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Food on our plate and music in the metro

I doubt if it takes too much work for most of us to recall those times as a child when we didn’t feel like eating what was on our plate. It’s close to a rite of passage. A common strategy employed by us on those occasions was to push the food around to make it look as if we’d eaten something. A common strategy employed by our parents (after they had told us about hungry children in other parts of the world) was to remind us that food on the plate couldn’t provide the nourishment we needed as long as it remained there. I remember my father would say, “I want to see that food on the inside looking out.”

I wonder if sometimes in our reading of God’s word we don’t fall into the same kind of thing and end up pushing a few verses around on our plate rather than internalizing them and allowing them to nurture us? We look at the text before us and mentally recite familiar factoids instead seeking the answer to penetrating questions like:  What is the big truth being communicated here? What would this have meant to its original audience? How does it speak to our lives today? If we haven’t addressed important questions like these, we’re missing out on important spiritual nutrients.

All of this is predicated on our understanding that the biblical witness is a not a collection of dry, dead documents—it is “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12). It is a message between a Father and His children. Paul will tell the church at Thessalonica he is grateful in regard to them because they received his message “not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Dead churches have a dead word, lukewarm churches have a lukewarm word, but living churches have a living word! Armed with this conviction, time in the word becomes biblical exploration with treasures to be unearthed at every turn.

The scene at the Washington D.C. metro is a familiar one—people are heading to work on a Friday morning in January. This location of this particular station means that most of them are employed by the federal government. Near one of the entrances a thirty-nine year old man is standing by a trashcan playing a violin. He’s wearing jeans, a tee shirt, and a baseball cap. The case lays open and there are a few bills and coins in it. He will play for about forty-five minutes as almost eleven hundred people pass by. Seven people stopped to listen for a bit before moving on; twenty-seven dropped in some money (totaling a little over thirty-two dollars); and 1,070 people pass by ignoring him.

The man’s name is Joshua Bell—a world class violinist. Three days before he has performed in front of a full house at Symphony Hall in Boston. The violin he is playing is a Stradivarius valued at 3.5 million dollars. He is part of an experiment being conducted by the Washington Post to see if commuters will notice the presence of the extraordinary among them. They don’t. If they see anything at all, it is a street musician playing music and trying to make a few bucks.

What they miss is a free performance of some of the greatest music known to man—Bach, Schubert, Mendelssohn, etc. The shoeshine lady complains that he is too loud.  The people standing in line to buy lottery tickets in the hope of one day getting lucky are clueless to the remarkably good fortune that is just a few feet away from them.

This is exactly the way it is with Scripture. We can look at it from a single level—you know, the “I’m just passing through real quick on my way somewhere” perspective. We won't see much--surface things that are often as confusing as clarifying. Or, we can take time to explore its many layers and be enriched, challenged, and shaped by God’s words for us.

Let’s slow down, drink deeply of God’s word and be nurtured by its truths.

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