CEREAL IS AWESOME

What’s your favorite kind of cereal? I’m gonna cheat and say that I have a tie for the number one spot in my cupboard. First is Cookie Crisp. I know, it’s dessert for breakfast, but it’s so good. Number two is Cracklin Oat Bran. It’s like saw dust pressure-packed into little o’s with sugar and cinnamon sprinkled in. Sounds gross but trust me, it’s fantastic. I’ve always been a huge cereal fan. I could eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; and it’s a simple recipe—just add milk. I wrote a paper in college on why cereal is the greatest food ever. And it’s because of this simple fact: I could eat cereal for every meal of every day for a month and never have the same flavor twice…but still be eating cereal.

I wonder if God thinks of us (people) like cereal. I bet He does. We’re all so different, aren’t we? We’re racially different. We’re socio-economically different. We’re culturally different. We are all kinds of different. And yet, we’re all still human. There’s more diversity in humanity than any aisle in your grocery store but we all fall under the same category. But here’s what kicks it up a notch: God made it that way. He’s that creative. He’s that impressive. Which means He loves us way more than we could ever possibly love cereal. And when you factor in that we so often reject Him and His love, it makes it all the more breathtaking. Think about it: if your cereal turned on you and decided it didn’t want to be your cereal anymore…into the garbage disposal it would go, right? But that’s not what God did with us; because He loves us more than we could possibly love cereal.

Instead, he sent his son to save us. That’s love. No matter what flavor we are, He loves us enough to allow His son to be brutally murdered on our behalf. I’ve grown up going to church my entire life and need reminding of this mind-boggling truth regularly. And when the news is full of stories about division and hate, I need reminding all the more. We’re different but the same. We’re diverse but loved by the One who made us that way. I’m trying to become a person that looks at the diversity in humanity like I do my cereal and appreciate it for it’s diversity. Listen, Cheerios are no gourmet meal, but what makes them great is the fact that the next time you have cereal, it might be something different. Cereal is great because it’s so vast in it’s manifestations. Why not appreciate God’s creativity in us with the same bend?

Listen to God’s words through Paul: I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For, there is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone (1 Timothy 2:1-6).

All people. Everyone. Humanity. If every heartbeat on the planet matters so much to God that He’d go to the great lengths He did to reconcile us to Himself, then they’d better matter to us. So today, let’s be a community of people that lives as citizens of the Kingdom—a wonderfully diverse Kingdom—by loving it for being that way. Let’s be people who bridge the gap when there’s division, just like Jesus bridged the gap between us and God. Let’s be different from the world.


JP

After serving as the Student Ministries Pastor for 10 years, Josh Petersen is now the Lead Pastor of Immanuel Church. He’s married to Heidi and together they live with Jake, Logan, Cole and Sawyer at the circus they call home.

THE WAITING ROOM OF HOLY WEEK

Why is the day after Jesus’ execution called ‘Holy Saturday’? It seems there’s nothing holy about it. What’s holy about sobbing and wailing? What’s holy about coming to terms with the finality of death? What’s holy about loss, about crying out and receiving no answer? Jesus was dead. Saturday forced the disciples to dwell on it. What’s holy about that?

Easter, now that’s holy. That’s something to shine your shoes for. I mean, we’re talking about a miraculous event here, the resurrection! Saturday just sits as the annoying waiting room of Holy Week, a time to run errands and iron your Easter clothes, a time to stuff the Easter baskets. Holy Saturday is more of a nuisance than anything, right?

I mean, what does Jesus have to do with stillness? What does God have to do with trauma and confusion? What does the Spirit have to do with tears? “Get on with it! Get to Sunday, would you?” says the crowd. Saturday is awkward, like figuring out what to do with our hands during a photo, we’re just not sure what to do with it. Saturday doesn’t fit with us, with our schedules. Saturday isn’t fast-paced enough for us…

So maybe we need to slow down. Maybe this Saturday of mourning is holy after all. Holy Saturday is the space between life and death, between sorrow and celebration. Too often we view Saturday in light of Sunday, and I think it strips Saturday of its power. In the midst of their grief, the disciples had no idea that Sunday was coming, so they were forced to let the pain of Friday sink in. Saturday, then, teaches us how to mourn. Saturday reminds us of the finality of death. Saturday, then, proves the helplessness of humanity.

The truth is, we need Holy Saturday; we need it because, in a sense, we’re living in our own Holy Saturday, caught between the miracle of Easter and the promise of Jesus’ return. We’re in that middle space, clinging to hope while dealing with confusion, pain, sorrow, unknowns. We need Holy Saturday when we watch the news, when we pray “Come, Lord Jesus!”, when we’re faced with oppression and violence and injustice – because God isn’t surprised by Saturday, he’s in it with us.

