Thoughts on life, leadership and the movement called the church by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

by Brian C. Hughes, Senior Pastor

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Easter Soul Prep Day 6: Visualizing the Shot

When I used to play golf a lot (I wasn't any good then, either), I utilized a common golf technique in my warm-up routine: visualizing the shot. I would step up, practice my approach, practice my swing and hold it. I would look out and, even though I had not hit the ball, I would see it in my mind. Standing there, with my clubhead behind my back in the finish position, I imagined the ball's perfectly designed travel. A little draw, 210 yards in the air, rolling another 60 on the ground and settling 5 feet from (and below) the cup for yet another routine birdie putt.

Of course, it almost never worked out that way. If only I could have written down my imaginary score!

Fortunately, though, the repetitive practice of that technique gave me some tools that translated into my own Bible study, and the results were much more...promising. In encourage you to 'see' what is happening in scripture with details the words alone often leave out.

For example, in John 6, Jesus tests Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat." John tells us it's a test and that Jesus knew what he was going to do. Can you see Jesus' face as he asks Philip the question? Can you? I can. He's got a half smile; His eye's are bright and wide with the anticipation of the big thing God is about to do; but those eyes also scan the faces of the other disciples - the smile never leaving - to see if anyone might get this right.

And then, imagine this scene: Philip responds with a little attitude about the expense of buying so much food, while Andrew drags some kid up to Jesus with a $4.99 Long John Silver's special of fish bites & hushpuppies - as if that will make a dent in the problem. Can you see it? Now, do you see Andrew as sincere or sarcastic? What was he thinking? Did he have some kind of Divine tap on the shoulder...did he somehow know that Jesus was due for another miracle?

Ahhhh....maybe Andrew noticed the little half smile on Jesus' face and thought, "Yep. I've seen that look before!"

There is NOTHING about reading the Bible that excites me more than doing this kind of reading between the lines and visualizing the picture.

John 6 comes at just the right time. After the....uhhhh....confusing and difficult ending we had in chapter 5, we now find Jesus back on tangibly solid ground in chapter 6. That is, of course, until he's walking on water! Speaking of which, note what's missing in the John account: Peter doesn't get out of the boat, and therefore doesn't sink. And John doesn't tell us why they were scared when they saw Jesus (other Gospel writers tell us it was because they thought he was a ghost). Because John was written later than the other Gospels and because he was there when this happened, we know he knew all the details. So, why did he feel those were unimportant to tell his audience?

Lots of great stuff here. I could write all day. Hope you take some time to read John 6 today and, most importantly, spend some time with God!


Ginger said...

This chapter gave me LOTS of things to think about and consider, but I have to admit that, even though I've read John a number of times, I do not remember the end of Chapter 6 where some of the disciples desert Jesus. I thought that was an interesting thing for John to talk about. Then I wondered what I would have done if I had just heard someone tell me that in order to have eternal life, I need to eat his flesh and drink his blood. It sounds really crazy. Of course, we have the advantage of reading it, pondering it, and putting it all together with how The Story ends. However, those with Jesus had the advantage of seeing his facial expressions and hearing the tone of his voice and experiencing his presence in human form...something we just don't necessarily get from reading the accounts afterwards. I often wonder what my response to Jesus would have been had I been there with him.

jf said...

The disciples had seen Jesus turn water into wine at the wedding. It seems to me like they should have known that he was going to perform a miracle that would feed these people. Brian, I'd be interested to hear your take on something. In this text,

"54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
55For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
56He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.
57As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.
58This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever."

Catholics are taught that the most important part of Church on Sunday is the blessing and eating of the bread (the body of Christ) and drinking the wine (the blood of Christ).
The entire rest of the service is basically irrelevant. At PCC, we seem to look on communion as a ritual. It’s rarely practiced. Some hit or miss attendees in the congregation
may even think we never practice communion. I'm not sure how our church reconciles this piece of scripture. Can you shed some light on that for me?

Brian C. Hughes said...


I really appreciate you bringing this up. It's important for 2 reasons:

1) the matter of communion is important; and

2) the matter of how we interpret scripture is important.

First, the latter. We often interpret scripture in the way it was taught to us. This is appropriate and good. But sometimes, we need to look at Scripture with fresh eyes, like we have never seen it before.

Verses 54-58 are a great example of this. Many churches and denominations would consider it to be orthodox to teach that these verses are a clear reference to the elements of Communion. They would contend that Jesus is clearly saying that salvation comes through the taking of the elements in the practice of communion.

I see it very differently. I think Jesus' loose reference to the bread and wine here is completely metaphorical, as his real reference is about his broken body and spilled blood. He's saying, "you've got to follow me all the way, live like I want you to live." The language Jesus uses here is very similar to what he says in John 15:1-8. We gladly receive those verses as metaphor. Why wouldn't we do the same here? Salvation does not come through communion. Romans 10:9 seem to make this clear.


That doesn't mean I don't think Communion is important. I simply don't see it as the central piece in worship and devotion, as my brothers in other parts of Christianity do (Catholics, Episcopals, etc.)

1) there is no scripture mandating a frequency of this practice.

2) In the context Jesus lived, his followers would have related it most closely with the Passover meal (since, in fact, that WAS the first Lord's Supper), and they would, therefore, have viewed it as an annual event, not a weekly one.

3) Because Jesus often used symbols and because of the symbolic meaning of every aspect of the passover, I believe that the elements are purely, if powerfully, symbolic.

4) My take, then, is that Communion should be meaningful to all participants when celebrated. For something to become ritual and rote is for it to lose it's heartfelt meaning.

Now, this sounds like judgement. I do not mean it to be that way. I know there are many folks who take communion every week and find it overwhelmingly meaningful. But because there is no frequency mandate, I feel that each church and each Christian has the liberty to work this out for themselves.

At PCC, we do it when we feel like it's time. Usually, this mean 3 or 4 times a year on a Sunday morning and another couple of times at a CORE meeting or special worship service.

Nothing here is meant to insult anyone, any church or any denomination. Just my respectful perspective. Hope this helps.

Brian C. Hughes said...


A quick note to say that I agree. A first-hearer would think, "this is very weird". I think I would have felt the same way, though, as you say, we can't hear the inflection and the non-verbal cues here. Thanks for the insight, though. I don't think I really noticed that before in the way you brought it up.