• Steven Marsh

Serving–Nourishment That Doesn’t Originate from the Earth: a Reflection on 1 Kings 19:4-

Ron Shackelford, in his recently published book, New Jesus, New Joy,writes, “Jesus never turns away a person with a sincere spiritual thirst.”[1]We thirst for purpose, joy, and confidence in our lives. On October 15, 2013, Paul McCartney was interviewed on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” In that interview[2], the former Beatles star said,

It seems to me that no matter how famous [you are], no matter how accomplished or how many awards you get, you’re always still thinking there’s somebody out there who’s better than you. I’m often reading a magazine and hearing about someone’s new record and I think, “Oh, boy, that’s gonna be better than me.” It’s a very common thing.

The interviewer then asked, “But, Sir Paul McCartney: You have had success in so many dimensions of music. You really feel a competitive insecurity with somebody else that’s coming out with a record?” McCartney replied:

Unfortunately, yes … I should be able to look at my accolades and go, “Come on, Paul. That’s enough.” But there’s still this little voice in the back of my brain that goes, “No, no, no. You could do better. This person over here is excelling. Try harder!” It still can be a little bit intimidating.

God’s confidence in us never ends, my friends. But, when we cry out to God are we claiming an idea that God’s confidence in us never ends or clinging to God? If clinging, we experience God’s confidence in us. Therein lies our purpose and joy, clinging to God. O. Benjamin Sparks writes, “Everyone, says Jesus, who has heard and learned from [God the] Father comes to me. There is no salvation outside the church. That is a refreshing, renewing word for our disjointed days.”[3]If we do not have a relationship with Jesus, we are left stuck in our purposeless and joyless insecurities. “Whatever we need to comprehend Jesus must come as a gift, insight not of our own devising. It must ‘come down from heaven.’”[4]

The encounter in John 6 suggests that Christianity is a spirituality, but first and foremost, a relationship with Jesus. Let’s look at this more carefully. Here’s the problem, then and now. Some people are more confident than others that they know more about Jesus and his movement then he does. How does this play out? Take the crowds for example. They continue to seek out Jesus. The crowds appear to be outsiders to “the God Thing.” But the Jews, as the complainers are referenced, are the insiders. They know better about “the God Thing” and question Jesus. Their arrogance and dogmatism are frightening. Oh, to rest in God’s confidence in us is one thing, but to question the Son of God, his identity, and family status is another. And when Jesus states that no one can come to him unless they are drawn to him by the Father, the insiders’ sensibilities are offended. This was Jesus’ context to share good news. Some were enthralled with him and wanted to know him better, the outsiders. And others, the insiders, were “know it all’s.” Rebecca Manley Pippert in Out of the Salt Shaker & into the World tells the story of a friend who was struggling with self-esteem and insecurity. This friend had paid a lot of money for some tapes with a recorded voice, which told her how wonderful she was. Becky writes,

“How many times do you have to listen to these tapes for them to work?” “A lot!” she answered. “Excuse me if this sounds rude, but how can such affirmative statements mean anything when the person speaking on the tape has never laid eyes on you? It’s like saying, ‘Dear consumer, you are gorgeous.’” “Oh, but for twenty-five bucks more you can get a personalized tape with your name on it.”[5]

We are members of both groups, the crowd (Outsiders) and the Jews (Insiders). As in Elijah’s case in the reading from 1 Kings, God makes redemption possible for both outsiders and insiders. Why? Because God is always calling people to salvation and releases grace for us to grab on to. It was through God’s loving initiative and action that Elijah experienced redemption. And the same is true for every one of the 7+ billion people inhabiting the earth.

Let’s not be attracted to Jesus for a miracle, the idea that God can do some amazing “quick fixes,” but an engaging, life changing relationship with the One who knows us the best and loves us the most. Like the people in Jesus’ day, we outsiders and insiders have questions. Jesus didn’t answer questions directly then or now. Instead, he probed to figure out what the people were really seeking for nourishment. And he continues to do the same today. Our nourishment truly comes from heaven not from the values and priorities of the world. No need to compare ourselves to others or succumb to “image management.”

Jesus is no stranger to us. We don’t have to pay him for words of encouragement and confidence building counsel for our self-identity. Jesus always tells us the truth. That we are beloved and cherished. He helps us overcome our weaknesses and insecurities. It is Jesus who helps us become our true selves. Why? We are created in the image of God.

[1]Ron Shackelford, New Jesus, New Joy(San Bernardino, CA: 2017), 166.

[2]Taken from the PreachingToday website, August 10, 2018. NPR Staff, “What Makes Paul McCartney Nervous?” NPR’s All Things Considered(10-15-13); submitted by Jonathan Sprowl, Carol Stream, Illinois.

[3]O. Benjamin Sparks in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 3 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 336.

[4]William H. Willimon in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 3, 337.

[5]Rebecca Manley Pippert, Out of the Salt Shaker & into the World (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 220.

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