Yesterday, I ended by saying:
I love cookbooks. One of my favorite features of cookbooks is the trouble shooting guide, that way if your recipe doesn’t turn out, you can look at the trouble shooting guide and figure out what to do different next time. So if your muffins are too pointy you over mixed, or added too much leavening, or if they are pale, your oven wasn’t hot enough.
So here it is:
The Bread of Heaven – Flesh Eaters Troubleshooting Guide.
Mistake #1 – Mistaking reading the recipe for eating the dish
I love the Bible, I especially loved my Bible classes in Seminary. Even when I didn’t like the professors, I liked the material. I can tell you about Markan Priority, Q Source material, the differences between Paul’s general letters and his pastorals.
I know about the tone that the first two chapters of Luke is written in is much different from the rest of the book. I can tell you why Luke/Acts should be considered one piece of literature instead of two separate books divided oddly by John.
I know mnemonic devices for remembering the order of a significant number of books in the Bible.
God’s Electric Power Company – Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians Colossians
I take great delight in memorizing verses and having the kids at Park Avenue do the same.
But my love for the Bible must come second to my love for God. Knowing what the scripture says and knowing the one that it is written about are different things.
And it’s not a something that you can do once or sporadically either. Dr.s and nutrition experts generally urge patients to eat every 4 hours. We just don’t function well or treat each other or ourselves nicely when we go longer than 4 hours without eating.
My friend Amanda and I were incredibly close my Junior year of college. We led Bible study together, talked about guys, shared walks to campus and watched movies together. We talked every day, at least once.
Amanda and her husband serve over seas and send prayer letters out ever month or two. I know what’s going on in their life, they just had a baby, they’re home on furlough, raising support and eager to go back. But I don’t KNOW Amanda like I did 10 years ago.
In the same way, if I only learn about Jesus, if I only read about him, my intimacy with him will not be the same as it was before. We’ve got to keep eating the bread.
When I was 18 years old I had surgery on both my top and bottom jaw. I have a titanium plate in my upper jaw now, and three screws on either side of my face connecting my upper and lower jaw. In an X-Ray of my head I look a little like Frankenstein’s monster.
For a month that summer. I couldn’t open my mouth, couldn’t chew. I was exhausted, lay on the couch and became fairly depressed. I couldn’t eat much, and what I was able to eat, applesauce, yogurt, milk, pudding and disgusting cans of ensure grew pretty boring pretty quickly. But I had to eat. My body needed to heal three broken bones in my jaw. So I ate. I didn’t feel like doing it. But I ate, I drank that nasty ensure, and ate bowl after bowl of applesauce. My mom is so nice, I was in a super bad mood about the food I was eating and the smells from the actual food my family was eating, they had bbq’d burgers on the grill, so she tried to make me a cheeseburger smoothie, well-done beef and Colby Jack cheese don’t blend very well, and that doesn’t actually work, so it was back to ensure.
This summer, I’ve had a hard time feeling God’s presence. I’ve had times in my life before when I can almost physically feel God on my skin, hear God’s voice in my ear, spirituality seems so easy and so obvious. This summer though I haven’t sensed God much at all. It’s not that I have stopped believing or that I’m angry or upset with God. I just haven’t felt God the same way that I did before. In the past month I’ve come to a realization. I don’t feel God, I don’t hear God, don’t sense God, but I know that God is there. Therefore, even though I don’t feel like it. I’ve got to keep eating the bread. Spending time in prayer, in fellowship, in worship, in devotional reading, taking communion with the body. God has used this time. I’ve learned things about God, had my faith tested and grown.
So what’s the remedy to our first mistake? Keep on eating the bread – regularly, when we feel like it, and when we don’t.
Mistake #2 Trying to keep your clothes clean while you eat.
Eating Jesus’ flesh may take you to places that you are uncomfortable with. There may be passages that make you squirm. God’s spirit may prompt you to say things, meet people serve or love people that you don’t actually like very much.
Eating the flesh is Not a dainty tea party – we think that church should be, pastel suits and hats, with the Queen cucumber sandwiches, fine china and lace table cloths.
This is back yard bbq, sweet corn with butter dripping down your arms, tearing meat off of the bone, then sucking marrow out of the bone, bbq sauce on your chin, kool-aid mustache on your upper lip, watermelon seeds stuck to your shirt,
What’s the remedy to mistake #2? Dig in, eat the bread, buy some wipes
Mistake #3 – Mistaking rotting Manna for Living Bread
The crowd in this passage was still obsessed with Moses, with Manna with the old story, they missed the fact that God was right there in their midst. They missed the amazing bread from heaven that they had just been fed by.
Moses, Manna, they were meant to point to God.
Moses wasn’t the point, Moses pointed people to God but Moses died, Manna wasn’t the point, Manna showed God’s provision, but Manna rotted.
One of our issues is that we think that the things God has used to point us to God are the point themselves.Churches often develop a culture of looking back at the past so fondly, that we neglect to see that God is doing something right here in the present. You’ll here grumblings of:
- Oh when so and so was on staff, that’s when we really had a good ministry.
- Or, this church used to care about xyz
- Or, that Pastor that we had 20 years ago really knew how to preach, I don’t know why our current Pastor doesn’t preach like that.
Those things were good, they helped us in our walk with God, they made a difference. But our hope is not, has not will never be in staff person, a pastor, an event, a program or committee. Our hope is built on nothing less than the bread of heaven Himself, who is busy doing a lot of good work here if you would open your eyes to see it. People are being taught the word of God, children and adults are coming to faith. Lives in the community are being transformed.
What is the remedy to Mistake #3? – choose living bread rather than rotting manna – remember the manna as much as it brought you to God, but remember manna wasn’t the point.
Mistake #4 – Mistaking ourselves for the host of the party. Acting like we get to say who is invited.
Jesus says – WHOEVER eats my flesh.
We like to put boundaries and parameters around who’s really a Christian or who really understands God’s love. Sometimes our barriers we draw seem to be exactly the opposite of how Jesus drew his boundaries. We’re so concerned about the past and the mess of someone’s life, that we forget that the light of Christ in dark places is EXACTLY the point of the gospel. It’s a gospel of grace and forgiveness, of the left out and sinful people.
Last week, on PBS and on other cooking shows, there has been a lot of talk about Julia Child. Child would have celebrated her 100th birthday this week if she had not passed away in 2004. Before Julia Child, French food was something reserved for the wealthy in restaurants or the super wealthy with private chefs in their homes. But Julia Child made French Cuisine accessible to anyone who could watch TV or read.
Jesus is a little bit like Julia Child, he has this delicious bread, that he’d like to share with us, so he’s trying to tear down the barriers between us and the bread, and he’s trying to stop us from stopping others from getting the bread.
What’s the Remedy to Mistake #4 – Eat the bread and share the bread.
Mistake #5 – Tearing each other apart instead of tearing off a piece of the bread of heaven.
In the passage, Jesus is right there, but instead of asking him questions, they argue among themselves. Isn’t he Joseph’s son? How can he say he came from heaven? How can he give us his flesh?
I’m afraid that we (and I) spend more time arguing and fighting and trying to prove that other people are wrong about God than we do seeking God for ourselves.
The bread of heaven is right here, ask him for answers, listen to each other, and recognize that there are so many things that we will not know, cannot know for sure on this side of paradise that it is possible that you are wrong and someone else is right. My hermeneutics professor would say, “It is beyond your epistemological ceiling.”
Even when we know that we know that we know that we are right, part of being in community the other body of Christ, is that we love each other, even when we do not like each other.
So What is Our final Remedy? Tear off a piece of the bread, and stop tearing each other apart.
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