This seemingly pointless day teaches us that God is present in the sludge of life, that mourning is necessary, that unanswered questions will find their answers in God, that hope is vital to life. Holy Saturday teaches us that God doesn’t gloss over difficulties, that he doesn’t leave when the going gets tough. And though we are privileged to stand on the side of history that let’s us know and live with the reality of Sunday, there’s a whole world out there perpetually stuck in Saturday. We walk in that tension, confessing hope from the middle space, remembering always the importance of Holy Saturday.


 

“Give Us Saturday Ears” by Walter Brueggemann

Sometimes it seems as though you have given us

     eyes so we cannot see,

     and ears so we cannot hear,

     and hearts so we cannot know,

     and we miss it. 

Work on our ears today.

     Clean them, circumcise them,

     turn them so that they may tingle with the ways

     in which you have turned loose among us the powers of death

     and the forces of life.

Gran that we should not live int he safe middle ground,

     on the surface

     but push us to the edge,

     where the action is.

Your action, where you cause all those terrible Fridays

     and all those amazing Sundays. 

Give us Saturday ears for your tingling.

We pray in the name of your Saturday child. Amen. 


 

millioke.jpg

Holden can usually be found spending time with his wife Kira, drinking better-than-great coffee, listening to obscure music while cooking, or passionately discussing wooly mammoths. A recent graduate of Moody, he’s on staff at Immanuel as the Director of Communications.

 

SEATED AT THE TABLE

“Lord of all pots and pans and things, make me a saint by getting meals and washing up the plates!” – Father Lawrence, Practicing the Presence of God

Kitchens are vibrant places. Whether you’re twisting and turning, hot pans in hand, avoiding a collision with family members as you navigate the flurry of holiday meal prep, or you’re quietly embracing the warmth of the oven as you pray in the peaceful, candle-lit evening, the kitchen is an intimate environment. It’s a place where we meet to rummage through the fridge for that late-night snack. The kitchen is a space where we lean against counters and share stories while water boils. It’s a space where, at times, voices get raised and tears flow. What memories take place in your kitchen?

Those that know me best know that I absolutely love cooking. Yet, what I love more than merely throwing something together is throwing something together for someone else. Here’s why I love the kitchen: nourishment. There’s just something sacramental, something that draws me in spiritually about the idea that what I create and craft in the kitchen will bless and serve another – and on a number of levels. In the kitchen we’re nourished physically, we enjoy flavor and color (lots of color!) and texture. Through food and companionship we are comforted, we’re entertained, we love and feel loved, we find common ground and grow to appreciate our differences. All through Scripture we see scenes of reconciliation and redemption that take place around a table, food in hand. The kitchen, food, meals together, all of these things reveal to me in real time more and more about God and the life he has for us in Jesus Christ. The kitchen is a place of invitation, of intimate meeting.

Have you ever felt that subtle shock when a relatively new kitchen-invitee casually throws open the door to your fridge? I’m convinced that can only be a result of knowing that the seemingly-ordinary items on those shelves and the way they appear in our lives is special and sacred to us – they speak volumes about who we are. But I’m also convinced that if someone new in your life feels comfortable enough to act like family in your sacred space, you’re doing something right. (Can you imagine the rough and tumble crowd that followed Jesus sitting neatly at his table? I’d like to think they felt such love and comfort with him that they couldn’t help but spread crumbs as they tossed each other bread and sloppily touched their cups of wine.)

You see, in the midst of fear, worry, of pain, we must continually be nourished. Our bodies don’t stop needing fed because of the trauma around us. God continually calls us to take and eat, continually meets us in the sludge of life. And when there is no food on the table (whether for fasting and prayer or by tragedy) we are nourished by the Scriptures and by prayer, by story, by those seated at the table across from us and beside us. As we meet at the table together, we’re drawn into deeper relationship with God through those around us, through the food before us, through the prayer and discussion we have.

__

One of my favorite professors sat down to lunch with me last year and casually glanced at the empty seats at our table. He then turned to me and said, “Who in your life has yet to be seated at the Lord’s table? For them, brother, we pray.” I hope I never forget that moment, because it was then that Scripture stepped out of the book and into the landscape of my life. So as you read this, I ask you to glance at your table, at your kitchen and see the empty seats, the empty plates and bowls, and pray for those in your life who haven’t yet made it to your table, to his table. Might we find more than just food at the table, but healing, nourishment, and growth.

For meditation:

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. – 1 Corinthians 10:16-17

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. – James 2:15-17

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” – John 21:9-14

 


 

millioke.jpg

Holden can usually be found spending time with his wife Kira, drinking better-than-great coffee, listening to obscure music while cooking, or passionately discussing wooly mammoths. A soon-to-be graduate of Moody, he’s on staff at Immanuel as the Assistant to Lead Pastor.