Recently my wife and I watched a rather interesting six-part documentary titled: Eat, Race, Win. It’s a dual storyline sort of account; one that traces both the experience of a high-end cycling team during the 104thTour de France, and the experience of their small but high-caliber food support team (Note: You only need the first 42 second of this video).
Watching, you get a sense of how the team’s riding flows from its feeding. A good Tour de France team-chef serves up food calculated to meet the team’s needs at each stage of the race. He or she is not merely a deliverer of culinary wonders, but also a student of both the athletes and the race itself. Interestingly, quality matters greatly, and not just for snooty reasons of high-end athletics. Rather, the team-chef strives to serve food the cyclists WANT to eat because they NEED to eat it…and a lot of it…think something like 5,000-6,000 calories daily. Quality food helps to increase the athletes’ desire for the high capacity consumption so essential to their success.
It strikes me that there is a certain parallel here with the preaching and teaching of Scripture in Jesus’ church. The Christian life is something like a bicycle marathon – with all the highs and lows, peaks and valleys, speed and danger, exhilaration and grinding endurance of a Tour de France. To ride this race, we as believers burn incalculable spiritual energy. As a result, we routinely need high calorie meals consisting of the food that is God’s Word. Riding our race without God’s Word is like trying to finish the Tour de France while starving. Though each of us can and should feed on that Word for ourselves, self-feeding ultimately won’t suffice. Rather, in order to gain all the calories necessary, we also NEED to hear God’s Word preached and taught in corporate worship. When it comes to the mealtime of worship, our ability to feed well depends greatly on the quality of the meal served. Of course, the quality of the ingredients is never in question – indeed, who could do better than the organic, unadulterated speech of God himself? But, fashioning those ingredients into a meal that we WANT to consume (even if, at times, that want is less a matter desire and more a matter of commitment) needs the services of a committed chef; a chef who can take the raw material of the Word and expertly fashion it into an unbeatable meal specific to each of us as riders in our individual stages of the Tour de Christian Life (okay…that last play on words is a bit corny…I know).
Praise God that we come to feast in worship under the care of the Master Chef par excellence…namely the Holy Spirit; he of whom Jesus said: “…the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you…” (John 14:26)…and…“He [the Spirit] will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you…” (John 16:14). The Spirit of God makes of God’s Word a rich, tasty, irresistible meal, guaranteed to fuel us just right for every stage of our race. If we sometimes resist eating all that he prepares (the vegetables perhaps), then it only makes us arrogant and unwise competitors. When the Chef serves up a meal it behooves us to actually come to the table, and then not to rise until we’ve scarfed up every last crumb. After all, who wants to bike the next stage on an empty stomach?
Now, where do Christian preachers and teachers fit in; the gifted elder-pastors and others to whom the Spirit entrusts the preparation and actual serving of his meal? Well, they are the sous-chefs. They are the ones who labor in the kitchen under the Chef’s direction and, when the time is right, bring out the meal the Chef intends to serve. To be a sous-chef in the Spirit’s kitchen is a glorious thing, particularly because his sous-chefs are also riders privileged to eat of the final product. Of course, this role is only one of many on the wider team. The athletes need more than just the food service folks to finish their race! Still, for those with a heart to cook, nothing beats the opportunity to chop a few carrots and sear a few steaks in preparation for another team meal!