Reading Ramblings – August 19, 2018

August 12, 2018

Reading Ramblings

Date:Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, August 19, 2018

Texts: Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18; Psalm 34:12-22; Ephesians 5:6-21; John 6:51-69

Context: Holding fast to God’s wisdom may put us at odds with prevailing opinions, ideas, and concepts of truth. The verses for this week call God’s people to be wise in what and who they place their trust and faith in. There is only one source of truth, and whatever contradicts this truth cannot, logically, be true. It’s nice to think that this truth will always be self-evident in our world and culture, but that is not always the case. In those times we are called upon to rely upon our faith in God rather than side with the fashions or ideas of the day that contradict him.

Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18 – The world offers us choices in where to place our faith and trust. There is no shortage of idols and vanities vying for our affections, attention, and faith. Inasmuch as these various options all contradict one another, it can’t possibly be right or healthy to presume that all of them could be true dependent on one’s subjective point of view. They might all be wrong, or one of them might be correct, but to pretend that all are equally valid is unreasonable and foolish, particularly if we are trusting our lives and futures by placing our faith in something or someone. The Israelites also were presented with myriad choices for who to worship and trust. Would they trust the Egyptian gods they once had worshiped? The gods of the peoples they were now in the midst of? Or would they cling to the God who had saved them from slavery and genocide and sustained them through decades of difficult life in the wilderness? Who we trust with our lives is based not simply on the circumstances of the moment, but how we understand and interpret our past, and the Israelites recognize this.

Psalm 34:12-22 – We recognize the truth in these words. Isn’t life better and simpler when we are honest and truthful? When we are guided by the precepts God didn’t simply create at Mt. Sinai but wove into the very fabric of creation and human nature? This is not to say that good people don’t suffer or that bad people don’t prosper. But in general, truthfulness and living life according to God’s design offers more peace and joy than alternatives. This is even more true as we consider the way we live now as shaping us at a fundamental level, preparing us either for eternal life with God or for a deep-seated rebellion against him that we will never let go of. Our behavior cannot be fully separated from our beliefs, and to claim we believe one thing while consistently and pervasively acting to the contrary demonstrates a rift in our being, a rift that we will either end up on one side of or the other. Our long term hope and faith and therefore words and actions and thoughts can only find joy, peace and security in God and his Word.

Ephesians 5:6-21 – We can be deceived. Who we trust is of critical importance, and on what basis we trust them is worthy of constant attention and examination. If we insist on rejecting God’s truth in favor of empty words with no substance or basis, we place ourselves under the wrath of God. So we must carefully guard who we trust. In Christ we are new creations, and we are not capable of simply continuing in the patterns of thoughts, words, and deeds that defined us before Christ – not because God cannot or will not forgive us, but because we can’t long remain between opposites. We will eventually move to one or the other. Rather, we should see to understand and ground ourselves in who we know God has designed us to be. This requires wisdom and vigilance because we are surrounded by thoughts and ideas that are empty and deadly. We ought to focus our attentions on building ourselves and one another up in actions that are pleasing to God rather than actions that tear down ourselves and others. We must constantly seek to see ourselves and those around us as creations of God who are owned by him, and who ought to be obedient to what He calls us to. Refusal to do this is always destructive, and there is no arena in which this is not true. Paul will begin to apply these ideas in practical ways in the following sections of Ephesians, providing practical guidance to various relationships in terms of how we seek God’s way rather than our own way or the way our culture calls us to.

John 6:51-69 – It can’t seem more illogical and downright offensive. Jesus insists that only by partaking of his body can people have eternal life. How often we fail to hear this today! But how strange it will sound to anyone unfamiliar with the Bible or the Church! How offensive, how ridiculous, how stupid. How can eternal life come from eating the flesh of another human being? And moreover, how can we expect 2000 years later to be eating that same body and drinking that same blood after Jesus’ bodily ascension? It makes no sense. After all, as materialists we understand that Jesus couldn’t possibly have enough flesh and blood for the billions of followers who join in Holy Communion. And of course a quick look under a microscope would prove that there is no human flesh in the bread or blood in the wine. A simple enough matter to prove that Jesus wasn’t serious. Couldn’t have been serious.

