- August 26, 2018
- 08:00 AM
Sermon for August 26, 2018 (Proper 16 B)
Offered by Nathan Ferrell at The Episcopal Church of Saint Mary
Texts: 1 Kings 2.10-12, 3.3-14; Psalm 111; John 6.56-69
Title: Are You Hungry?
“Whoever eats me will live because of me… the one who eats this bread will live forever” (John 6.57,58).
My fellow disciples: are you hungry? What is it that you hunger and thirst for?
Please reflect on this with me. Truly and honestly, what is it that you desire, that you crave for? What is it that your soul is crying out for?
I hope that it will not surprise any of you to hear me say that people are hungry. Everywhere. In every big city, in every small village, on every continent, speaking every language. People are hungry.
Thankfully, a much lower percentage of people are physically hungry now than ever before in recorded human history. The world has made great strides against extreme hunger in recent decades, although any amount of starving people is too much.
But it is not physical hunger that Jesus is addressing here in the Gospel of John.
People are hungry. You are hungry. I am hungry.
Earlier in this sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus incredibly provided dinner to the crowd of five thousand with five barley bread loaves and two fish. The people were so amazed that they wanted to make him their king! That bread must have tasted seriously good!
But now, all of a sudden, many of these very same people stop listening to Jesus because they don’t like what he is saying about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. It sounds creepy. It sounds weird, right?
Absolutely! Do you know that the early churches were often accused of cannibalism? This was false, of course, but when casual observers heard Christians talking about eating the body of Christ and drinking the blood of Christ, what were they to think?
In our Gospel reading, this same idea seems to offend many and they turn around and leave Jesus behind.
Notice: they liked it when he gave him a free dinner with good fish and bread. But when Jesus starting asking them to trust him about these deep matters of the Spirit?
Nah, the crowds were not quite ready to go that far.
Isn’t this such a typical human kind of response? As long as someone is saying the things that we like, and is giving us the things that we like, then we’ll support them. Certainly.
But…if you start confusing us and saying things that we don’t like, or start asking us to make changes in our own lives or in the way that we think, forget it!
We’ll ditch you in a quick New York minute.
Listen, my friends: people are hungry. Everyone knows this! Everyone I know feels this hunger, and lives with this craving.
The problem is that it’s too easy to stay on the surface and make quick decisions based on pros and cons. Does this person help me or hinder me? Does this group assist my cause or are they competition?
In light of this tendency, it is remarkable to see how Jesus did not try to amend his message or change his tactics in order to please the crowds.
Our contemporary world seems to live and die by the rules of marketing and appearance. Everything is done – or not done – on the basis of public perception.
In one sense, this has always been true among those who desire influence within society. But our social media tools have amplified the public voice in such a way that it seems like sheer heresy to suggest that we ignore it.
That we not care about what people think of us.
Just consider: if you are an avid Instagram user, imagine posting an unflattering image of yourself, on purpose, once a day.
On my goodness – what would happen?! Would you lose followers? Would people stop tuning in to see your daily image of beauty?
If you have ever looked scrolled through Facebook, have you not noticed how everyone looks amazing and beautiful and healthy and happy?
You see, everyone is hungry. Even all of those people on Facebook and Instagram. Maybe especially those people on Facebook and Instagram!
But what are they hungry for? What is it that people really want? What is it that you hunger and thirst for?
This is a such difficult question to answer, and most of the time I do not even know how to answer this myself.
Yesterday we returned from taking another group up Katahdin in Baxter State Park. We brought 3 young people to the summit for their very first time.
But this is the fifth time that I’ve been to the top. So why do I feel the need to go back and do it again? What is this hunger that drives me toward these kinds of experiences? I’m still trying to answer that question, hoping to understand myself and why I do what I do.
It may be that this is too much, that we will never really know ourselves, but I think that the example of Solomon point us in the right direction for understanding these deep desires of the heart.
Nearly one thousand years before our Lord Jesus walked this earth, the God of Israel appeared to young Solomon in a dream and said, “Ask what I should give you.” God says to him, “What is it that you want? What is it that you hunger for?”
This is the same question that God asks you and me – all the time. Every day.
What is it that we desire?
And how did Solomon answer? The young man did NOT ask for wealth or fame, not for a long life or to beat all of his enemies.
Instead, he asked God for understanding. For wisdom. Solomon asked for discernment. For discernment! In order to tell the difference between good and evil.
Solomon points us to a deeper way. To a path that is truer and more real than the surface level, deeper than public opinion and self-interest.
To discern the difference between good and evil. If this sounds perhaps a bit like what you truly want, like that mysterious thing for which you yourself hunger and thirst, then let me invite you to walk together in the Way of Love.
There is a simple little brochure about this in your bulletin. This was published and broadcast at our church’s recent General Convention down in Austin, Texas.
The Way of Love offers a simple path for going deeper, for growing in the presence and the truth of God.
These seven practices have been drawn from the lives of countless millions who have eaten the bread of heaven and who have pursued the wisdom of God.
There is no magic in this Way of Love, but there is discernment. And deep wisdom. Does everyone see that brochure? Do you see the seven practices in the diagram on the front of the brochure and your bulletin? The seven practices are these:
Seven simple practices for living a life that has eternal value. For living a life that is not chained to public perception nor managed to maximize your earning potential.
This is a path for living a life that has eternal significance, because it is a life of depth, truth, honesty, and reality.
In truth, this Way of Love is simply a re-framing of our baptismal covenant – a way of understanding that life which we were brought into when baptized. And a life into which we gladly bring Alden Gulliver on this day.
After so many others turned around and went home, Simon Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6.68-69).
So my friends and fellow disciples: what is it that you hunger and thirst for?
If you share a hunger and a thirst for something deep and real and true, then you are in the right place. And you are on the right path.
Go deeper, my friends. Ask for wisdom, understanding and discernment. And walk with our Lord Jesus in his amazing Way of Love.
If you do this, I promise that you will never be disappointed. Amen.
SCRIPTURE: New Testament, Old Testament
OCCASION: Ordinary Time