Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Sully Notes 3 | A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community and Mission Around the Table Part 2 of 3

Sully Notes 3 A Meal with Jesus Tim Chester Missional Community Emmaus City Church Worcester MA


Sully Notes 3: Books in 25 minutes or less

Sully Notes are more than a book review. They are meant to provide you with direct quotes from some books I've read in the last year, so you can get a taste of the overall theme of the book and then begin to chew on what your life might look like if you applied what you read.

Here are links to the previous Sully Notes books:

And here is the link to the previous post in the Sully Notes 3 | A Meal with Jesus series:

A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community and Mission Around the Table | Sully Notes 3: Part 2 of 3 

Chapter 3 | Meals as Enacted Hope: Luke 9

"When your church family gathers together as a group of needy people and shares food with Jesus at the center and with Jesus as the provider, your glimpse God’s coming world right here, right now. The Christian community is the beginning and sign of God’s coming world – and no more so than when we eat together. Our meals are a foretaste of the future messianic banquet. Our meals reveal the identity of Jesus. Our meals are a proclamation and demonstration of God’s good news." – pg. 61

"Can you reach your neighborhood with the gospel? Can you pluck up the courage to tell your friends about Jesus? Can you start a new church in your city? Can you feed five thousand people with five loaves? 'We could never do that; we don’t have the money or people.' Jesus says, 'What do you have? Offer that to me, and let me use it for my glory.' The early church father Cyril of Alexandria said, 'There were also gathered twelve baskets of fragments. And what do we infer from this? A plain assurance that hospitality receives a rich recompense from God. … Let nothing, therefore, prevent willing people from receiving strangers. … Let no one say, 'I do not possess suitable means. What I can do is altogether trifling and insufficient for many.' Receive strangers, my beloved. Overcome that reluctance which wins no reward. The Savior will multiply the little you have many times beyond expectation. Although you give but little, you will receive much. For he that sows blessings shall also reap blessings, according to the blessed Paul’s words.' (2 Corinthians 9:6) … We have a responsibility to welcome people to the messianic banquet." – pg. 63

"In pagan myths, humanity is made to give food to the gods. In the Bible story God gives food to humanity. Idols demand that we meet their needs. The true God graciously meets our needs. … Above all, food expresses our dependence on God. Only God is self-sufficient. We are creatures, and every moment we’re sustained by him. Even our rebellion against him is only possible because he holds the fabric of our universe together by his powerful word. Our shouts of defiance against God are only possible with the bread he gives. Every time we eat, we celebrate again our dependence on God and his faithfulness to his creation. Every time. Food is to be received with gratitude. 'Taking the five loaves…he gave thanks' (Luke 9:16, NIV)." – pg. 70

"What do we express when we say grace? 
  1. Our daily dependence on God as creatures and sinners. 
  2. Our dependence on others as we give thanks for those who grew, processed, bought, and cooked our food. 
  3. The goodness of food, thereby transforming our food from fuel to a gift to be relished. 
  4. Our gratitude to God, thereby reorienting ourselves away from self and back to God. 
  5. Our gratitude for community as we ask God’s blessing on our fellowship over the meal. 
How important is it to be reminded of these wonderful truths. What a difference they make to our enjoyment of God and food and each other. If only we had three opportunities each day to remember and enact these truths!"  – pg.  73

Chapter 4 | Meals as Enacted Mission: Luke 14

"We see again God’s grace to us (in the meal in Luke 14:1-24). We’re the poor, the blind, the crippled, and the lame, urged inside to join God’s great banquet. We are: 
  1. the spiritually poor – with nothing to offer for our salvation; 
  2. the spiritually crippled – made powerless by sin; 
  3. the spiritually blind – unable to see the truth about Jesus; 
  4. the spiritually lame – unable to come to God on our own. 
Extending Leviticus 21:17-23, most Jewish authorities said no one who was blind, crippled, or lame could enter the temple. How amazing it was, then, that after Jesus cleansed the temple, 'the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them' (Matt. 21:14). Documents from Qumran show that the Essenes sect interpreted Leviticus 21 to mean that the poor, the blind, the crippled, and the lame wouldn’t participate in the messianic banquet. How significant, then, that in Jesus’s message, they’re the very ones who are included." – pg. 79

"Jesus’s point is clear. The long-awaited messianic banquet is approaching (see Luke 5:34). ‘Come, for everything is now ready’ (Luke 14:17). But the invited guests (like the religious leaders) reject the banquet and insult the host. So the invitation goes out to the outcasts of Israel and then out still further to the Gentiles in the highways and hedges. Here people have to be compelled to come, because they can hardly believe they’ve been invited." – pg. 80