But we are called by faith to take Jesus’ words seriously. What may not seem possible or even likely, we are called in faith to trust as true. Jesus doesn’t mince words, seemingly intent on thinning out the crowds pursuing him, and testing even his disciples’ faith. His words remain just as stark and unblinking today. Our salvation must lie totally and completely in him, and only in him. Not in our good behavior. Not in our good efforts. Not in anything in us, but only in him. And not in some esoteric or theoretical way, but only by receiving him fully and completely as He promises to be present in the bread and wine. If we are offended by his words, if they disgust us, if they offend our sense of rationality and logic, we are free to choose our rationality and logic over Jesus’ words, but we must consider whether we are making a god out of our logic and rationality. Not being able to fully comprehend something doesn’t make it true or right. Does a microscope make Jesus a liar? Does it overrule eyewitness reports of the crucified man who claimed to be the Son of God appearing alive again to hundreds of witnesses? Do you trust that his words can’t be true, or do you trust that they are, even if they don’t seem to make sense? What wisdom will you make your own, and what wisdom will you use to guide your life?

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Well Said

August 11, 2018

A good reminder of just one of the differences between God-as-a-djinni, who basically just wants to be rid of us and left alone and so gives us what we want (or what we think we want, or not really what we want but what we say we want, etc.), and God-as-God, who is committed to our perfection in Christ.  Thanks for the pointer, Janelle!

 

Sharing Ourselves

August 9, 2018

Last week my family and I launched a new ministry outreach.  Weekly I teach at a women’s residential addiction recovery facility.  I spend an hour a week with ladies in the midst of recovery.  Some of them are still detoxing from their latest binge.  Others are nearly finished with the program, obsessed with finding work or lining up schooling.  Women of all ages and from all walks of life.  We have wonderful times together laughing, talking about God’s Word and work.

But then they graduate from the program and it’s rare that I ever see them again.  I’m part of their program of recovery, and once graduated, they don’t see a purpose in continuing the relationship that was formed (my assumption).  Yet these women are the most vulnerable of the recovery community – especially those with children.  They need every resource they can find, but all too often church and pastors are presumed to be part of the past rather than an integral part of their present and future.

So to try and develop the relationships beyond the one-hour a week classroom environment, we started opening our home up.  Every week, 3-4 of these women sign up (voluntarily, not required) to come to our home Thursday evening for three hours.  There isn’t a program or a plan.  They aren’t required to do or be anything.  They can just come and be themselves.  Not as guests of honor, not as representatives of the recovery center, but just as women coming to a family home for dinner.  They pitch in to prepare, enjoy, and clean up from the meal while interacting not just with me but with my wife and children.

The hope is that relationships will form, and that some of these women will want to come back, and will recognize that recovery is more than a program, but a matter of relationship.  Likewise, the love of Christ is expressed through the Word (and Sacraments) of God delivered by friends, neighbors, people we have relationships with.

Tonight three different women are signed up to come.  It’s impossible to predict personalities and all the issues that a time together could bring, but it continues to show us that opening ourselves to others makes a difference in people’s lives.  Not necessarily immediately or dramatically.  Sometimes slow and subtly.  But relationships are created through these experiences, and only God knows how those relationships will develop and what He will do in and through them.  I believe He will do much more than deliver someone from addiction, but rather will deliver them from sin and death and hopelessness and despair.  And if He can do that through sharing a meal, opening our home, having our kids play Just Dance on the xBox with them or letting them pet our dogs, what a beautiful testimony not to our eloquence or skills but his creativity and power and goodness.

 

Just Teach

August 8, 2018

God is good.

