Satisfied

A few weeks ago I spoke on Isaiah 55 about satisfaction and how we (myself included) are regularly tempted to look for satisfaction in things that ultimately don’t satisfy us. In my research, I found a poem and a prayer about inviting God to fill our deepest hunger.

:: :: ::

Feed Your Starving Soul

by Linda Siebenga
originally appeared in Christian Courier 2912 (9 May 2011)

Not just the nibble
we remember eating yesterday,
or that meal last Sunday
the pastor spoon fed us
as he waited for us
to want meat and potatoes.

We feed our bodies
more fuel than they can burn
but starve our souls
with skimpy feedings:
a little here
a little there
when a feast of wisdom and comfort
is in our grasp.

“Come and eat,” the prophet urges.
“Buy wine without money that your soul may live.”

Taste the honey of Psalm 139,
a platter of Isaiah 55,
the comfort food of Philippians 4,
the meat of Romans 8.
Chew the pithy parables.
Taste samples of the stories of those
who have wrestled with God.

Tomorrow dish it up again;
digest it so you may thrive,
grow strong,
mature and produce fruit.


:: :: ::


Prayer of Confession

by N. Graham Standish
originally appeared in Let Us Pray: Reformed Prayers
for Christian Worship
(Geneva Press, 2002)

There is a deep hunger within us, O Christ, for the food only you can give us: the bread of life found in you. We need you so desperately in our lives, and only you can satisfy our deep hunger. Yet we are such an impatient people. We want to be fed by you, but we don’t always want to sit at your table. We want fast spiritual food, not the nourishing food that comes through patient prayer, quiet reflection, service, thanksgiving, understanding, and virtue. We want your saving grace to work in a hurry so we can experience your blessings and peace now. We are not always willing to undergo the slow transformation that allows you to enter our very souls. Help us to [respond to your invitation and] come to you with repentant hearts so that in your grace we [will be filled and satisfied, going forth as] your disciples, your servants, your apostles. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Isaiah 55 graphic found at TodayInTheWord.org

“Feed Your Starving Soul”


Not just the nibble
we remember eating yesterday,
or that meal last Sunday
the pastor spoon fed us
as he waited for us
to want meat and potatoes.


We feed our bodies
more fuel than they can burn
but starve our souls
with skimpy feedings:
a little here
a little there
when a feast of wisdom and comfort
is in our grasp.


“Come and eat,” the prophet urges.
“Buy wine without money that your soul may live.”


Taste the honey of Psalm 139,
a platter of Isaiah 55,
the comfort food of Philippians 4,
the meat of Romans 8.
Chew the pithy parables.
Taste samples of the stories of those
who have wrestled with God.


Tomorrow dish it up again;
digest it so you may thrive,
grow strong,
mature and produce fruit.


by Linda Siebenga
originally appeared in the 9 May 2011 edition of Christian Courier, p.13
reprinted here by kind permission of the poet

Conspiracy theory

While on holidays in Abbotsford, I joined my dad, my brother, a friend of my brother’s, and my future nephew-in-law on a fishing trip.  We plied the waters of the Fraser River between Mission and Chilliwack, north of Sumas Mountain, our lines baited for sturgeon.  We even caught (and released) a few – and that’s no fish story!

While waiting for fish to take the bait, we talked about conspiracy theories – the big ones like those that allege the manned flights to the moon were a hoax and that 9/11 was an inside job.  I wrote about the death of Osama Bin Laden the other day; his burial at sea has now sparked a whole new batch of conspiracy theories.  Some people will tell you that Bin Laden is actually hiding in plain sight somewhere in the US, working at a fast food restaurant or corner store!

Call me naïve, but I think conspiracy theories are just overgrown fish stories perpetuated by peoples’ fears of secretive things that exist just beyond their comprehension.  As Dal Tackett once observed, these fears isolate people because they can trust no one; everyone is a suspect for being part of the conspiracy!  In worst case scenarios, these paranoid fears can be debilitating, preventing people from leaving their homes and living normal lives.


I can think of at least one preferable alternative to holding on to fear-filled conspiracy theories.

In one of the better episodes of Star Trek: Voyager called “The Voyager Conspiracy,” Seven of Nine becomes convinced that the starship Voyager was stranded in the faraway Delta Quadrant as part of a huge conspiracy.  Her evidence is compelling, and her crewmates begin suspecting one another of treason.  When Capt. Janeway discovers the errors in Seven’s conclusions, the captain is finally able to convince Seven of the truth not by presenting yet more evidence, but by appealing to the trust that has been building in their relationship.
I prefer trust over fear.

