God Gives Enough Bread

Right after Jesus Christ Feeds a Billion people (slight exaggeration) with some crumbs of bread and fish oil (again hyperbolically speaking)….* He then speaks of himself as the bread of life. One where he references the story of Moses, God and Manna… An often overlooked piece of this story is when they gather the bread (Ex: 16:17-18)
” The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little.18 And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.” Here we have another miracle, just like the fishes and the loaves story, where everyone has enough to eat. It doesn’t matter how much they actually gathered, God provides.

In a Spiritual not religious world, I find this immensely comforting. In a world obsessed with Work (see this great: work as the new religion article here), in a world where expectation are often viewed as entitlement, in  world where “doing” things is more important than “being” things (ministry of presence, anyone? anyone? Bueller?)

Churches too often fall into the sin of work-righteousness: that’s the sin where you think what you do is more important than what God does for you, its the one where Pride literally goes before fall–from grace**. It is why church’s tend to emphasize programs instead of people, and quantity over quality of relationships. (As my mom says, better to be a great small church than the Mall of Churches where we try to do everything).

So here’s the deal. Going to church does not mean that you have more access to God. What going to church should mean is that you are willing to support one another for God, that you want to journey with others to God, that you prioritize your relationship with God and others and that you want praising God to be a thing you regularly do in your life.

God promises that there is enough nourishment, enough measure for each of us.

And God also promises that one day we will have enough, we will be nourished. One day we will be full

***

When my grandmother was incommunicative from a fall, she also didn’t want to eat. Without, her (or our) consent the hospital put a feeding tube in

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Here’s the thing, I believe that there may be a time when an older person doesn’t feel hungry anymore. Its not that they are starving (which truly is a horrifying image, which is why I think the hospital put the feeding tube in). No one wants to starve grandma. But I don’t think my grandmother was starving, I think she was full, full of life, nourished by God and done with what she wanted to do. She had, had her measure. And her years were different than my grandfather’s (who had died some years before), but although they worked a different amount of time, like the Hebrews, each of them got their measure of life. At times, I think we feel like people (especially children) didn’t get their full measure, how could they when their time was so different? But, somehow, God promises that they did. And so maybe people are accessing God differently, I know my parents weren’t following twitter, reading fantasy and publishing blogs as a part of their spiritual lives, but it doesn’t make my measure any more, or any less, than other people of faith.

So why church? Because its another way for us to find community and nourishment, when so often our shares seem to be different than everyone else’s, church means we get to share in the measures of faith others have, instead of just depending, worrying, keeping up with our own. It frees us to be varied and unique, to be communal and sharing in our measures of faith. So church then becomes part of our relationships , instead of a measure of our faith….

*despite the hyperbolic Katyisms, I totally believe this miracle actually took place…

**look, look I used literally correctly!

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“I don’t believe it, but I’m sticking to it. That’s my definition of faith.”

“I don’t believe it, but I’m sticking to it. That’s my definition of faith.”

My Brief Theology of Belief vs. Faith

Belief is individual

Faith is communal

 

Belief is confessional

Faith is God given

 

Belief is about structuring the world

Faith is letting go to God’s plans

 

Beliefs are what we hang onto 

Faith is what hangs onto us

 

Belief is what we are working on

Faith is what the church works on

‘You know those…

‘You know those moments when you are fully aware of God? That nanosecond-to-a-second fullness of time where you and the universe in it are connected and the beauty of the divine exists? Since we are only human we can only take in that immenseness for a moment in time, but that is part of why we are in a community of faith instead of just living as individual believers!’

A Pastor Katy Theological Apostrophe hehehe

Smee “I think I’ve had an Apostrophe”

Hook “I think you mean an Epiphany”

Smee “LIghting, just struck my brain”

Hook “That must have hurt”

Why millennials are leaving the church

YES!*  (maybe the problem is THEOLOGICAL) Point and Case Example https://katyandtheword.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/an-absolutely-r/

CNN Belief Blog

Opinion by Rachel Held Evans, Special to CNN

(CNN) At 32, I barely qualify as a millennial.

I wrote my first essay with a pen and paper, but by the time I graduated from college, I owned a cell phone and used Google as a verb.