There are times I’m tempted to presume someone isn’t really interested in his Word.  Really can’t relate to it.  Really can’t deal with serious teaching about Scripture.  There are times when I hold back from going deeper for fear of boring people to death or leaving them more confused than when we began.

Lord knows there are more than enough times when I study his Word and feel like I have less understanding after than before.

But God is good.  And I’m grateful for his loving reminders to just teach his Word.  As well as I’m able.  As deeply as possible.  Trusting that it’s his Holy Spirit that is really doing all the hard work, regardless of how much work I’ve put in to preparing.  And that the Holy Spirit will open the way for whatever is going to happen through that teaching, regardless of who is listening or not listening.  What a glorious blessing it is to be proven wrong by and with and through the Word that at once condemns my folly (or arrogance?  or condescension?) and then pronounces forgiveness.

To God alone be all the glory.

Book Review: Who Broke My Church?

August 7, 2018

Who Broke My Church? 7 Proven Strategies for Renewal and Revival

by Kent R. Hunter

I don’t know where I got this book.  I’m sure that it’s a good book for someone, but not for me.  In fact, I went through and purged my Amazon wish-list of any books I’ve put on there over the last fifteen years that propose to help you transform your church from icky to successful.  It’s not that this isn’t a good desire (depending on how you define terms), but the reality is that none of these books seem to accomplish what they claim to.  Either that means that millions of people are reading them and then ignoring everything they say (which is completely possible!) or that what they say isn’t ultimately as guaranteed (“proven”) as they think it is.

This is an encouraging book in some ways.  The language is peppy, sprinkled liberally with quotable slogans and catch-phrases, and with ongoing references to other current writers on the Church or leadership or any number of other topics.  Perhaps it’s encouraging to people to read books like this, and perhaps there are people who have seen substantive change in their congregations as a result.  I just don’t know any of them personally.

Some of his insights are helpful, such as differentiating between being a servant or a volunteer.  Other things were less helpful, such as insisting that no church can survive or thrive unless they update everything to match what people in the larger culture expect.  Suggesting that Jesus came to model a new way of doing ministry is more than a stretch.  And  if you’re going to make that stretch, why is it that nobody ever advocates for a itinerant ministry model, since that’s how Jesus did it?

Read the Bible, and if you read it well enough and long enough the strategies that this author (or most any other author, frankly) advocates will be obvious enough.  Or they won’t be.  One thing I find interesting with reading the early Church Fathers is how little – as in not at all – they talk about growth strategies or evangelism programs.  They talk about unity, about believers committing themselves to one another.  But not about how to improve worship attendance.

Hmmmm….

Book Review: The Benedict Option

August 6, 2018

The Benedict Option:  A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation

by Rod Dreher

I was directed to this book by a respected writer, teacher, and theologian,  Gene Veith.

I agree with Veith that this is an important book.  I wish that it was more important than it is, but it is important at the very least.  Dreher asserts that Christians have lost the cultural war and therefore will lose the struggle to legislate Christian morality.  These losses have already occurred cannot be undone (likely for several generations) and should be acknowledged as such.  While there is a place and necessity for Christians to continue to voice their beliefs in the public and political realm those voices will be increasingly marginalized and perhaps even criminalized.

What are Christians to do, then?

Dreher argues far more eloquently than I have that Christians need to acknowledge this, quit moaning about it, and get on with planning how to ensure that Christianity is passed down to our children and grandchildren, so that it survives this new Dark Ages and is ready to re-emerge into a changed political and cultural landscape an indeterminate number of years, decades, or perhaps centuries down the road.

The metaphor Dreher chooses for this is St. Benedict of Nursia, who in the sixth century created a rule for monastic life still in use today, which Dreher sees as informative not for a new wave of monks and nuns but rather ordinary Christians seeking to preserve their faith in an increasingly hostile and intolerant culture.

