Fish Sandwiches: The Delight Of Receiving God’s Promises, by Troy Schmidt
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Tyndale Blog Network. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
Despite the fact that there is much to appreciate about this book, reading it gave me a strong sense of unease and inauthenticity. The author speaks a great deal about God’s provision of healthy and necessary food in the feeding of the five thousand (and the subsequent feeding of the four thousand) through fish and bread, but shows a picture on the cover (and throughout the book) of an unhealthy fish sandwich that was not what Christ provided to the hungry crowds who came to hear Him speak. Furthermore, the inauthenticity of the book is heightened by the fact that the author is himself a vegetarian and thus uninterested in eating what Jesus provided the crowd and also in the awkward position of serving for others that which he does not wish to consume. Perhaps the author is not aware of the tensions and contradictions that result even from the basic title and symbolism of the book–it is interesting that he jumps from fish and bread to fish sandwiches (a rather anachronistic jump, it should be noted) as well, showing a distinct lack of knowledge in the titular subject matter of his book.
This particular book is about 200 pages long and is divided into twelve chapters. The author begins with a chapter on hunger (1) before moving to the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000, which the author considers the second-biggest miracle in the Bible (2). The author then speaks of God’s knowledge of our needs (3) and the compassion of his heart (4). After that there is a discussion of the promises of provision (5) and spiritual health (6). Warming up to his theme of talking about God’s promises, he continues with a discussion of the promise of God’s power (7) and of community (8), all of which are filled with commentaries on Bible verses. There is then a discussion of the promise of fulfillment (9) as well as of blessing (10), in which he discusses the history of the Tupperware company with the reference of leftovers. Finally, the author closes with chapters on the promise of eternity with the bread of life (11) and then a chapter on communion which urges the reader to take and eat (12), after which the book includes as appendices the miracles of the feeding of the five thousand and four thousand along with some promises from the scripture and various notes.
There is certainly a great deal to enjoy about this book. For one, the author does a good job at discussing the Bible along with relevant external content, including some thoughtful pop culture analysis of the importance of third spaces where everyone knows your name as well as Rolling Stones tracks. Like many writers, though, he fails to provide a sense of balance. There are a great many books like this one that focus on God’s promises to believers, and certainly people need to be reminded of them. However, people also need to be reminded about the promises they have made to God through conversion and baptism and the obligations of loving obedience that they owe to Him, and that is not something that this book really touches on at all. All too often writers make it seem as if God is a divine genie in a bottle providing for one’s needs and plugging one into communion with Himself and others through the sacrifice of His son Jesus Christ and do not think about what they are being asked to do as a result of having received so great and so undeserved a blessing.