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 Combine sullen students, outdated curriculum, institutional white walls, and slightly difficult questions…and the whole lesson is sure to be a disaster.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.

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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.