This sounds fascinating to a Lutheran like me who views monastic life as impractical at best.  Unfortunately, Dreher only references Benedict’s Rule in passing and without much specific quoting.  I’d rather thought I’d find a copy of the Rule in the book itself, but it isn’t there.  Dreher seems more to see in St. Benedict a prescient figure for his time, which is certainly what Christians seem to need now.  Dreher is not advocating monasticism in the traditional sense, or a withdrawal of Christians from culture and society, but rather that Christians need to take steps to intentionally preserve the Christian faith in their families and communities, steps that most people will likely find extreme to say the least.

Communal living (whether under one roof or in a network of like-minded homes in a neighborhood or town) is a major aspect.  Reconsidering our devotion to the public schooling system (as well as private schools) at all levels, and considering home schooling utilizing the classical educational model is another strong recommendation of Dreher’s.  Strategizing as to what career options will likely remain open to Christians in an era where corporations are increasingly mandating employee adherence and support of codes of conduct that may violate their Christian beliefs is another major issue.

Dreher recognizes what we all sort of know in our gut – that the changes of the last 40 years have been nothing short of monumental, tectonic even.  Everything has changed and is going to continue to change and not in a way convenient or even permissive of traditional Christian teachings and ways of living our lives.

Dreher intends to sound the alarm to rouse Christians to radically reconsider the assumptions they have accepted about how life ought to be lived and how the life of faith should be lived out.  I know Dreher intentionally avoids many specific recommendations as he understands that Benedict Communities are going to come in all shapes and sizes and he doesn’t want to curtail holy imagination towards that end.  But a bit more in the specifics arena would likely be helpful to folks who are otherwise bewildered by the picture he paints of the future.

Read this book.  Read it as a family.  Read it as church communities.  And begin to look for folks who understand just how different the coming generations of Christians are going to need to live in America.  There is no returning to the halcyon days of mid-20th century America as a Christian nation (if that was indeed accurate).  We need to prepare for a future even more difficult than the present.  God is good.  The Holy Spirit is with us.  The Church will never be eradicated, but individual Christians and corporate Christian entities are going to have an increasingly difficult road ahead.

Let’s work together to figure out how to keep moving down it and through it.

Reading Ramblings – August 12, 2018

August 5, 2018

Reading Ramblings

Date: Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, August 12, 2018

Texts: 1 Kings 19:1-8; Psalm 34:1-8; Ephesians 4:17-5:2; John 6:35-51

Context: For reasons I’m unsure of, this is the second of three weeks where the Gospel comes from John rather than Mark. I’m sure there’s some reason for this other than the brevity of Mark’s Gospel! The reading in John continues on from the feeding of the 5000, with Jesus growing increasingly confrontational with those who have followed him from the previous days’ meal in hopes of making him their king. He has come for more than to hand out free meals. God sustains us daily with the bounty of the earth, but our full stomachs are not his primary concern. Rather, He seeks our eternal welfare through the bread of life, his Son.

1 Kings 19:1-8 – Despite a stunning victory over the priests of Baal in chapter 18, Elijah runs in fear from the death threat of Queen Jezebel, a formidable opponent to be sure. He flees into the wilderness away from everyone, and while the wilderness in Scripture is someplace where God can mold and shape us, Elijah seeks only death. But God does not abandon his servant or grant his request for death. Instead, God provides miraculously for Elijah so that he can continue his journey with divinely-granted strength for another forty days and forty nights until he reaches Horeb, the mountain where God revealed himself to Moses and the Israelites after freeing them from slavery in Egypt. God provides for our needs and sometimes provides more than we need. God who creates and sustains creation is not limited by the same rules and laws we are used to abiding by.

