! As we snacked, we chatted about the metaphor of a “land flowing with milk and honey,” (the closest parallel we could come up with was the chocolate river in Wonka’s chocolate factory) and imagined what it must have been like to wander in the dry desert with the God-given promise of such a fertile land and abundant life.

Truth is, we all find ourselves wandering in the wilderness at times. And even though we may find it easier to say “God is good” during times of prosperity, it is during those times of weakness and pain and suffering that we most earnestly turn to God. And we are forever sustained by hope: by the promise of God for a new future, a new land, and a new life.





The Lunatic Gospel: Genesis 12

14 08 2009

Click here to read the text of Genesis 12.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going
-Hebrews 11:8

Every time I read this book, I am overwhelmed by what a wonderful story it is. Quite apart from its truth or falsehood, it’s just such a compelling narrative. What great characters; what a great plot! And the plot always thickens…

Because it’s not enough to just be a nation of people. Up until this point, it has been possible to become the patriarch of a nation simply by having lots of kids. Nations are families: human families.

But God is setting up something different. Abram has to leave his people, his family. He is to become the patriarch of a consecrated (set apart….chosen!) nation, and he must first separate himself physically from the others.

When God first calls Abram, he says “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you” (verse 1). At this point in the story, the land hasn’t yet been “Promised.” It’s just on display for Abram to see.

What the view might have looked like

What the view might have looked like

Can you imagine? Essentially, God is saying, “Come here, Abram. I have something to show you–you’ve just got to see this!”

And just like some modern tourist in the Big Apple, Abram comes to see the sites. But he’s letting God guide his itinerary. When he gets there, he immediately builds an altar to his Guide, even though he isn’t even quite sure where he is and what he’s doing there.

And maybe that’s the important part of this faith thing. To be ok with uncertainty. To trust God enough to drop everything and follow him to the ends of the earth, not for what you can get out of he deal, but because that’s what God asks of you. And because you just want to see all that God has to show you.

(originally posted 6/19/08 at http://thelunaticgospel.blogspot.com)