A Moveable Feast

  • June 4, 2011

      Just this last week I had a conversation with a friend about Ernest Hemingway’s great memoir A Moveable Feast. The conversation started me thinking about the book that I’d not picked up in years and over the last few days it has simmered into my own reflections about the life of the Christian and the ministry of the church. If you haven’t read the memoir, Hemingway’s book recounts the years (during the 1920’s) that he lived in Paris alongside many other well known American expatriate authors. The title was supposedly stirred from a conversation in which Hemingway, reflecting on those formative years in Paris, remarked that “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” The years that he spent in Paris stuck with him and the impact that it continued to have in his life was akin to packing up Paris in a “to-go-box” and taking it with him throughout his life.

     For the Christian, the feast that we are to savor is the Word of God – the Bible. There is no nourishment for the Christian’s life apart from the daily and weekly diet of Scripture. Christ, as he was engaged in the great temptations in the wilderness quoted Scripture in response to Satan: “Man cannot live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Just as we cannot expect to physically live apart from eating physical food, the Christian cannot live apart from the life giving strength of the Bible.

     Sadly churches are far too often filled with emaciated and malnourished Christians who live through each week believing that their meager and shallow lives are the norm, when in fact their lives are meant to be far more vibrant if they would only take, taste, and see the delights of Christ’s feast found in the texts of Scripture. Far too many Christians, and far too many churches, weakly survive because of their spiritual starvation while the abundant delights and delicacies that nourish the soul lie unopened on their bedside tables.

     What about you? Are you enjoying the feast that God has placed into your hands? Do you feel a bit sluggish in your walk with Christ? Are you savoring the supper that Christ has provided, or are you allowing yourself to waste away while a feast is calling your name? If so, I want to encourage you to take and eat:

     First, recognize the great wonder of the feast that we are allowed to savor. So many Christians throughout the centuries (and even in many places around the world today) have not had the access to the Bible like we do. No generation in history has had more copies of the Bible in their language, more versions of the Bible in their language, and more technological helps for reading and understanding the Bible (Bibles on iphones, free online concordances, commentaries, devotional helps, word studies, maps) than Americans living at the beginning of the twenty first century. How will God judge us if we ignore this great gift? To whom much is given, much is required. 

     Imagine two neighbors living next door to one another. In one house the family has an abundance of food, snacks, and beverages in their pantry and refrigerator. They have so much excess that on a daily basis their dumpsters are filled with the food that they are wasting, and yet on a daily basis they refuse to eat what they have, choosing instead to stubbornly starve themselves while they lay in the very lap of luxurious plenty. In the other home, a family scrapes to survive – eating meager crackers and stale bread and drinking tap water because it is all they can afford. Each night the children in this second home are put to bed with rumbling stomachs and dreams of a good meal. Such a disparity should outrage us! Yet every day Christians in churches just like ours never touch their Bibles, while our neighbors around the world would give anything for just one copy of the Bible to have as their own. We are far too comfortable with the abundance that we have, and woe to us if we carelessly reject it.

     Second, read the Bible daily! Make the reading and study of God’s Word as normal for your daily life as drinking coffee and having physical food. Place notes on your refrigerator or in your car that jog your memory into thinking of the Bible as being just as crucial to your life as eating. Make reading your Bible each day a priority.

     Third, savor the feast! Don’t simply gorge yourself hurriedly. Read through the passages slowly. Stop and pause. Meditate. Pray. Memorize. Write down your thoughts. Tis far better to slowly savor the Bible daily than to gulp down large portions of the Bible sporadically.

     Fourth, feast with your fellow Christians. The primary way that we are fed the Bible together is through the church’s weekly worship services and preaching ministry. Reading and studying the Bible alone is crucial. Yet it is absolutely essential for us to join the feast with other brothers and sisters in Christ through weekly worship services. Additionally, it is critical for you to make participation in every worship service a priority. Worship services are like family meals. Sunday morning worship services are like breakfast (the most important meal of the day!), Sunday evenings are like dinner, and Wednesday evenings are like lunch. It is good to come to one service a week. That’s certainly better than nothing! Yet if you only come to one worship gathering (like Sunday morning), then it is like you living your life while only eating breakfast every day, every week, every month, and every year. You need multiple meals! Your body needs to eat more than once a day! Sure, cereal, eggs, toast, and juice are great, but your body craves salad, chicken, vegetables, steak, and dessert! Your spiritual diet needs to be fed by more than one meal per week. So for a well balanced diet, come to the table with other Christians every time the dinner bell is rung!

     Finally, let what you hear and read daily and weekly strengthen and nourish you throughout the week. The Word of God is to be the Christian’s moveable feast. Like Paris for Hemingway, the strength we gain from our feasting on Scripture gives us the nourishment and life we need throughout our life. We eat our meals because we know that we will need our physical energy later in the day. We continue to eat food because we know that for every day that we live we will need physical energy. We read the Bible daily because we know that we’re going to endure hours, encounters, conversations, trials, and temptations that will make spiritual strength necessary. We feast with other Christians at worship services, hearing the Word of God proclaimed, because we know that in the next week we will face spiritual hunger, weakness, and trials that will make these meals necessary. We have a moveable feast greater than a city in France. We have the moveable feast of God’s Word, and if we neglect it we do so at our own peril.

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