Psalm 134:1-8 – This is the final psalm of ascent – one of the psalms traditionally recited en route to Jerusalem and perhaps upon entry into the city. We are unsure of the introductory note – Abimelech is mentioned in 2 Samuel 11 by way of reference to Judges 9, which tells of Abimelech who was made king and came to a bad end by way of a mill-stone thrown by an old woman during his attempt to conquer the city of Thebez. This would have been well before David’s time, so it must reference a different Abimelech that we have no record of. The psalm is one of confidence and trust and rejoicing in the Lord’s provision, which includes some form of deliverance (vs. 4, 6). David leads his people to praise God who can be trusted to sustain and deliver them in their times of distress, much as God delivered Elijah from his distress.

Ephesians 4:17-5:2 – Having exhorted the Ephesians to unity through their shared faith in Christ, Paul exhorts them individually to set aside the lives they lived prior to coming to faith. The Christian thinks and acts fundamentally different than someone who does not believe in Jesus. The behavior may look similar on the surface, but the rationale is completely different. The Christian expects their minds to be renewed as they learn better and more thoroughly what the will of God is for them and how it differs from a culture bent solely on self-gratification. Having died to their sinful nature in Christ, the Christian is free to live as a new person. Such a new life will be characterized by honesty, as well as in tangible differences in how we work out problems between one another. Unity remains the goal, so that we are not entitled to dwell on our anger overnight, but should seek out the other party to make peace. Failure to do so provides an opportunity for Satan to work in our hearts and minds, leading us towards thoughts, words, and actions that contradict our new identity in Christ. Honesty is to include a turning away from theft, as well as a change in how we talk. What we do and say matter, both as a means of demonstrating our gratitude to God as well as a matter of how we love one another. Failure to allow the Holy Spirit to begin making these changes in our lives is a source of grief to the Holy Spirit, working against him rather than with him. Instead, we should cooperate so that we gain better control over our emotions, our words, and our actions. Rather than seeking only our own benefit and advancement we should earnestly seek to love and care for one another. We do so not necessarily because the other party deserves it, but rather because God has forgiven us. All of these things make us imitators of God, drawing us more closely into alignment with how He intends us to live, and how Jesus modeled life for us. Even if this means self-sacrifice, we do so willingly and gladly knowing that God has given us all things in Christ, and will vindicate us against our enemies on the day of judgment.

John 6:35-51 – Jesus directs the hearts and minds of the crowd to his true nature and work. He is offering himself on their behalf as real food, as real as the bread He miraculously provided the day before. Only in receiving the gift of Jesus in himself can anyone hope to escape from the constant clamoring simply for physical sustenance. Jesus offers nothing less than eternal life, something far beyond the hopes of a populace that sees him as a potential king to throw off Roman control. This of course is a cause of offense, particularly to those who think they understand who Jesus is and where He has come from. From their perspective, Jesus comes from Nazareth, from Mary and Joseph, not from heaven. Jesus continues unswayed, equating himself with God the Father by saying that He has seen God the Father. What Jesus has to offer is far greater than what Moses, one of the heroes of the faith, offered the Israelites in the wilderness. Moses was not the source of the manna, but still, that food was intended only to sustain God’s people physically for the normal course of their lifetime. What Jesus offers in himself is nothing less than eternal life, demonstrating his radical superiority to the religious and ethnic heroes of the people. The people want Jesus to be king, but a crown He will need to gain by force of war is far beneath him and what He offers. God is not content that we should simply live out our mortal lives, and He desires that we look for more than this from him as well. We should see him as the source of eternal life as well as the provider of what we need to live here and now. Only by keeping these things distinct and in proper proportion can we hope to receive the eternal life made possible by Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection.

ANF – The Martyrdom of Ignatius

July 31, 2018

This post is one of a series of reviews of the early Church Fathers, who are technically referred to as the Ante-Nicene Fathers (before the Council of Nicaea).  To find other reviews of these ancient writings, use the search bar on my blog and search for ANF.

 

The precise author of this is unknown, though the work itself indicates that it was written by someone accompanying Ignatius to Rome and his martyrdom.  If this is the case, then traditionally the author is assumed to be Philo, Agathopus, or Crocus.  Each of these individuals are mentioned in various of Ignatius’ letters as accompanying him on all or part of his journey.

