Proper 9, Year B, RCL
1 Kings 19:4-8
John 6:35, 41-51
If you don’t have cable TV or haven’t watched the Travel Channel recently, you may have missed out on a great little show my husband and I enjoy called Man vs. Food. On this show, the chummy host Adam Richman, visits restaurants in cities around the country specifically tasting and describing not-to-be-missed specialties, and the incredible food challenges some of these places have. By food challenge I mean: attempting to drink 16 milkshakes in one sitting, eating a plate covered in burger and fries that weighs over 5 lbs., devouring a 72 oz. steak, with salad and sides to boot. All for the chance to have his name and face immortalized on the wall, and a prized food-challenge winner t-shirt. My husband and I have been to a few of the places our friendly host has showcased, and we have enjoyed participating in the spoils of his great food reporting. Rather than the bread of life, Adam seems to find salvation in a cheeseburger in paradise.
Recently while watching the show, and as a frequent restaurant consumer, I have been struck by the sheer size of the portions and expected consumption delivered to patrons – exemplified to the extreme by the food challenges – but still a concern in the real world day-to-day of health-conscious American diners. Food is a constant and abundant resource in the American lifestyle – food of every variety, ethnicity, seasoning, and style. And yet there are hungry people in our midst.
Perhaps I should speak to you of spiritual hunger, the kind that Jesus was pointing to in his words to the disciples, and the woman at the well – those who believe will never hunger or thirst again… and I will get to that, but the fact of the matter is – Jesus didn’t just talk about ethereal things. Before he focused on his message of hope and salvation, Jesus fed people. Our Gospel selections from John have showed us this throughout the summer. Jesus fed thousands who were hungry, and when they were satisfied, he taught them.
His first work, his first response to the crowds were to their most basic need – providing an abundance of resources that allowed the weak to be made strong, the poor to be satisfied, placing those who could not afford lunch on a level playing field with those who could. Fish, bread, wine, water. These tangible, necessary, life-giving resources were first and foremost components of Jesus ministry to the people he met in his days here on earth. It was after he fed those who were hungry that he spoke them of the bread of life – the gift of abundant life that comes from the experience of knowing Jesus and caring for and feeding others. As faithful followers of Christ, we have a legacy to uphold alongside of the fulfillment of our own spiritual hunger.
Spiritual hunger is real – and there are many ways to seek satisfaction in the face of this need. Many of you come here to be fed by the communities that gather through our parish life – communal worship and Holy Eucharist, fellowship time at coffee hour, Sunday school, children and youth ministry projects, musical endeavors, even the very real practice of feeding others through our relationship with IHN, Pilgrim’s Inn and other community outreach organizations.
If your need for spiritual practice and fulfillment has brought you here – I hope that it is being satisfied in a way that is truly, life-giving, challenging, active and reflective in the process of developing your faith and spiritual life.
But also know that our life here is not only about creating a space of spiritual sanctuary, a resting place from the busyness of the world out there – it is a place that serves as a constant reminder of Christ’s love for you – for YOU – and this body of Christ that we recognize when we gather here has an agenda, a mission. As members of the body, we open our doors inviting others into a relationship with God in Christ, inviting others to feed on the Bread of Life. But in the midst of that, in the life we proclaim as doers of the Word, as followers of Christ, our call to action is clear:
It is that of a gentle hand that points to those standing outside of our doors, reminding you that the choices you make with your time, your talent and your treasure is tied to the needs of those surrounding you – those for whom the source of the next meal is not certain. We, who have consistent access to basic resources: clean drinkable water, grocery stores, pantries and refrigerators filled to meet our every day needs, we have a responsibility to our God and to our neighbors.
We, who are fed by the gifts of bread and wine, we who find spiritual edification in the faith that when we gather in Christ’s name he is with us, we are called upon to get the message – if you love me, if you know me, if you follow my actions, you will feed my people. Their hunger is real too.
How do we do this? How do we live this? At every meal in which you partake – pray – give thanks for the food you are about to receive, and remember those who are hungry. There is a saying in the way our Anglican prayer book was developed: lex orandi, lex credenda: Praying shapes believing. If your constant prayer is that you might taste the bread of life, that you might know the one in whom there is no hunger, then your ears may become more attuned to those in need in your community. Your budget may become more flexible when you are given an opportunity to give to another. Your basket may become a little more full at the grocery store when you find an extra dollar or two to pick up the cost of some basic meal provisions. Your decision to find a way to volunteer some of your time and talent may lead you to the door of Pilgrim’s Inn. Prayers have many ways of working, the first being that you open yourself to the possibility that God may be at work in you, and that you may be able to serve as the hands and feet of God in this world.
Adam Richman of Man vs. Food faces one kind of food challenge on his show – one of consumption and entertaining physical comedy. Today I give to you a food challenge of your own. I challenge you to consider your own desire to be fulfilled – to be nourished physically and spiritually. Consider the possibility that these two things are tied together, not only that your own hunger is satisfied, but that your spiritual hunger to know Christ, to taste the Bread of Life may be fulfilled in following the actions of Jesus: May you eat and be satisfied and may you share your next meal with God and your neighbor. Amen.
Delivered: Sunday, August 9, 2009