Scripture: John 6:25-35
with little time: Family Devotions
by Pastor Todd Buurstra

In the years just after A.D. 60 the luxury of Roman society was unparalleled. It was at this time that they served feasts of peacock’s brains and nightingales’ tongues; that they cultivated the odd habit of taking emetics

[to induce vomiting] between courses so that the next might taste better; that meals costing thousands of [dollars] were commonplace.… They would try anything for a new thrill, because they were both appallingly rich and appallingly hungry.

So writes William Barclay about Rome. Are we like the Romans? Look at what happened to Michelangelo’s David after just two years in the US! My cholesterol is a tad high, like Obama’s, because I’m a meat and potatoes guy. Then there’s our obesity epidemic. As the prophet cried out, Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?! Jesus felt this way about the Jews (and probably about us). [Y]ou are looking for me…because you ate your fill of the loaves. Jesus had just fed the 5000 with a few loaves and fishes. Wow, Jesus, can you turn this rock into filet mignon?!

ecortasqhte means to fill one’s belly like a grazing cow. Sounds like us, doesn’t it?

So, we are physically fat and spiritually famished. To quote God through another prophet, Amos, I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. Physically fat, faith-famished. 90% of American households own a Bible, but 12% of adults believe Noah’s wife was Joan of Arc, only 42% can name 5 of the 10 commandments, and only 50% of American adults can name any of the four gospels. Think that’s bad? Test the next generation–it’s even worse because we don’t teach them! Most churchgoing families don’t feed their kids at home, i.e., spiritually, they rely on the Church School to do it. This is what kids look like if they eat only one spiritual meal a week!

Instead of another, amazing food miracle, Jesus offers them bread from heaven. Now they thought, Maybe Jesus means manna from heaven—like when our ancestors were 40 years in the wilderness? Didn’t that fall from heaven? [Actually there’s a scientific explanation.] And weren’t we taught that the Messiah will be able to repeat that miracle? So their minds are still in their bellies. Sounds like a group of men, doesn’t it? Fastest way to a guy’s heart is through his belly? I guess turning 5 loaves and 2 fishes into enough to feed 5000 wasn’t enough?

So Jesus surprises them even further to say, I am the bread of life. What?! How can that be?? And even moreso, Whoever comes to me will never hunger or thirst! This is the turning point in the gospel of John. From now on folks leave him because he’s nuts. You can almost hear them mutter as they walk away, What rabbi teaches to eat his flesh?! If I take a bite of his arm, I’ll never be hungry again?! He’s crazy! Jesus, of course, is referring to the spiritual nourishment he gives. But they take him literally and walk away. So Jesus asks his disciples,

Do you also wish to go away? Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom can we go?

You have the words of eternal life.

Our culture, too, has turned away from Jesus to pursue physical food. Do you also wish to go away? By staying our family can feed on Jesus spiritually, so that we are spiritually fit.

How do we feed on Jesus? As you know, I come from a long line of Dutch pietists. My ancestors on my mother’s side, where all the ministers are, in a sense, fled religious persecution in the Netherlands 150 years ago. And they brought with them a meal time piety that taught that every family meal nourishes physically and spiritually. Obviously the physical nourishment is the meat and potatoes. The spiritual is the prayer before the meal, and the Bible reading after. In my house you couldn’t eat a meal without a prayer and a Bible verse—every meal! Many a summer night I squirmed in my seat, longing to join the baseball game outside, as Dad droned on about Hezekiah begetting Manasseh, who begat Amos, who begat, not Andy, but Zerubbabel… I much preferred Gramma’s house because she did creative things like write out a verse on a theme, and hide it under each plate, or she’d ask us for a Psalm and we’d try to remember, Which Psalm is 176 verses and which is 3: Psalm 117 or 119?! Though I didn’t experience many life-transforming insights from the practice, I did learn the importance of a spiritual meal.

If you want to feed your kids more than one meal a week at Church School, then let me help you. First, a little advice. And secondly, some resources to chew on. My advice is simply,

Effective family devotions are

Age-appropriate and

To the point.

Up until about 3rd grade we’d get on the floor after the meal and read their children’s Bible, given at baptism. After 3rd grade we picked a devotional written for their age. Now we read a devotional written by teens for teens. So stop by the Fellowship Hall table to peruse options.

After you decide on a resource you, too, can feed your family spiritually!

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