Yes, I realize that there are sinister people in the world hatching sinister plots and we ought not to be careless.  But that doesn’t mean I have to question the motives or results of every single action taken by the government or the local police or my friends or my family.  I’d rather assume I can trust the people and institutions I know and occasionally be disappointed when I find out they lied to me than assume I cannot trust anyone and be occasionally surprised when I’ve been told the truth about a matter.

After all, if I cannot trust anyone or anything, then I’ll be ruled by fear.  And if there’s one command that is often repeated in the Bible, it’s “Do not fear.”  To quote Dal Tackett:

God’s people are not to fear the world or the things in the world, including the flesh or the Enemy.  The only One we are to fear is God.  And for the child of God, this is a healthy fear… a comforting fear.  For He is our Father… our good and loving Father, who will bring us through all of the trials and tribulations and troubles of this world to a home that He has prepared for us.

If that doesn’t convince you, consider these words, straight from the prophet Isaiah as found in Scripture:

The LORD spoke to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people.
He said:
Do not call conspiracy everything that
—– these people call conspiracy;
do not fear what they fear, 
—– and do not dread it.
The LORD Almighty is the One you are to
—– regard as holy,
He is the one you are to fear,
—– He is the one you are to dread,
—– and He will be a sanctuary…”

And if that doesn’t convince you, I’m not sure what else to do except to leave you with your fish stories.

Credit:
The cartoon above was found via a Google images search for “conspiracy theory cartoon.”

The Gospel according to Isaiah

When I was at Regent College, Professor Rikk Watts repeatedly emphasized how themes in Isaiah repeatedly show up in the Gospel of Mark.  At the time, I heard how many different passages in Isaiah align with Mark’s writing.  As I was preparing for this past Sunday’s latest instalment in my sermon series on Mark at Telkwa CRC, I saw in David E. Garland’s commentary on Mark how a single chapter in Isaiah serves as a backdrop to virtually everything we learn about Jesus in Mark.  It’s as though Mark was reading Isaiah one day, came upon chapter 43, and said, “Hey, this tells the story of Jesus!”  Having an outline of themes, Mark then went to work in writing the Gospel that now bears his name.

Garland’s presentation of Isaiah 43 in the Gospel of Mark not only affirms things I learned at grad school, but also affirms for me again how the Bible is unified and presents a consistent message (some call it a “love letter”) from God throughout.  It’s stuff like this that makes me excited to dig into God’s Word, making connections between different sections and making connections to life today.

Isaiah 43:1-12

Gospel of Mark

But now,
this is what the LORD says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear,
for I have redeemed you;
——I have summoned you by name;
——you are mine.

Jesus has created the Twelve (3:12) and summoned disciples by name (1:16, 20; 2:14; 3:16-18).

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you
pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.

Jesus is with them when they pass through the waters (4:36) and saves them from peril at sea.  The assurance that they not be harmed by fire is echoed in 9:49.

For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
——your Saviour;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
Cush and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honoured in my sight,
and because I love you,
I will give nations
in exchange for you,
and peoples in exchange
for your life.

Jesus announces to the disciples that he gives his life as a ransom for many (10:45).

Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children
from the east
——and gather you from the west…”

Jesus rebukes the cowardice of the disciples and tells a synagogue ruler (5:36) and the disciples not to be afraid (6:50).

Lead out those who have eyes
but are blind,
who have ears but are deaf

See 4:12; 8:18; Jesus heals two blind men (8:22-26; 10:46-52) and heals a deaf man (7:31-37).

“You are my witnesses,”
declares the LORD,
“and my servant
whom I have chosen,
so that you may know
and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor will there be one after me.

When Jesus comes to this disciples walking on the waves, he announces “It is I [or, I am he]!” (6:50).

I, even I, am the LORD,
and apart from me
there is no saviour.
I have revealed
and saved and proclaimed—
I, and not some foreign god
among you.
You are my witnesses,”
declares the LORD,
——“that I am God.
Yes, and from ancient days
——I am he.
No one can deliver out of my hand.
——When I act, who can reverse it?”

Mark would have the readers draw the same conclusion about Jesus.  Jesus is the one who delivers his people, and in his hands they (we!) are safe.

From David E. Garland, Mark (NIVAC; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), pp. 196-197