I still remember the home phone numbers of my old high school friends, but don’t ask me to recite my husband’s without checking my contacts first.

I own mix tapes that include selections from Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but I’ve never planned a trip without Travelocity.

Despite having one foot in Generation X, I tend to identify most strongly with the attitudes and the ethos of the millennial generation, and because of this, I’m often asked to speak to my fellow evangelical leaders about why millennials are leaving the church.

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WHy Church is not about Belief in JESUS!!!!

Every time we talk about belief in the Bible, the word is actually faith.

WAHOO! LET THE REVOLUTION BEGIN: religion is about belief, whereas it should be (and spirituality really is about) faith.

For a handy chart with some scripture click here

Here is the deal

Beliefs are the limit of human capabilities, they allow us to stretch. Knowledge takes us only so far, beliefs are what we can do beyond knowledge

Faith is letting go to what we know or even believe, and letting the fullness of God to enter our lives. It is beginning to understand that God is beyond our ken, and there is something we live in

Belief is individual, its something you say to define who you are. These is why beliefs are so hard to change, because they are about who you are, and you have reasons for the beliefs you hold. A person (like your spouse or sibling) has a set of beliefs oftentimes they are not e–zzzzactllllyyyy the same as what you believe. Beliefs are a part of who you are. This is why people (and groups, like Presbyterians) have a set of beliefs.

Faith is communal, its about what holds people together. Its often more about the gaps and differences rather than similarities. Faith is what allows you to not know everything, its about practicing the give and take of beliefs. If you don’t have the energy or the wherewithal to believe or trust in something, you can come to a group where others can do what you can’t. When people ask Why do you go to church? Can’t I just believe what I want to at home? I completely agree…one can be spiritual, disciplined and have beliefs on one’s own. And these beliefs are important. BUT, faith is a community that allows for a deeper exploration that isn’t only about what we believe.

Beliefs are tenants that we hang onto. The structures by which we understand the world. As much as they are about who we are, they also are about how we relate to the world and what is important to us. They are the structure on which we hang our hats (philosophers are GREAT at this). Beliefs are something to hang onto.

Faith is a seed–its a small beginning of who we are that we allow to grow. Although it starts out with who we are, its more flexible, not defining our world but instead is something we can come home to (Chart), somewhere to live in the world of different beliefs. Faith holds onto us when we are lost, its what comes and looks for us when we can’t find our way back–Prodigal son, lost coin, lost sheep.

There is nothing wrong with beliefs, I think they are great…they help us to define our world and to express who we are….there are places for beliefs in Christianity–they tend to be during the time of confession, when we say who we are, what we believe first together as a particular church and then silently as individuals. Beliefs are wonderful.

Faith is different that belief though, and in all the places (except in 1st Timothy) what we define as belief is actually faith: epistw (pronounced epistu) .

(Probably because the disciples continue to say they have unfaith, which isn’t a word for us but disbelief is….ah, the logistics of language LOL). Many, many times the disciples and followers of Christ confess that they do not have enough faith…they ask for Christ to help it to grow.

Belief is about telling our own story—telling who we are and why we are that way and what we believe

Faith  is about a way of life, a way of faith, hope and trust in the Lord that is beyond us without God’s help. Faith is something we CAN’T hang onto by ourselves, its too big for us to understand. Its like when Peter walks across water, one minute he has faith–the fullness of God in him, and then it becomes too much and he has to let go and thus starts to sink. These moments are flashes, pieces where we connect via community and God to the fullness of life.

Ex:

Luke 17:3b-6

“If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them. The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”

Note, the problem isn’t that the disciples don’t believe in forgiveness, no doubt they do. They just don’t necessarily have the capabilities to do that much forgiveness all the time, so they need more faith (more trust/hope/love from God) in order to be able to live a life of faith.

In Conclusion: Spiritual but not Religious …the church is doing it backwards Christians such as Peter Rollins, Jay Bakker and Jim Palmer deal with the problem of belief and doubt. They say that doubt isn’t counter to belief, its a part of it. I would dig deeper as say that both belief and doubt are a part of the richer, communal and God-intiated (and gift of) faith. (Faith Hope and Love, hence why LOVE is the most important, its about how you live things out, not what you believe)

The Church shouldn’t be a place of tenants and beliefs, it should be a community of questions and faith. The church should be a place for unbelievers to gather (the drunks, the prostitutes and the lepers should be taxi-ed in!)

