Let’s imagine. . .
Imagine you are invited to a friend’s house for dinner. You walk into the dining room and find a table eloquently set with fine china, a warmly colored table cloth, matching cloth napkins that are folded in an attractive way, lights that are dimmed, and candles that are lit. You notice fresh flowers as the centerpiece.
Now imagine the food you expect to be served. Most likely your mind does not go to hot dogs on gooey white buns with a side of potato chips and a Twinkie for dessert!
What do you expect will happen around this table? Probably you are going to sit for a while and enjoy good conversation. You’ll spend time listening and responding to one another as you enjoy the delicious food.
Now take some time to imagine your Coffee Break group gathering around a table that is well prepared. It is a table that God has set in advance. It is inviting. It gives the impression that what happens here is out of the ordinary. It is an invitation to gather and stay a while. In fact, the host of this meal is Jesus himself. He invites everybody to his banquet; the poor, the lame, the crippled, the blind. He offers the richest of fares when it comes to spiritual food, His Word. All are welcome and all are invited to come hungry. The table is set.
What happens at our Coffee Break tables when Jesus is the host; when we fill ourselves with the food only he can offer?
We experience a little bit of what John experienced in his crazy wild dream in Revelation 10. An angel was preaching a sermon (explosive with thunder) from the Book and it was a sermon unlike any John had heard. Of course John had to take careful notes so he could remember all the information of the sermon. A voice told John to take the book from which the huge angel was preaching and then instructed him to eat it. Stop gathering information and eat this book. So he did. He ate the book.
When John put away his notebook and pen, when he stopped listening to gather information, he put aside the way many of us are culturally trained to read. We want to master the text. We want to analyze it, criticize it, and make our own judgments about it. We want to bring it under our control; filter it through our own perceptions, desires, and needs so that we can use it in a way that meets our agenda. We control what we are reading for our own purposes. Informational reading is self-controlled with a desire to know more.
When John ate the book, when he digested it, he ingested it so that if became a part of his being. His body assimilated it so that it informed what he said and did. It gave energy and health to John’s body. The Book transformed him because God was in control, not John. John became more rather than just knowing more. John became what he ate!
So how do we go about “eating” God’s Word at our Coffee Break tables?
It starts with changing our posture to allow Jesus to be the host. We get to hear from him and he intends to change our lives. He is in control. The authority lies in the Bible, not us. Go ahead. Look at the facts of the passage you are studying, but don’t stay there. Don’t merely read the Bible passage so that you can fill in your study guides and give an easy answer in your group discussion. Rather, allow yourself time to ask more reflective questions so that the passage becomes assimilated into who you are. Questions like:
- If this is true, what difference might it make in my life?
- What does this tell me about God (Jesus)? How does this change what I have thought of him so far?
- How does this passage speak of God’s love for me?
- What do I resonate with in these words? What is disturbing to me?
- What remains a mystery to me?
- Given where I’m at in my spiritual life, what might God be asking me to do as a result of the Bible reading?
The table is set and Jesus is waiting to welcome you. You join good company at his table.
He is ready to do something new and creative in you if you are willing to give him control and allow the Bible to pierce and poke, and be the living breathing thing that it is. Invite a friend to join you. All are welcome to come eat the Book and all will leave full.
We’d love to hear from you.
- How have you experienced Jesus as the host of your Coffee Break conversations?
- How have you moved people from information gathering to transformation in your groups?
(Many thoughts in this article are based on Eugene Peterson’s book, Eat this Book. You are encouraged to read it!)