A local Word on the Word

by Pastor Keith Louthan
Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Anybody remember Duff’s Smorgasbord? If you, like me, are in your mid-40s and grew up in an all-you-can-eat family, you just might. Duff’s was a precursor to Golden Corral or the Asian mega-buffets of today. The name captured the idea — Smorgasbord. I do not have any idea of the formal definition of smorgasbord, but it sounds like a plate full of food. Not only did Duff’s offer all-you-could-eat, but it did so with style. At Duff’s, you did not move through the serving line; the buffet moved past you. You could take a little bit, or a lot of whatever you wanted. Anything you did not want you simply allowed to move past you untouched on the revolving carousel of culinary delight. For a kid, Duff’s was awesome. 

Sometimes I fear that we approach our relationship with God in much the same way. We ask God to pass by us when we are hungry, and we take a little bit of this and a little bit of that. The stuff we like — his love, his comfort, his compassion, his grace, his forgiveness — all arrayed on our plate just the way we want them. 

The less comfortable stuff — his holiness, his righteousness, his wrath, his judgment — we let that stuff slip right on by on the carousel. 

“Who eats that stuff anyway?” we ask. “In Christ, we are set free!” we proclaim. We make great use of books like “God’s Promises for Your Every Need, where verses from the Bible are isolated and categorized by situation. All we need to do is turn to the correct tab. Certainly, the Bible has provided us with many great and precious promises related to our lives in this world and books that organize those by category have their place. But their place should never replace the Bible, which is correctly referred to as, “the word of God.” 

John’s gospel introduces Jesus in this way: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 

In the fifth grade my parents gave me “The Living Bible,” a paraphrase of the scriptures written in words that I could understand. John 1:14 says that Jesus Christ is the ultimate “Living Bible,” in this case not a paraphrase but an exact translation. If we want to understand and know God, we need to study and know Jesus. 

John 1:16 continues, “And of his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” Two words are vital to our understanding here. The first is fullness. Jesus Christ does not offer God in parts. John 1:14 says that Jesus Christ, in his flesh, reveals the glory of God, full of grace and truth. John 1:16 emphasizes that we receive God in his fullness, or we do not receive him at all. 

Therein lies the second vital word: receive. At Duff’s Smorgasbord, you did not receive; you took what you wanted. In Christ, we do not take from him a little bit here and a little bit there. We cannot divide Christ up and take his love and ignore his judgment. In Christ, grace does not trump or compromise truth. In Christ, each is expressed fully, in perfect harmony. So we receive Christ; we do not take from him to suit our taste du jour. Instead, as John 1:12-13 says, “to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” 

Having received his fullness, let’s walk in his glory, full of grace and truth.  

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