On Tuesday, I was running around meeting with people, preparing worship, emailing, reading and making phone calls. I was busy and happy. But at one point of the day, I stopped for a moment because it was 2:00 pm and all of a sudden I became aware that I was starving. So, I did what any one would do. I stopped what I was doing and went to the kitchen and got my lunch and ate. And as I was eating, I realized that this connects into our scriptures for the past couple of weeks. So I decided to pray on it and to follow where it was taking me.
I was physically hungry and so I ate until I was satisfied. But this hunger is what intrigued me. What about spiritual hunger? What do we do when we realize that we have been famished spiritually? For the past six years, many of you know, I have been working full time for the preschool and serving hours here as well. Like Tuesday, I was going so fast all the time, constantly multitasking, that I had not felt the rising hunger in my soul. I was working through my spiritual hunger and not remembering to feed my soul. And all of a sudden, as I walked through the doors on Monday morning, I realized just how my soul was hungering for the word of the Lord. I was spiritually famished.
Spiritual hunger is not the same thing though as physical hunger. There is no sandwich we can buy or bag of chips we can eat that will satisfy this type of hunger. And it occurred to me, “I am probably not the only one to experience this.” I would venture to say that we all experience a hungering of the spirit when we have been challenged for long periods of time or when life has been so busy that we have been neglectful of our spiritual development and needs.
But when that hunger hits it cannot be ignored. It needs to be answer. It needs to be fed and nothing else can substitute for the hunger for the Lord. So I read, prayed, sang, and shared in the work of the Lord this week and began to feed that hunger and I am feeling more connected with God and myself than I have in a very long time. So how do you handle your hunger? How do you feed your souls? What are your signs of spiritual hunger?
I sat in my office while writing this sermon thinking of spiritual sustenance, listening to lively modern Christian rock and gazing at the plant I had brought in last spring all brown and very much dead and neglected. It too experienced a hungering, a thirsting and I wonder whether if left unattended would our souls look all brown and crunchy as that plant in my office did. I no longer remember what it was supposed to be, I think it may have flowered once. Needless to say, I don’t have much of a green thumb for indoor plants. What might revive the soul? For unlike the plant in my office our souls may wilt a little, may even go brown with neglect but it is never too late to start feeding the soul with the word of God. It is never too late to allow the bread of life to sustain and revive us.
The people flocked to Jesus. Our scriptures say that the people followed Jesus across the Sea of Galilee and straight into the city of Capernaum thirsting and hungering to feel that connection with God through Christ. They followed him longing for the continued wholeness that Christ gave to them, a wholeness that the people had not felt in years and perhaps had never felt in their temple. The people lived in a society that had little in the way of social mobility. They were ruled over by one tyrant prefect after another. The puppet king installed by the Romans, the Herod family, was corrupt and did not appreciate or honor the traditions of their people. Taxes were crippling, and debts soared. When illness hit, there was very little in the way of medicine perhaps some charms, salves and incantations. But very often they offered very little in the way of comfort to the individual in need and the cost of such care was more than what the average person of Jesus’ time could afford.
The people worked hard every day trying to provide for their families and to pay their debts to Rome, temple and their feudal Lords. Many of the people Jesus preached to did not own their own land. They worked from sun up to sun down and began again the next day and just prayed that God’s good graces would continue to keep them healthy. The people were in need. They suffered and worried for their well being. They hungered yes both physically and spiritually. They needed a word from God, a word that might get them through tomorrow and give them the spiritual strength they needed to continue on and perhaps make their lives a little easier. And Jesus, he offered this to them.
Jesus touched the lives of those who hungered for something that would be more lasting in their lives than the typical breads and cakes, fishes and meats they may have eaten. They hungered for strength of spirit. They needed the time to feel connected to something greater than themselves; and so do we. If Jesus were just over in the next town preaching and performing miracles, I would venture to say that we all would be taking a field trip over to have our souls fed with his word and our faiths strengthened by his touch.
For the past couple of weeks, we have talked about the feeding of the five thousand and the manna from heaven because it is a topic that we all struggle with in life. We all get caught up in the struggles of this world. Our stress around finances, jobs, juggling our day to day schedules, families, health and anything else that crops up as well, it all gets in the way. And when we become so focused upon the constant problem solving of this world, we become lost and broken. It is Christ that offers us the bread, the manna that sustains us longer than anything that perishes in this world. So remember what Christ said in our scriptures, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the son of man will give you”. So our challenge this week is to pick up that activity once more that connects us to our God connects us to Christ and allow for it to rebuild us and sustain us in ways that may have gone unattended to for a long time. For me it is prayer, study and participating in his work. What are those activities for you?
(based on John 6: 24-35)