•Ever notice that Jesus doesn’t go around touted his beliefs. Instead he ask people what they believe (or don’t believe) and then meets them there! (up a tree, by a well, at a stoning, on a cross)…The disciples certainly don’t always retain their trust in God. But, Christ doesn’t ask what people’s beliefs are before them, instead he works to increase their faith. And when people ask Jesus questions, he doesn’t tell them what they should believe, instead he asks them a question in return.

Essentially this scenario takes place over and over, the penultimate being the interchange with Pilate (Katy’s interpretation of events to follow)

Pilate: Who are you?

Jesus: Who do you believe I am?

Pilate: Are you the King of the Jews?

Jesus: So you say…

Pilate: You are the savior?

Jesus: If you think so….

Pilate: Just answer me, are you the King or aren’t you?

Jesus: You say I am, and all these people say I am, I don’t claim to be the King of the Jews, however, I will say this. Even if everyone stopped calling me the King, then the very rocks would say that’s who I am…just saying………

Note: not putting beliefs on others, just a discussion about where the community of faith was….that should be how the church exists!!!!!!

This is the call of the church, we are called not to a set of beliefs (that’s law people) but the gift of faith (YAY for saved by grace not works)……

I don’t know what I believe…but I do have a little faith!

For God so loved the world that whoever has (even a little) faith into him shall never die, but have eternal life

Spiritual & Religious Chart

When people say they are spiritual not religious, they are often indicating that they do not hold the “beliefs” purported/preached/encouraged (or forced) by religion. What they are trying to verbalize is their journey of faith, and the importance of it.

Here there is a little known dichotomy between belief and faith. Church should be a place to nurture faith, but spiritual people often see belief as getting in the way. (note epistus în the New Testament is often translated as belief, but it really means faith. “Belief” is only present in 2 Tim 13:11)

Belief                                                                 Faith

•Telling Our Story (our picture)                   •Telling God’s Story (God is bigger)

Belief                                                                 Faith

•tenants that help us frame the world         • the seed that can grow                              (                                                                                 (Mustard Seed of Faith Luke 17:3-6)

                                                                  Belief                                                                 Faith

•as far as humans can go: stretching to limits       • letting go—> to who God is                                                                                                       (Where were you when earth was formed Job 38)

Belief                                                                 Faith

•individual                                                        •communal                                                                                                                                           (Why church? so that the community can support you with faith even when you can’t)

Belief                                                                 Faith

•something we hang onto                                •what holds onto to us when we are lost                                                                                        (Prodigal Son Luke 15:11-32)

Belief                                                                 Faith

• things we say to define ourselves                 •something to come home to                                                                                                             (Heaven is like…Matthew 13: 31-32)

Parenting Parable: Actions Speak Louder than Words

Once Upon a Time there (around Matthew 21) there was an actual father who had to deal with two sons. And this family was so typical, Jesus decided to use them as a guide to life. In this family there were two sons who’s father told them to go and work on the vineyard. The first son refused. The second son agreed.

But in an ironic twist, the son who refused changed his mind and went and did the work anyway, the second son didn’t go at all….

Then Jesus asked, which son did what his father asked (not which was the better son, not who was more faithful, just who DID IT) and his disciples answered the first

This is classic teenage behavior: My father (a behavior psychologist and pastor) likes to point out that usually while teenagers are giving you mouth, they are doing exactly what you asked them to do. Hence my father advises parents to look at actions more than words.

You want your kid to do x, y and z and he/she is doing it, great!

They don’t have to be happy about it…that might be asking too much

I have a congregant who complains about every bit of work that has to get done–she is a veritable saint, showing up to everything, serving on boards, cleaning what needs to be cleaned, working when work needs to be done, and is dependable and loyal as anything. I’ll take an entire congregation of such people (even if it does wear me out).