"Our attitude to the marginalized is to be shaped by our experience of God’s grace to us. God welcomes us to his party, and so we’re to welcome the poor. The kind of fasting that God desires is 'to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house' (Isa. 58:7). We’re called to follow Christ into a broken world. Simply writing a check keeps the poor at a distance. But Jesus was the friend of sinners … to invite someone for a meal in Jesus’s time was an expression of identification. That’s why Jesus’s habit of eating with tax collectors and sinners was so scandalous. He was saying, 'These are my sort of people.' Christine Pohl says: 'Often we maintain significant boundaries when offering help to persons in need. Many churches prepare and serve meals to hungry neighbors, but few church members find it easy to sit and eat with those who need the meal. When people are very different from ourselves, we often find it more comfortable to cook and clean for them than to share in a meal and conversation. We are familiar with roles as helpers but are less certain about being equals eating together. Many of us struggle with simply being present with people in need; our helping roles give definition to the relationship but they also keep it decidedly hierarchical." – pg. 82

"We think we’re enacting grace if we provide for the poor. But we’re only halfway there. We’ve missed the social dynamics. What we communicate is that we’re able and you’re unable. 'I can do something for you, but you can do nothing for me. I’m superior to you.' We cloak our superiority in compassion, but superiority cloaked in compassion is patronizing. … A woman once told me: 'I know people do a lot to help me. But what I want is for someone to be my friend.' People don’t want to be projects. The poor need a welcome to replace their marginalization, inclusion to replace their exclusion, a place where they matter to replace their powerlessness. They need community. They need the Christian community." – pgs. 82-83

"If you tell someone he’s a sinner who needs God while you’re handing him a cup of soup, then he’ll hear you saying he’s a loser who should become like you. But when you eat together as friends and you tell him what a messed up person you are, then you can tell him about sin and grace. Jim Peterson writes: 'I know of no more effective environment for initiating evangelism than a dinner at home or in a quiet restaurant. Consider Jesus. Yes, he adopted the attitude of slave when he washed the disciples’ feet. But think, too, how often he accepts service. He accepts hospitality from Levi (Luke 5). He lets the woman at Simon’s house wash his feet (Luke 7). He asks for water from the woman in Samaria (John 4). He’s not just the helper of sinners, still less their project worker. He’s the friend of sinners, who came eating and drinking." – pg. 83

"Philip Yancey begins his book What’s So Amazing about Grace? with the story of a prostitute in Chicago who is asked if she’d ever thought of going to a church for help. 'Church!' she cries. 'Why would I ever go there? I was already feeling terrible about myself. They’d just make me feel worse.' Prostitutes loved sharing a meal with Jesus (Luke 15:1-2). They avoid the church he founded like the plague. Something has gone wrong: (from Yancey) 'Jesus’s teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.'" – pg. 84

" … what are we to make of Jesus’s advice to take a lower position so you would get moved up? Is this just a bit of homely wisdom or advice on social etiquette? I think not. The punch line is (Luke 14:11): 'For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.' It echoes Luke 1:52-53, where Mary sings: 'He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.' In the kingdom of God the world’s ordering of things will be turned on its head. God’s choice of poor, insignificant Mary is a sign of what’s coming. There will be a reversal of status. Luke’s message is: when God reverses the worldly order of things, make sure you’re on the underside. Luke 14:12-14 is about a meal swap: invite the marginalized, just as God invites you (who were once marginalized from him) to his resurrection feast." – pg. 84
"Jesus didn’t run projects, establish ministries, create programs, or put on events. He ate meals. If you routinely share meals and you have a passion for Jesus, then you’ll be doing mission. It’s not that meals save people. People are saved through the gospel message. But meals will create natural opportunities to share that message in a context that resonates powerfully with what you’re saying. Hospitality has always been integral to the story of God’s people. Abraham set the agenda when he offered three strangers water for their feet and food for their bodies. In so doing he entertained God himself and received afresh the promise (Genesis 18:1-18). God was Israel’s host in the Promised Land (Psalm 39:12; Leviticus 25:23), and that would later shape Israel’s behavior. A welcome to strangers and provision for the needy were written into the law of Moses. Rahab is saved because of her faith expressed through hospitality (Joshua 2; James 2:22-25). Hospitality continues to be integral to Christian conduct in the new covenant: 'Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality' (Romans 12:13); 'Show hospitality to one another without grumbling' (1 Peter 4:9; see 1 Timothy 5:10); 'Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me' (Mattew 10:40; see 25:35-40); 'Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares' (Hebrews 13:2)." – pg. 89

