Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Jesus Food

Last week, I attended Seattle Presbytery meeting with 2 of our Elders and with Cindy, our Associate Pastor. Besides enjoying a beautiful Indian Summer day and a beautiful drive, we were welcomed warmly to the new facilities of North Point Presbyterian Church - a thriving, new Church Development in Poulsbo. They're doing great stuff in addition to their own programs of worship and nurture.

One of the programs they are involved with is serving lunches weekly on their front sidewalk for high school students attending High School across the street. This program I think is done in conjunction with Young Life. But it has become so popular that the last time it was held, a student was making announcements on the intercom and told the entire student body that particular day was "JESUS FOOD DAY."

As I begin to study and prepare sermons for our fall series on the Gospel of John I have been reminded particularly of Jesus' statement "I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE." It is a particularly relevant statement for him to make because he had just miraculously fed a crowd of 5,000 (I do not think that many Poulsbo High School kids eat "Jesus Food" at Northpoint PC on a weekly basis). Jesus then went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee for a little R & R when his sometimes pesky disciples came and found him and began peppering him with questions about how to do the works of God and what signs Jesus might give that would help them believe. One of them even brought up the miracle of the Manna in the wilderness that their forefather's had eaten everyday.

It is in this context that Jesus tells his disciples (followers, believers, insiders) that He is "THE BREAD OF LIFE" - the true "Jesus food." Anyone who comes to him will never go hungry and whoever believes will never again thirst."

Bread - what a powerful image that is. Yes, it seems like a bare subsistence food for those of us in the affluent West. Yet how many people would give anything just for a piece of stale bread to fill their distended stomachs? But Jesus repeated that imagery over and over (Give us this day our daily bread... & this bread is my body broken for this in remembrance of me). Physical bread - metaphorically and literally - is so vital to life. Without food on a regular basis the body withers and dies.

Jesus' point is not to dismiss that reality. In fact I believe those who follow the "Bread of Life" are called to offer food and sustenance to the hungry of the world in his name. So it is never all right to say if we just tell people about Jesus then all their problems like hunger or homelessness, or injustice or poverty, will go away.

He fills us with spiritual nourishment that satisfies completely. In his name we are to offer our loaves and/or fishes to feed the hungry masses. In doing that we meet their real and present needs and we show the reality of our relationship to Jesus.

Symbolically we come to him and fill ourselves on that bread of life whenever we observe the Lord's Supper. I don't know about you, those little cubes of bread would never be enough to satisfy my physical hunger. However, Jesus the bread of life does satisfy my spiritual hungering for meaning, for purpose, for identity and for acceptance. In him my life is nourished. In turn, I am empowered to go out in service to others.

Have you had JESUS FOOD lately?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Christ in the Ale House

The Huffington Post - a rather cheeky, tongue in cheek pseudo-newspaper carried the following headline on December 10, "LATEST JESUS SIGHTING OUTSIDE AN IRISH PUB IN AUSTRALIA." Contributing correspondent Marc Hartzman noted that "Jesus' first recorded miracle was turning water into wine. But now, it seems, he may be more in the mood for a beer."

It seems that when the Seanchai Tavern began a project of repainting, the pattern of remaining paint on the stripped away door bore a remarkable resemblance to Jesus standing as if to greet customers with outstretched arms. The owners of the tavern have no intention of repainting or covering up the image as it has brought in lots of business and has attracted curiosity seekers and religious iconoclasts alike.

Reading this made me think about the life and ministry of Jesus who was equally comfortable teaching in the synagogue as he was eating in the home of a tax publican or visiting with a Samaritan woman at a public well - a scandalous thought for most good religious Jews of his day.

Throughout history, theologians like Martin Luther didn't mind discussing the finer points of dogma over a pint of their favorite brew. And somehow, I agree with the preacher at our Presbytery meeting last night who said, "If Jesus were alive today, we undoubtedly would find him at the local pub hanging out with those who weren't really the religious."

That is different than saying some vague image in chipped paint is a sign from God or that one establishment - be it a pub or a grocery store - is more favored by the Lord by showing his face on the door.

I am just about ready to walk out my office door and head to downtown Enumclaw to the friendly confines of the MINT - Enumclaw's own Ale House. It has been the home to a Wednesday night group of Christians and seekers alike who gather to enjoy some good pub food (love the Pizza Bread, the Rueben and the Border Burger) and a glass of wine or a pint of their favorite sudsy libation. For nearly five years now, this group has gathered to discuss a variety of different topics, Bible Passages, thought provoking books or the previous week's sermon.

I'd like to think that Jesus was spotted in the tavern as we gather there. We've prayed for members of the staff, thrown a going away party for one of our favorite waiters/bartenders as he headed off to culinary school. We washed the bathrooms, mopped their floors and pressure washed their sidewalks one FAITH IN ACTION SUNDAY. And most of all, we have been a regular presence filling the round tables in the fireplace corner. I hope our lives, our words and our actions have been representative of the Lord. I would hope that in some small way, when we leave, it could be said that "Jesus was in the house in the form of those 15 people who meet there every week."

It may not be a tavern but I wonder if people see Jesus in the other places I go - Rotary, the Grocery Store, the marina where we moor our boat, at the traffic light and the Starbucks window? Does my life reflect the love and grace of the Lord or am I just kind of an abstract amalgam of chipped paint?

I think I am going to bring this idea up for discussion tonight. Gotta go meet Jesus at the Tavern.