What are you hungry for?
What is it that you truly hunger for, what you are looking for to feel fulfilled in life? I spent some time this week listening to people’s hungers; they would go on about their latest triathlon results or the shopping trips and the atrocious prices of back to school supplies. There were people wondering how safe their neighborhood was and wanted more than anything to know what was going on. I wish they would tell me, one lady said, that there was a meth lab shut down in the house down the street.
I heard kids not being allowed to say what they hungered for; they were bombarded with all kinds of ideas for what they wanted painted on their cheeks. Some would accept the suggestions, others would have their own ideas that they would finally mention in a whisper. Some knew what they wanted as soon as they sat down, others took a long time to even get up the courage to come sit near the goofy looking clown with the silly outfit. Then there were the unspoken wishes that I could only guess at. Who knows out of the number of kids I met which ones were living in abusive houses where addiction or violence is a regular part of life, as normal as the wallpaper in the living room. Who knows how many are not getting enough food to eat, or enough love to grow healthy hearts, minds and souls. The reality is that I met and chatted with at least one child who has lived with so much trauma that he or she is already suffering the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Then there are my friends and family and connections. I asked one young adult, and she said, “I am hungry for restored faith in the base goodness of people.” Wow.
One fellow said that there are five major issues that people are hungry for, and most people hunger for one or two of the following:
They feel abandoned and hunger for home
They feel betrayed and are fighting for justice
They feel helpless, like an outcast and crave belonging
They feel guilty or ashamed and wish for forgiveness
They feel controlled by a cruel world and long for connection.
What do you feel when you think about your place in the world? Do you feel abandoned? Betrayed? Helpless? Guilty? Controlled? Do you feel some combination of those? Do you long for home, or justice, or belonging, or forgiveness, or connection?
Jesus says, regardless of what you hunger for, I am the answer. I have come so that you might have a fulfilled and rich life. I have come that no matter what unfairness you have struggled with, what terrible deeds you have committed, or how the world has treated you, you will be fed.
What a bold statement! So bold that his followers find it too weird to accept. How can this Jesus say such crazy things? Many leave, rather than accept his invitation.
They might be leaving because they think he’s preaching cannibalism, or because he’s insulting the Law that says to not eat meat with blood in it. They might be leaving because they don’t understand that he is being metaphorical and poetic in this teaching.
Or maybe they can’t handle the basic idea at the root of the scandal of Jesus’ teaching. God has come down into the world with its nitty gritty, painful dirty life. God is living through Jesus, the word made flesh, which means that God can interact with us in the daily tasks and challenges. For those who are used to God as a great ‘theoretical concept’, this is a terribly upsetting idea.
The followers that leave can’t stomach the scandal of such a repulsive idea, and when we take the bread and dip it in the cup, we shouldn’t take this for granted. It was weird back when John wrote about it, and it is weird now. Jesus says, “Does this difficult teaching offend you?" A better translation might be, “does this offensive teaching scandalize you?”
It still does. We look around at the world and wonder why on earth God would want to have anything to do with such a pack of lying, betraying, broken, lonely and helpless bunch of creatures. But the story of God we have received down the years points to exactly that. God provides a covenant of hope with the people, God provides mana in the wilderness, God accompanies them into exile when they thought God was all about place.
God pushes the idea of community when they feel most impotent under the rule of the Romans. Does this scandalize you? Does it scare you that God may still be here?
Jesus calls us to believe just that, and I find it comforting to know that his word for believe means to have confidence in, or to trust in. Trust in, dare to trust that in the simple act of eating bread, God is in your life in the midst of the chaos and the fear. Practise trust, pretend you trust, experiment trusting in that crazy idea.
Put on your safety gear of truth, integrity, courageous peace, faith, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray constantly for yourself, your friends and neighbors, and everyone here who gathers together. Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, and that I may declare it boldly. Pray that we, as a community continue to look for the hidden promise that we can all, regardless of what we hunger for, find the hope and the healing that comes in God’s time to every one of us. Thanks be to God for the mystery of the gospel message of Jesus, the word made flesh. Amen!