Saturday, August 18, 2018

Year B, Pentecost 13, John 6:51-58, Give me Jesus

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen
We are a hungry people with cravings that long to be satisfied, and those cravings control our lives.
Craving: a powerful desire for something.  That’s the definition.
It’s a deep longing, a yearning, a wanting, a hunger and thirst that aches to be satisfied.
At their best, cravings play a crucial role in our lives.  We need food, we need water, and without them we die.  And so part of our natural makeup is that God has placed within us a craving, a hunger and thirst for these essentials of life so that we might seek them out and be satisfied.
This is true even for specific items.
Take salt, for example.  When we sweat, we lose the essential chemicals that salt contains, and so we must replenish them.  And so we crave things that are salty.  All animals do.
Near Sandpoint we have the Scotchman Peaks wilderness area.  There are mountain goats up there that are often present alongside the well hiked trail.
These goats have become accustomed to the frequent visits of humans and have even become accustomed to licking these visitors.
Wildlife biologists are quick to explain that the goats are not just friendly, they crave the salt that is present on our skin and see us as a ‘salt lick’, a place to replenish this natural requirement.
If you want to attract deer or other animals to a particular place, one of the ways is to set out a block of salt.  That’ll do it.
These are the natural and healthy cravings that are intended to sustain our lives.
We have other cravings that will destroy us.
There is an addictive element to this cycle of craving something, and then satisfying that craving.
It’s a most basic experience of pain and pleasure that holds us captive.
We hunger and satisfy ourselves with good food.
We thirst and satisfy ourselves with a drink.
Part of our fallen nature is that these most basic desires and satisfactions that are essential to life get distorted, to the point of being harmful to us.
Yes, we hunger and are satisfied, but some people so crave food that they eat to excess, and are never fully satisfied, and gain extraordinary amounts of weight to the point that their very lives are jeopardized.
And then we also find ourselves getting hooked satisfying cravings for things that are harmful to us.
Alcohol is one example.
Taken in moderation, alcoholic beverages are a natural form of beverage that are not harmful.
And yet, they are intoxicating.
Some people will crave the effect that alcohol has when consumed in a large quantity.
I’m one such person.
I liked the way I felt when I drank.
Karla is quite different.  She never could stand the feeling of intoxication, and so the most she would ever drink was a half glass of wine, or so.
What happens for people like me begins with the craving for the feeling of intoxication, the “buzz” that comes with drinking, and then the satisfaction when that craving is met.
Actually, the feelings of intoxication are the body’s adverse reaction to alcohol, and are intended to warn us, to alert us when enough is enough.
But if we crave that feeling, and seek to constantly satisfy it, eventually our bodies become accustomed to a level of alcohol in the system.  This is called habituation.  We might also refer to it as an increasing tolerance for alcohol.
What happens is that more and more alcohol is required to achieve the same feeling.
The next phase is that we become so accustomed to a certain amount of alcohol that our bodies experience withdrawal if we don’t get enough.  At this point we are not drinking for the pleasure it produces, but to avoid the pain of withdrawal.  We are hooked.  And we will drink even to the point of dying.
To crave something--
At its best it leads us to the most basic requirements of life.
At its worst it leads us down a pathway to death.
It’s not just substances that we crave.
We crave other things such as power and prosperity.
One of the most far reaching examples of this is what happened in Germany during the last century.
The Treaty of Versailles brought an end to the first world war, but it did so by imposing very punitive restrictions on the German nation.  Coupled with that was the great depression that left Germany both powerless and impoverished.
Into the vacuum of powerlessness and impoverishment Hitler came with a promise.
To use today’s lingo, he offered the promise to the German people to ‘make Germany great again’ by promising that which they craved: power and prosperity.
In seeking satisfy this craving for power and prosperity, the German people were led down a path that led ultimately to their destruction, again, during World War II.  Atrocities were committed all in the name of satisfying these two basic desires.
As a nation we also have an unquenchable hunger and thirst for power and prosperity.
We might defend ourselves and maintain that we’ve not been led down a pathway like Germany, but the craving is there, nonetheless.
Imagine a president of our country proposing that we downsize our military and relinquish some of our power.  Some politicians, such as Ron Paul has suggested that we do that, maintaining that we just can’t afford to do that.  His candidacy never got very far.
Our craving for power is such that we would never willingly accept being less than the most powerful nation in the world.
Likewise with prosperity.
We want to be the largest economy in the world.  And there seems to be no end to our appetite for material things.
One example of our prosperity is our phones.
Our appetite for cell phones, that didn’t even exist a few years ago, is such that we have made Apple, the maker of the iPhone the first Trillion dollar company in our nation.  The only companies that have exceeded Apple’s net worth are oil companies in China and Saudi Arabia, also signs of our prosperity.
And every politician in our country is judged based on the effect of their policies on the economy.
Power and prosperity, two of our basic cravings and desires.
The problem is that you can never have enough of either to be satisfied, and the quest for both power and prosperity will end the end, destroy us.

St. Augustine wrote:
“You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they rest in you.”
These words from the opening lines of his “Confessions” might be paraphrased to read:
“We crave you, O Lord, and we will never be satisfied until we are filled with you.”
From our Gospel lesson:
“Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.”
That we hunger and thirst is no secret.
But the only thing that will satisfy the yearning within our souls is Jesus.
Everything else will, in the end, lead to our destruction.
Jesus, will lead us to God our Father, and our life and salvation.
On the surface, it doesn’t seem so.
We crave power, and Jesus died on the cross.
We crave prosperity, and Jesus told the rich young man to sell all that he had, and come follow him.
In 1 Timothy 6 Paul writes:
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.”
And as regards power, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians:
“For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
We are a curious people, we who follow Jesus.
In a world consumed with the craving for pleasure, for prosperity, and for power, we kneel at the altar to receive a morsel of bread, and a few drops of wine.
It is hardly enough to satisfy the hunger and thirst within us, one would think, hardly enough.
Except that it is Jesus.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says:
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Only Jesus.
There is a reason Jesus was first laid in a manger, a feeding trough,
Because he, and he alone, is the one food which nourishes the soul and satisfies the desire of every living thing.
Would that we might all recognize that the craving that lies deep within us is not for food, or drink, or pleasure, power, and prosperity, but for him.

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