"Theologian and chef Simon Carey Holt says: ‘It’s good to be reminded that the table is a very ordinary place, a place so routine and everyday it’s easily overlooked as a place of ministry. And this business of hospitality that lies at the heart of Christian mission, it’s a very ordinary thing; it’s not rocket science nor is it terribly glamorous. Yet it is the very ordinances of the table and of the ministry we exercise there that renders these elements of Christian life so important to the mission of the church. … Most of what you do as a community of hospitality will go unnoticed and unrecognized. At base, hospitality is about providing a space for God’s Spirit to move. Setting a table, cooking a meal, washing the dishes is the ministry of facilitation: providing a context in which people feel loved and welcome and where God’s Spirit can be at work in their lives. Hospitality is a very ordinary business, but in its ordinariness is its real worth." – pgs. 90-91

"Meals bring mission into the ordinary. But that’s where most people are – living in the ordinary. That’s where we need to go to reach them. We too readily think of mission as extraordinary. Perhaps that’s because we find it awkward to talk about Jesus outside a church gathering. Perhaps it’s because we think God moves through the spectacular rather than the witness of people like us. Perhaps it’s because we want to outsource mission to the professionals, so we invite people to guest services where an 'expert' can do mission for us. But most people live in the ordinary, and most people will be reached by ordinary people. Even those who attend a special event, for the most part, have first been befriended by a Christian. 'For those looking to connect with people in the local community it isn’t that hard if you really want to. Just invite people round, let them know they can go home if they need to and then enjoy a meal together. You’re going to eat anyway, so why not do it with others!' Jesus’s command to invite the poor for dinner violates our notions of distance and detachment. Mission as hospitality undermines the professionalization of ministry. Mission isn’t something I can clock out from at the end of the day. The hospitality to which Jesus calls us can’t be institutionalized in programs and projects. Jesus challenges us to take mission home." – pg. 91

"I wonder what kind of reputation Christians have in your neighborhood. We should have a reputation for throwing the best parties. It’s not hard to find an excuse to throw a party: 
  1. personal occasions: birthdays, anniversaries, new jobs, exams, house warming’s; 
  2. sporting occasions: the Super Bowl, March Madness, the NBA Finals, the Olympics, the World Cup; 
  3. special occasions: the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year; 
  4. cultural occasions: International (i.e. Vietnamese, Puerto Rican, Ghanaian, Guyanan) food night, African American city festival, Latin American city festival. 
There are reasons enough to have a party every week. Parties, of course, are not enough. They create a great platform for gospel opportunities. But they must be accompanied by a passion for people and a passion for Jesus. You don’t have to give a little sermon – just be attentive to people and open about your faith." – pg. 93
"(from Jeff Vanderstelt, pastor of Soma Communities) 'Eventually, Soma began using the first Sunday of the month to do 'scattered gatherings' in our neighborhoods instead of gathering in a building together. We trained the church in hospitality and encouraged our people to open their homes on Sunday mornings for a brunch and invite neighbors to join them. Each of us served as host and provided some main dishes (not just some cheap donuts). Surprisingly, a majority of our neighbors attended (most were not part of a church). … We realized that we need regularity to this kind of activity so during the Spring and Summer we started doing a BBQ/party every Friday night. The regularity was a key to making this happen. (Too many settle for doing a party a couple times a year … this will not do it … there needs to be consistency to your hospitality). Eventually, everyone in the neighborhood had joined us and there was a genuine sense of connection and warmth between us relationally. … Our home became known as the house were you could find a party or a place of rest, converse, share a struggle or receive some prayer. We let people know that we had an open door policy – if you wanted to stop by and visit or join us for dinner, you were always welcome. This led to people stopping over after a bad day, losing a job, looking for advice on child rearing or crying over a broken relationship. If we needed to be alone for a particular reason, we would politely make that known, but many times the Spirit prompted us to set aside our own interests and pray for strength to love our neighbors when it wasn’t always convenient for us. … We have found that the mess and the difficulty of loving hospitality done in the power of the Gospel is one of the most powerful witnesses we’ve had to our neighborhood." – pgs. 98-99

Next post: A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community and Mission Around the Table | Sully Notes 3: Part 3 of 3

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