meditate, but keep feeding on God’s word

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Matthew 4:1-4

To meditate on God’s word has the biblical idea of chewing on food. We don’t do what I have done too much in my life, especially earlier on, practically inhale the food on my plate, grab another big helping, and then some, and regret it afterward. No, we chew on it, taste it, and let its morsels go in well dissolved into our stomach so that we can much better digest it.

Job delighted in chewing on God’s word more than a delicious meal (Job 23:12). A believer understands what Job is getting at, even if they lack Job’s depth of experience. Jesus let the tempter know that his most important food was God’s word, and elsewhere to do God’s will (John 4:31-34).

For me, when I am slack taking in God’s word, it tells on me. I live by taking in that word on a regular basis. One thought at a time, chewing on it, then the next thought the same, then the next thought, and on and on.

Jesus is the bread of life to which God’s word, Scripture leads us (John 6:35). We feed on him by faith, and in that feasting savor the meal God’s word has for us day after day. In and through Jesus.

keep the Word front and center

For me, to keep the Word front and center means to keep the word, God’s inscriptured, written word in that place. And that is good. In fact, I often need to remind myself not so much the truth of that, but the importance of continuing to practice it. In that thought there’s plenty of scriptural support, Psalm 1 being a prime example.

But what I mean in the title means something more, and gets to what scripture itelf is getting at, the book of Colossians being a prime place to find it: Jesus himself is to be kept front and center as the revelation to us of the Triune God, and of the salvation and kingdom he brings. It is a revelation full of grace and truth, so that we can rest assured on it. Given to us as the bread of God for the life of the world (John 6). That we too might partake and thus come to know the only true God, and eternal life (John 17).

Jesus is God’s final Word to us by the Spirit.

not spiritualizing earthly promises

Father Michael Cupp pointed out to us that promises made to Israel, now fulfilled in Jesus, with the end result still future, is very much into, for and about this world (Joshua 5:9-12). Even as it brings another world not only into the picture, but somehow into the reality of life. That was realized then with the promise of land, actual land on earth, fulfilled during Joshua’s time beginning with Moses, the initial promise made to Abraham. And the manna rained down on them daily, except on the Sabbath, God’s provision for them on their journey to the Promised Land. Literal food for them on earth from heaven. And how we now partake of the body and blood of our Lord through the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Not in the sense described by the Roman Catholics (nor the Lutherans), but in some mysterious sense. The point being that the heavenly from God in Jesus by the Spirit is very much for earth, for our existence in this life, as well as in the life to come when heaven and earth become one in Jesus.

We are victims of a Modernist mindset which demotes heaven into some upper story, surreal existence, which is quite okay for those who want to participate in that, but has nothing to do with the lower story where we actually live: reality. But just as Jesus came down from heaven as the Bread of Life to give life to the world, so we in Jesus receive spiritual sustenance to live that same life in Jesus and Jesus in us even here and now.

shared life in Christ

At the heart of our faith is the shared life we have in Christ. That shared life is by the Spirit and in the love of God in and through Jesus. Some believe it is in the bread and wine, not at all that they believe it’s confined to that. I respectfully don’t believe that, except when by faith we enter into that time at the Lord’s Table, together to remember and proclaim the Lord’s death. Surely something of his presence may (or may not) be palpable among us by the Spirit. What I do believe is that at the heart of it this life in Christ is shared. In other words it isn’t just something I have. It is by nature a life in God of relationship and communion with God as Trinity: Father, Son and Spirit, and with all who are in the body of Christ, everyone in Jesus in the world.

And this life in Christ is meant to be shared with others. Oftentimes, if not most of the time in ways which are not overt, obvious in the sense that we say it. But in our living this life out, this “supernatural” life becoming an expression of our natural life. Of course being a witness involves always being ready to give an answer to anyone who asks us to give a reason for the hope in us. And testifying concerning our faith, as well as proclaiming the good news.

Does this mean we live this out perfectly, or can arrive in the here and now? No. But in our weakness God’s power and presence can be made known in Christ. It may be a life which in this world is cut down in death, but even then the seeds of new life will be planted to come to fruition in the lives of others.

And so I begin this week remembering that the life in Christ is a life I share with others in him, and a life meant to be offered by us in Jesus to others in the world.

feeding on Christ

Jesus said that people do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Our Pastor Jack reminded us on Sunday from John 6 that unless our souls are satisfied, we won’t be satisfied, no matter how full our bellies might be. (Not Jack’s exact words, but my words in listening and considering what he said).

Yes, we need to learn to feed on Christ himself, who later in that chapter calls himself the bread of life. Our Catholic friends insist that we feed on Christ through the Eucharist, Holy Communion, by a miracle partaking of his actual body and blood. We Protestants see that differently in various ways. I would take it that by the Spirit in Holy Communion we partake of the Lord’s body and blood, that is the benefits of Jesus’ death, and by that receive anew his life, and that by the Spirit Jesus is then especially with us, his body–we being the body of Christ.

While John 6 certainly alludes to Holy Communion, the context would suggest that it is simply by faith that we begin to feed on Christ, that we taste and see that the Lord is good. This feeding is about communion with a person, communion with Jesus himself. We begin to experience his love in his grace and truth and that in a personal sense. A love that is poured out into us, and meant to be shared with the world.

Feeding on Christ is to occur in a special way as well when we read scripture. Pastor Sharon has well taught us something of lectio divina, and I want to incorporate that everyday into my life. I simply read a passage of scripture, my NIV Bible has sections (titled), several times, two at least to four or more times. I want to hear what God may be saying to me, or impressing on me through the text of scripture. I think this is powerful when done with others of Christ’s body. But it is also powerful, and in a sense important for us to learn and do this discipline ourselves, if anything so we can learn to contribute well to the body. But our spirituality one on one with God through Jesus is also important, essential as a part of the whole.

To learn to feed on God’s word in scripture, is to learn to feed on Christ himself. Those words are meant to not only point us to Christ, but to bring us to him, and to help us come to be in him, that is, in union with him. Which of course means being in union with all who are in him. But we find that Christ is indeed our life, our portion, our all. We’re to live our lives in him, yes with others in him, and in his mission from the Father by the Spirit to the world.

And so let us evermore eat this bread. And help others, that they along with us may come to know the one who alone satisfies the soul.