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Knowing God through Others - Saint James Church

Knowing God through Others

Today I went to the Sunday afternoon Bible study at the mission house.  James the Elder/Pastor James preached on sharing a meal with people as a way of connecting with them.  I missed the opportunity to have lunch with anyone because I’m responsible for tallying and recording the offering after church, but I figured the Bible study was another chance to be sociable and went there instead.  I’m so glad I did! It was a small, informal group. But I learned so much from hearing other people’s opinions on the passage we looked at. It is true that when two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus, God is there.  Our own beliefs and interpretations are only part of the larger truth that is God. Hearing what other people have to say brings us closer to understanding the complexities and vastness of the Divine. Each of us individually only holds a small piece of the puzzle.  That is why church, as in a body of believers, is so important. We really do need each other to get the whole picture.

I would even argue that non-believers and people from different faiths have something to teach us about God.  The main theme of the message today was that everyone is a friend of God and that everyone is invited to God’s table for a meal.  Pastor James reminded us that Jesus sat down with Jews and Gentiles. Gentile just means a non-Jewish person and the Romans of the time had a variety of beliefs.  So it’s not just Christians we should be socializing with! Jesus had meals with people of different religious beliefs, and so should we. In particular, Jesus was a Jew, so we are sure to have a better appreciation of him if we discuss our faith with Jews.  And Muslims share many of our faith stories so are also likely to have important insights we can learn from. Muslims don’t believe that Jesus was the son of God, but they do believe that he was a special prophet of God who will return to restore justice and defeat the antichrist.  

But if we take seriously that all of us are made in the image of God, then even people with the most different beliefs, or those with no belief at all, have something to teach us about God.  And if that’s the case, then getting to know them is an important way of getting to know God. Christians today know the Gospel because people 2,000 years ago experienced God and shared their experience with others.  And the Bible itself does not recount one person’s understanding of God, but those of many people. In other words, each of us build an understanding of God based on our experience but also on what we hear from other people.  So being bold to share our faith with others, and even bolder to really listen to what they have to say in return, is a critical part of the faith journey.

And what better way to discuss such important matters than over a meal!  James preached about the importance of sharing meals with others because we get to know them better and are better able to know our commonalities.  But sharing a meal with others is also a way to get to know God better. A God who is so creative and grand that each of us is the result, in all of our differences and beauty.  And when we get to know each other better, and listen to what we have to say, we can better know the Creator of us all.

 

Post Script:

After I finished this, it occurred to me that the idea of meals as a way of connecting was “preached” by Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity chef, author, and TV personality who recently died by suicide.  Even those of us sitting at tables filled with friends and food can feel depressed and alone. If you are one of them, please reach out to me or someone else. Marge at church has also volunteered to talk to anyone at anytime.  A life of faith does not mean a life that is always easy or enjoyable. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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