Advanced Christian Instruction?

In the Adult Bible study yesterday, a few people suggested an “Advanced New Member Class” as the new topic of discussion–a class that would cover the basics, only more in-depth than when they were confirmed as kids or adults in a six-week course twenty years ago.

I loved hearing that they wanted to learn more and go deeper. In some ways, we are already doing it: I don’t hold back much when I teach Adults on Sunday mornings. But a systematic covering of the topics in greater depth…I like it.

I just don’t know quite how to do it yet. But that’s my goal, and I have to move fast, because we are almost finished with James.

But one thing I love about Grace Lutheran Church is how eager so many are to learn. They even are willing and able to give constructive criticism on my teaching techniques. And it is constructive, because they want to learn and engage in the Word and tackle theology. I’m blessed to have these people.

What are You Eating?


You are what you eat from your head down to your feet. That’s what SchoolHouse Rock told us in the late 70s and early 80s. SchoolHouse Rock were those public service announcements with catchy songs and good animation that aired during Saturday Morning Cartoons. I’m really showing my age here.

But it’s true. We are what we eat. The body processes and digests and absorbs what it needs, of course, but we are the products of what you feed yourself.

This is true of what we consume with our eyes and ears as well. Our mental lives and spiritual lives are fed by the things we read, by the entertainment we consume, by the music we hear. Our thoughts are composed of what we feed our brains. Our prayers are composed of what we feed our spirits. Our worldviews are nourished by the ideas and values and views of others.

We do not like to admit this. We prefer to think of ourselves as free and independently-minded. We think that what we value and think and choose to believe is up to us and our rational skills. We think that something will influence our minds only if we want it to. We are in control.

Yet experience, the social sciences and Scripture all contradict this. Hearing repeated messages affects our beliefs about ourselves and the world. Our educational system is founded on this fact. We make physicians by immersing them in medicine. We make plumbers and electricians by immersing them in class and then in their apprenticeships. At the seminary they made us Lutherans by immersing us in reading Luther and Lutheran theology. An Orthodox priest friend of mine became Orthodox by reading Orthodox theology.

What do you read? What do you watch? What are you being taught and what is being modeled to you? What perspectives and philosophies and theologies are you feeding your spirit and mind with? Christians need to remember that we are what we eat. We believe what we watch and hear and experience. Violent movies and shows leave marks on our spirits. A steady diet of shallow songs and shows leave us with less depth to our thinking and emotions.

This is why the Church has always fed us with the Word of God. She feeds it in our ears with the lessons and sermons. She feeds it in our eyes with the images in wood and stone and glass. The Church feeds it in our noses through incense offered to the Lord. The Church feeds us the Word of God in, with, and under the bread and wine.

We are what we eat. You belong to Christ, and are of Christ, because you have been fed Him. Make Him and His Word and His Body and Blood your steady diet. Be fed in great proportions. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.” (1Co 2:16-1 ESV) and, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. “ (Rom 8:5-6 ESV).

Who Are You?

Who_Are_You_album_cover

So many of the issues and problems in our society revolve around these questions of identity. Politicians claim you are theirs—or that they are yours, but at any rate you should agree with one of two parties and be Democrat or a Republican and support everything our government does. Corporations say you are consumers for their products, that you are a person defined by their products and their logos should be everywhere. The media define you as consumers of entertainment and pleasure, so that they can deliver you more and more. Sexual politics revolve and focus on this question of identity as well, reducing you to a person defined by your attractions and appetites: you are straight or gay or somewhere in between and this fact is the most important thing. Everyone and everything is trying to convince you to be who they say you are. This is the way of the world.

To all this Scripture gives a radical answer that throws us off-kilter and opens our lives to real freedom: you are none of these things. The Scriptures say you are a Creature of God, not just a meat-bag with appetites and attractions. The Scriptures say you are a Child of God through Jesus Christ, not just a rational animal to be entertained with flashing lights and spectacular spectaculars on screens around town. The Scriptures say you are an heir of the kingdom of Heaven, not only an American or a Canadian. That political identity is temporary. Our kingdom—that is, our hope and treasure and faith—is not of this world, because Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. We are eternal because Christ is eternal.

You are more than your products and desires and appetites and interests. You are more than your work and career. Of course, these things are important and gifts of God, but they are not the core of us. The core of us is a Creature of God, lost and condemned, but loved, purchased and won by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Gal 3:26-29 ESV)

This is radical. No one else claims this. No one else says this. You are so much in Christ that all these other identities listed in Galatians 3 fade away. You cannot get more radical than this.

But it does not mean our genders or sex or job or country or appetites and desires and preferences don’t matter. They matter greatly to our God and in our lives with one another. God would have us be Christ’s in all vocations and places in our lives. This means some vocations are off-limits for us who belong to God. Many of our preferences
Let us remember this when hearing debates and arguments. So many advocates and activists of every persuasion and issue want to define who you are and who they are on their terms. Remember you are Christ’s. Remember you are Sons and Daughters of the King. That is who you are.and desires and appetites are destructive and undermine our nature and calling to be Children of God. We are still male and female in this world and as we relate to one another. We are still Jewish or Greek, well, American or German or Italian by blood and genes and tax schedules and benefits. But we do not idolize these identities. Christ is our God, and we are His and He is in us.