Today, I’d like to talk about food. Actually, I’d rather be eating than talking, but I don’t see anyone bringing in covered dishes. Let me suggest that if you like short sermons, you should organize more covered dish luncheons. The smell of food, and the sight of people setting up casseroles on a banquet table, tends to make me hurry through a sermon.
But I don’t see any casseroles walking in this morning, so just settle back. Let us hear the word of God:
Without food, life itself would be impossible. Everything that breathes also eats. But Jesus did not think about food the way we do. He knew it was important, so he used food as an illustration over and over again. Jesus knew how to get our attention.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said we should take no thought for our life, for what we should eat or what we should drink. God knows we need food and drink, he said, and God will provide these things. All of us, from the richest to the poorest, will have enough to eat today.
Instead, Jesus said, seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things – food, drink, and clothing – will be given to us.
One day, the Pharisees told Jesus to rebuke his disciples, because they were eating grain from a field and had not washed their hands. To the Pharisees, ceremonial washing before meals was a spiritual exercise. But Jesus said it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles us, but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles us. Because what comes out of our mouths – that is, what we say – reveals what is in our hearts.
It’s funny to read this in the gospel of Mark. There, early Christians added in parenthesis that in saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean. I believe every word of the Bible is true. In this case, I think the truth is that those early Christians missed the point. Jesus was not saying that any food was clean, or dirty. He was saying that food is not important, compared to what is in our hearts, and what we say. Jesus was always trying to turn our attention away from the world and toward the Kingdom of God.
The FDA food pyramid, from top to bottom, goes from foods we should eat sparingly – like fats and candy – to foods we should eat more of – like bread and pasta. I think the Atkins Diet would chop off the bottom of the food pyramid.
So let’s consider the spiritual food pyramid. I will start with things we should eat sparingly, and end with things we should enjoy to the fullest.
At the top of my spiritual food pyramid is pride. Pride is a vegetable. I know that because it doesn’t do anything; it just grows bigger and tries to impress us. Pride is also a bitter fruit, so you don’t want to chew it. Pride is best swallowed whole. So if you don’t want to choke on pride, you should swallow it while it is small. It is, after all, easier to swallow a grape than a watermellon.
Pride is a sin that looks like a virtue. We are taught to take pride in ourselves, pride in our appearance, pride in our accomplishments. But pride so often gets in the way. Pride stops us from asking for help when we really need it. Pride is what keeps men from going to the doctor. It makes us hurt our backs, because we are so proud of our strength, and too proud to ask for help.
Pride is one of those evil things that comes out of the mouth, Jesus said. The apostle Paul told Timothy, his preacher in training, not to put new Christians in positions of leadership, because they would get puffed up with pride and misuse their power. John, the beloved disciple, said that the lust of the eyes and the pride of life is not of the Father, but of the world, and the world passes away. And James, the brother of Jesus, reminds us that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
So let us swallow our pride every day, before it grows too big. Let us put God first and put others ahead of ourselves. Let us never be too proud to ask for help, too proud to learn, or too proud to admit our mistakes.
And that takes us to the next level of my spiritual food pyramid. Some people think this is my favorite spiritual food group, because I eat so much of it. It is not my favorite food, but when a food is plentiful, we tend to eat more of it. The next level of my spiritual food pyramid is crow. We should learn not to crow so much – that is, not to boast about ourselves, about our future, or about our accomplishments. Because the more we crow, the more we will have to eat crow.
When we crow, we are putting ourselves ahead of others. We are taking attention away from someone else and putting it on ourselves. A rooster has a mighty crow, but he’s really just a chicken with an attitude.
The rooster crows like he owns the world, but the eagle barely makes a sound. The eagle spends more time listening than screeching. The eagle is listening for the rooster’s crow, so she will know where the chickens are. The rooster crows to make himself look important. But if he were protecting the chickens, he would spend less time crowing and more time listening for hawks and eagles.
So the best we can do is to learn not to crow so much. If we swallow our pride sooner, we won’t have so much to crow about. But if we do crow – if we brag and boast – the best we can do is to admit our mistakes, deliver our apologies, and eat our crow. So, if we can’t stop crowing, we’ll just have to learn to pick feathers out of our teeth. After you’ve swallowed your pride, eat your crow, every day.
Now we’re getting to the fat side of our spiritual food pyramid. At the base of our food pyramid are the spiritual foods that we should eat in abundance. Next on the pyramid is the Word of God.
If we don’t know what the Word of God says, how much impact does it have on the world? Are the pagans reading the Word? They may talk about it, but they don’t really read it. Unfortunately, neither do we.
The prophet Ezekiel was told to eat a scroll, then speak to the people. In the Revelation of John, an angel tells him to eat a little book, then write what he sees. These are symbolic of what we must do. The Old Testament was written on a scroll. The New Testament is a little book. Like Ezekiel, like John, we as Christians are to educate ourselves on what the Word of God says, then share it with the world by making it a part of our lives.
It is a minister’s job to study the Word of God and share it with the people. As Christians, we are ministers to the world of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you are a Christian, you are called to this ministry. We cannot do the will of God until we know what it is. In my longest sermon, I don’t have time to tell you all that God says, and I don’t know enough about you to decide how it applies to your life. If I could accomplish just one thing in my ministry, it would be to convince everyone to read the Word of God for themselves. God says it better than I ever will.
Now, we’re at the bottom of our spiritual food pyramid. Here is the most important spiritual food we have, the very foundation of our Christian lives. John said that Jesus was the Word made flesh. Jesus said that he is the Bread of Life, and the fountain of Living Water.
Those who drink deeply from the fountain of God’s grace revealed in Jesus Christ will never thirst again. Jesus himself is the foundation of our spiritual food pyramid. His words, his life, his example, his spiritual presence in our lives – these are the bread and butter of our spiritual lives.
God gave us physical signs, then spoken laws, then written scriptures, to help us live in his kingdom. His final revelation was to live among us, to give us an actual, historical life, in the form of Jesus Christ. Jesus himself is the last word. As he said on the cross, it is finished. He is the alpha and omega, the last word. If we would show the world the Father, God the creator, we must show them Jesus Christ, in history, and in our lives.
We swallow our pride, because it keeps us from relying on our king, Jesus Christ. We eat crow, because our crowing puts the attention on us, and takes it away from our king, Jesus Christ. We study the word, because it tells us about God and about our king, Jesus Christ. All these things matter only if they make Jesus the central driving force in our lives. Jesus is the Bread of Life, the fount of living water.
The point is not a set of rules, or a fancy sermon, or even a book of scripture. The point is a person, and that person is Jesus Christ.
You know, we tend to follow what we watch. Some of us watch a lot of television. Some of us watch the Internet. Some of us follow the crowd, or the latest news, or the stock market, or the next big rock star. Some of us follow our favorite preacher. But if we want to live in the Kingdom of God, we have to follow the king. Christ is the good shepherd, and he will not lead us astray.
Our hymn of the day is page 558, “Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us”. If Christ is not first in your life, if he is not your primary spiritual food, then let me invite you to step out of the ordinary world and into the glorious Kingdom of God.
Those who drink of this water will never thirst again. If you would receive Christ into your life, come forward as we sing today. If you would like to join our church, if you would like to walk with us in the Kingdom of God, come forward as we sing today. Please stand as we sing page 558, “Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us.”
Tropical Sands Christian Church – August 10, 2003