However some modern scholars are skeptical of the ancientness of this document, pointing out that there are no references to it before the seventh century.  However an absence of references on hand today does not mean that it wasn’t referenced in writings we don’t have.  The sparseness of the account also leads other scholars to presume that it really was written by a contemporary of Ignatius.

After his various letters describing his deep desire to be martyred for the faith, the actual report of Ignatius’ death is very brief and devoid of detail.  He was presented to wild beasts to be torn apart on the 20th of December during the reign of Trajan.  Scholars differ as to the precise year, though the early 2nd century is the most likely (perhaps AD 107 or 116).  His remains amounted to nothing more than a few bones which were collected and sent to Antioch for preservation.

 

Steps of Change

July 30, 2018

Yesterday my congregation made the first of what will likely be multiple steps towards substantive  change in their ministry condition.  They voted to allow a long-term lease to expire about a year from now.  Doing so will mean the parting of ways with a Christian organization that has had long-standing ties with our congregation over the last  30 years or so.  It was a mutually beneficial relationship, in the early days ministerially as well  as financially.  In later years, the primary benefit to both parties was financial.

Parting ways will  mean that we’ll lose almost a third of the income  that makes  up our annual budget.  Nothing to sneeze at, to be sure.  While we’re  blessed to be finanicially stable to operate without this income for  several years, it isn’t a situation that is tenable for the long term.  In other words, now there will be some tangible pressure on the congregation to determine what they want to do in terms of ministry, and what is necessary to accomplish it.

That excites me.

The lease arrangement was comfortable.  It provided reliable income, but required nothing of our people in terms of mission or ministry.  Now  they have the duty and privilege of charting a course for the congregation that hopefully will continue long after they have gone to glory.  Rather than choosing comfort for a few more  years at the cost of the ministry’s future, they’ve opted for the harder road that could lead to substantive change.  Perhaps even sacrifice.

These are good things, in my estimation.  Not easy things, but good and important.  The next year will be pivotal in determining what our course forward will be and how we accomplish it.  I look forward to seeing the Holy Spirit’s continued leading and guiding.  We’ve been here for over 100 years.  What a privilege to work with these people to ensure that  we continue to minister in our community and beyond for as many more years as possible – perhaps another century!

Reading Ramblings – August 5, 2018

July 29, 2018

Reading Ramblings

Date: Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost – August 5, 2018

Texts: Exodus 16:2-15; Psalm 145:10-21; Ephesians 4:1-16; John 6:22-35

Context: The season of Ordinary Time focuses on the life of the Church, those who have been called in faith as part of the body of Christ. But what does this mean, and what does this look like? How is a congregation a faithful part of the body of Christ? Where does the focus lie? What are the measures of success or failure? Too often, we evaluate churches and congregations the way we do businesses. How big is it? How quickly is it growing? How many customers/parishioners are in attendance every week? What are the plans for growth or expansion in the future? Our American consumerist mentality leads us to judge congregations based on their size, the newness and expansiveness of their facilities, their annual budget size, their staff level, and numerous other criteria. Growth and size and power are the emphases. All in the service of the Gospel, to be sure, but at what cost? Unity, often, for one. We have been called to be part of the Body of Christ. We are not ourselves the body, but only parts of it, over whom Christ is the head. Paul repeatedly emphasizes the importance of unity. Being together in heart and mind. Culturally this is often a woefully neglected emphasis. In a culture where every person is supposed to determine all aspects of their life, what they believe to be right or wrong, true or false, acceptable or unacceptable – unity is destroyed. The body of Christ is atomized when we emphasize personal agency. But what is the alternative? Focus on the sustaining power of God the Father. Not on what we want or like but rather what He provides us with, just as He fed his people manna in the wilderness. Only if He is our emphasis can we hope for the unity that He himself provides us in the abiding presence of God the Holy Spirit, in the sacramental presence of God the Son.