With my eldest, we’ve learned not to give him the opportunity to argue–this is a child who thinks no=anopportunitytoargue, maybe=yes and if-you’ve-given-an-inch=everything-is -up -for-negotiation. I call him the negotiator. So often I don’t tell him what’s going on (against my extroverted nature!) and just start doing it–going upstairs to brush teeth without telling him, taking all the other kids out to the car (because they are too young to argue, at least verbally), or reading the stories whether or not he is present. When I do this, he often follows, because my actions as a parent speak louder than words! Putting things into action means that I REALLY mean that we are doing this now, I’m not just talking about it…

What does this say about parenthood (esp. on days like yesterday when I lose it?) What does it mean about us as Christians? Jesus ends the parable by pointing out that the prostitutes and tax collectors are getting in before the church people for they believed and acted first. A lot of the Spiritual not Religious data says that Christians do not follow through on what they believe. The practical aspect of faith is missing.

As parents, I think this means telling and ACTING on the fact that we love our children. If we do not act out love–if we don’t practice REAL forgiveness, if we are not open and accepting of EVERYBODY, if we curse people while we are driving or tell our children that dressing up in high heel shoes is a ridiculous thing for a boy to do (my son’s experience in nursery school), if we mock the weak, demean the different and blame the poor for their plight, what are we teaching them?

How can we enact love? How can we, on the days we don’t feel like it–go out and pick the fruit of God? How can we return to work in the Garden of the Kingdom of God again, and again in meaningful ways?

We might not always want to do it, but that’s ok, as long as we know that our actions speak louder than words, and its never too late (even after we’ve refused!) to go out and work the garden.

Church is not a…

Church is not a building, a faith or a people–it is nothing more or less than urge for humans to meet together, discuss the theological ramifications of human life and to offer support. Therefore church can happen in all manner of times and places

Dear Child: Faith is a journey. –Love God

Image

Faith is a journey, and sometimes that journey isn’t an easy one.

But as we learn more and more about Jesus, here is what we learned

1. Jesus did ministry on the move. You notice that Jesus is almost always making his way between cities? Sure Israel is the size of the New Jersey but the journey from Jerusalem to Galilee is about 240 miles, and Jesus walked that more than once.

2. Jesus believed in packing light, but he also believed in good traveling companions—Jesus asks us to take no extra baggage, but to always remember to take a friend, so if you are considering going on a visit for church, pursuing ministry or just doing something new in your spiritual life, Jesus recommends doing it with someone else. (which is why I advocate Co-Pastorships)

3. The Holy Spirit guides us—just as it guided Jesus Christ, we need to remember that we are following Christ’s footsteps, and we have the best guide, we just need to take the time to listen to what God is doing.

4. Its called walking in “Jesus’s Footsteps” not “Sitting in Jesus’s Pews.” My Church’s Farmer’s Market has been a giant step outside of our sanctuary (which is sad that this is a big step, nevertheless its great we’ve done-so) , but we need to figure out where Christ is going, and how to follow him there (as opposed to say, staying where we are and assuming that God wants us to stay there forever)

5. Jesus took Sabbath: Jesus escaped the crowds, he rode boats, he ate with friends, he prayed alone. He found ways to take a break for himself and his ministry, so that he could recharge for the next one.

6. Jesus did not have a checklist. Jesus did not have any requirements for following him—he did not require gold, food or certain characteristics. You can bet one of the disciples was the person who always complained about everything, and another one was that nice but not too bright person, and that one of them had a mental illness, one of them was socially awkward and one of them talked incessantly, while another wouldn’t talk at all. Yet Jesus invited them all to journey with him. He didn’t even require belief (instead he fostered it). He just asked people to come exactly as they were.

What can we do?

Recently I’ve been thinking about how to better meet and get to know the community. What are their needs? What are their prayer concerns?

Maybe we should have a prayer concern board out at the farmer’s market. Maybe we should have projects to thank all those who serve the community (nurses, EMTs, police, Firefighters), maybe we should fundraise for the poor, maybe we should give out free meals, maybe we should grow our own garden to donate fresh food, maybe we should provide a space for people to pray—as you can I’m full of ideas. In fact, at times I get carried away, and it can be overwhelming for others. But, I am confident that we have important things to do, and we are capable to do them!

Call me crazy

“Call me crazy but I think that Jesus, Imagination and Science all have an important place in my life”

“oh….and that keeping all three keeps me balanced rather than negating one another”–Katy Stenta