I enjoyed sitting down this week with a group of seniors to talk about the book of Isaiah, a prophet of ancient people of Israel, who spoke on God’s behalf to the injustices and distractions of that people. I was impressed by the huger of these dear folks to not just listen, but to engage with the reality of the text. They taught me that there is always something more to hear from scripture and that the simple ways it touches our lives, never gets old and satisfies our common faith hunger.
I think about the many bible studies marketed that seek to squeeze every nuance out of every literal word and urge its memorization so one may be fully “successful” in faith. This sounds good, except that it feeds people the information they don’t really need. I have a friend who has been a leader in one of these bible studies for over 15 years, weekly conducting folks verse by verse, lecturing them with what the study authors say they should believe. They are encouraged to learn about, without personally engaging the text.
Perhaps what they learn changes their lives, maybe it equips them see differently or to feel comfort. I wonder if hearts change, if their faith becomes action, if justice is done, if it makes a difference in the lives around them, family, friends, co-workers, the hungry, the refugee, the oppressed and the prisoner. There are different ways of learning, I know. And we all have different needs to understand. I would hope that we not so much know about the bible as to having a personal encounter with the person of Jesus Christ, with whom we can only deeply understand through the bible, as it speaks personally and uniquely to each of us, by the Holy Spirit.
Henry Drummond, the 19th century lecturer in physics and lay preacher, talked of the danger of us becoming spiritually obese. In an era of super-sizing with fast-food, we can do the same by over consuming-spiritually. The cure for this is to act on our faith, so that we then become truly hungry and differentiate for appropriate, healthy spiritual replenishment.
St. John’s has had tremendous response toward the goal of 100% commitment to action in whatever way we each choose. As each member expresses their faith in engaging in the lives of others, they seek to have their faith nurtured. Discovering our hunger as a result of our giving to others, reminds us also of their hunger for God as well. Let’s push ourselves to love dramatically, do justice flamboyantly and celebrate gratefully, so that it causes us to have hunger pangs for being nourished by Jesus.