Exodus 16:2-15 – God the Father provides his people with what they need. Not necessarily what we want, but what we need. He does so in myriad ways, but we are inclined to always seek for more, different, or what we consider to be better. How quickly we forget God’s deliverance, as He delivered his people from the genocidal Egyptians! Instead, we focus only on the moment’s lack or uncertainty, or the future’s lack of definition. How often we are willing to settle for a certain awfulness, rather than an uncertain hope and promise! We are anxious and irritable when we are not in control, when the illusion of control we cling to so desperately is removed and we are forced to consider how supremely and completely dependent we are upon our Creator. This might inspire terror if we know only God the Creator, and not God the Redeemer or God the Sanctifier. But we should be unified by our dependence on God’s provision, and the bond of common need and dependence that only the faithful can truly share.

Psalm 145:10-21 – Unity is found not in glorifying ourselves but in glorifying God. Unity is found not in emphasizing our personal wisdom or insight or strengths, but in recognizing all of these things as blessings of our Creator God to be used towards his glory alone through love and care of his creation and our fellow creatures. This psalm emphasizes how the Lord provides, and He chooses more often than not to provide through our fellow human beings. Rather than raining manna from heaven He leads some to tend the soil, some to raise animals, some to drive trucks and others to build grocery stores. We are all necessary parts of the way God cares for his Creation, and in seeing ourselves and one another in this way we are better able and hopefully more willing to seek unity rather than dominance, to value and prize one another simply for their existence as part of God’s marvelous creative activity and not simply as means to our ends, allies or opponents. If God has given me my neighbor, how can I mistreat them, or speak poorly of them, or seek to use them only for my personal advantage? How much more proper that I seek a unity of heart and mind with them in praise of our common Creator?

Ephesians 4:1-16 – Unity is the main emphasis here. Having prayed that God would bless the church in Ephesus with all his good gifts, Paul prays that they would exhibit this blessing in their unity. How can we fight with those around us whom God has blessed alongside of us? How can we criticize or blame or speak ill of these whom God has blessed us with as brothers and sisters in Christ in the very tangible sense rather than some abstract manner? We may disagree with one another, and have different perspectives and ideas. But all such perspectives and ideas are themselves gifts of God the Father! What is most important – more important than being right or being successful by the world’s definitions is how we seek unity with one another above all. How we would rather concede our point of view than allow Satan a place at the table by talking ill of others. We must value our brothers and sisters in faith not conceptually but actually. Not abstractly but concretely. And we must do so at any and all cost – other than the Truth of God’s Word, which must never be compromised or set aside! God has given us our differences to make us stronger, just as He has provided a variety of gifts and roles to be fulfilled among his people. Not to our glory but to his, and always towards the sole goal not of material prosperity or even growth but rather love of God through love of neighbor.

John 6:22-35 – Elect a king based on a free meal? Sounds silly, doesn’t it. What a small conception of God and what He offers to us! Yet how often are we equally presumptuous about what God should do for us? Good health? Financial security? Economic or social policies we agree with? How often do we want a God that will do the things we want him to do, but not a God that demands everything we are and have be submitted to him? Those people on the hillside were happy with a free meal but likely wouldn’t have been interested in taking up crosses and following Jesus to Golgotha. Are we any different? All too often, not. All too easily we presume God exists to satisfy us, rather than the Biblical assertion that we exist to worship and praise God. To rely on him for everything in good times or in bad. It is this shallowness of faith that Jesus calls us from. Jesus continues in this episode to insist that life is found only in partaking of him, something even his disciples exclaim is a hard teaching, difficult to hear and accept. But Jesus settles for nothing less. There is nothing less to be had. Either all or nothing. And either Jesus is the necessary aspect of every day of your life that He really is, or He really isn’t much of anything to us.