Hungry for Life

All of America has now scene and laughed at

The snickers bar commercial with Betty White playing football.

You know the

It first ran a few years ago

A group of young college guys is playing a pick-up game of tackle football in the mud.

Betty White, the National treasure herself,

in her 90s, with a shock of white hair, is in the huddle, they break,

she goes out for a pass

and gets laid out by an opponent with a crunch.

Back in the Huddle, someone asks the Golden Girl, “Mike, what’s your deal?!”

She says: “What? you’ve been riding me all day!”

Another player says: “Yeah, you’re playing like Betty White out there.”

Maybe we don’t know what’s going on the first time we see the commercial but

Soon we find out.

Someone hands Betty a snickers bar.

She takes a bite, and she is instantly turned into Mike,

A muscular, young 20-year-old,

who heads back out onto the field, ready to compete.

The commercial ends, encouraging us to buy a snickers, because:

“You’re not you when you’re hungry.”

Our text today from the sixth chapter of John’s gospel

comes on the heels of Jesus having just fed five thousand hungry people.

Jesus nearly instantly

satisfies the hunger of this large crowd who had been following him…

These hungry men, women, and children

who came out to the wilderness looking for him,

Only to discover the place to be a food-desert, with no stores around,

They miss a meal…a second meal…

The people become hungry; probably feeling weak, and “not themselves.”

But Jesus had compassion for the people,

And took five loaves of barley bread and two fish from a small boy

and multiplied them, feeding all the people,

and giving them as much as they wanted, so that they gather up twelve baskets of leftovers.

And so….the people come back the next day… to eat again.

NOT because they have been persuaded by this miracle that Jesus is the son of God,

but because they are hungry for more bread to eat, which of course tends to happen.

We eat. We are satisfied. We become hungry again.

Jesus, however, is not intending

to come among us to serve as a vending machine of endless delights,

Not to offer a buffet bar perpetually replenished like the Golden Coral.

Jesus’ miracle of bread was a sign – that is a signal or marker or gesture –

Meant to point to his identity as One with God,

And to show that just as God fed the Israelites in the desert

So, in Jesus, God will continue to feed us in the wilderness of our life.

The interesting thing to consider is that, candy-bar-commercial-claims aside,

We actually don’t know what it’s like to be as hungry as our foremothers and fathers in the wilderness,

In that we simply don’t know what that feels like to want for food.

You tell me how many restaurants there are on Broad Street.  I can’t count that high.

Food is everywhere we look.

We can stop and get cuisine from nearly any culture of the world. 

We can get food door-dashed.  

Grocery stores offer shopping assistance,

where you can drive up and have your trunk loaded with food in moments. 

We do not know what it would mean to worry at night about food for the next day

and the anxiety of only hoping to be able to eat or to feed our family.

At yet, as a culture we are starving with a deeper hunger. 

You can see it and feel it in our consumerism.

And yet I think we are actually hungry for meaning,

for faith, for joy, for someone or something we can trust in,

for confidence in understanding our place in the world. 

Young people I know seem to have a deep hunger for purpose,

for value, for a good life and a life of significance.

Surely we are hungry.

And Jesus points to God’s power to feed us –

with faithfulness,

with everlasting mercy,

with growth and health and wholeness.

With more than we could ask and imagine of joy, the good life, a significant life.

It is only God who is the source of life and locus of all life.

The irony for us is that as a culture,

because we are disconnected from the feeling of real, physical hunger in our belly,

we may not even know how spiritually and emotionally hungry we are,

or we try this and that to try to satiate the hunger

and can’t figure out while we’re always hungry again.

Only one simple example that illustrates our spiritual hunger is how I am

and how I think we as a culture are

addicted to our phones,

always searching for something to titillate our interest. 

How many hours a day do we spend

looking at the little computer we keep in our pocket?

I read an article sometime-ago of an interview

with the person who created the social media feature

called the Positive Intermittent Reinforcement.

Its the pull down “refresh” feature in social media

that operates like a slot machine in Las Vegas.

You know it well, sometimes you pull down and get something:

a funny joke, the picture of a friend, someone has posted on your wall. 

And that keeps you going back.

The creators described it well:

“we keep going back hungering for the crumbs

that we sometimes get and sometimes don’t.”

And the guy being interviewed, the one who had created it,

lamented that he had,

because of the damage he felt it had done to his life and our lives.

I lament the wasted hours, but it shows me our hunger

And our hunger, but I don’t think it’s for cartoons or pictures.

That’s just a cheap imitation.

Our real hunger is to be loved.

Our hunger to be seen and known and cared for and valued.

To be socially accepted by our peers and those whose opinions we value.

My friends, Jesus is the answer to our true hunger. 

He is the true food of God that satisfies our longing

and makes us strong in the moments of our life

when we come face to face with our neediness and fragility

and we see our dependence on God for what it is:

It is the bread of God that we are needing:

In the operating room,

at the scene of the accident,

at the death of a loved one,

in our loneliness and despair. 

In those moments, then and there,

Jesus is present and we know we are not alone,

Just as he is when we’re wasting time on social media.

In every time and place,

Jesus brings the love of God to us that is dependable, real, and sustaining.

God meets our hunger for that which is ultimate

with eternal companionship, forgiveness, and restoration. 

More than a Positive Intermittent Reinforcement for our own insecurities,

God’s mercy is constant, lasting, and trustworthy.

Jesus Christ is the bread of life to sustain us in our hunger,

nourish us in God’s love,

and give us strength for our daily life.

You’re not you when you’re hungry. That is true. 

You are not you, when you’re worrying about what others think. 

Worrying about what you don’t have. 

Worrying about the future.

But fed by Jesus, we are us. You are you and I am me. 

In our baptism we are filled by this Jesus,

and we find out who we are. Who we really are.

We are the body of Christ.

Our identity as Children of God is the identity that remains,

lasts, persists, and lives for eternity.

So that we become signs of God’s love active in the world.

If you have been on site at Epiphany in the last few weeks

you may have seen that we have new signage around the church made by Mike Long.

It’s a beautiful design –

Out by Horsepen Road, for everyone driving by to see

Our new wooden sign has a dark-midnight-blue background,

with shining white letters, that read “Epiphany Lutheran Church”

and an image of earth intersected by the cross of Christ,

And the signs points the way. 

The sign isn’t there for itself,

so that drivers or passersby will stop and simply and contemplate the sign,

but it points people onward to a something else.

For those who would see and follow the sign:

It points to a people gathered, filled, fed, sent.

It points to us, who are actually a sign ourself, pointing to God

We are a sign and our call is simply to point to God as the source of our nourishment,

and to point to what God is doing in the world.

We do recall the ways God has protected, led, and helped us in the past

But we are also signs of what God is doing, now, in our midst.

Right now, God is providing for our nourishment

by calling and gathering Sunday school teachers,

who are (even as we speak) standing in the wings – ready and willing to serve this fall,

whatever it looks like, in our in-person Sunday school. 

This week, Chris and Bill Crouch are returning

from having driven all the way up to Maryland,

braving that DC traffic to take the 75 quilts and hundreds of school kits

made here at Epiphany to Lutheran world relief,

to complete the project of sending school supplies

and warmth to those most in need.

Just this week, Donna and Hardy Josephson,

Kristine Qwan, Branda and Joe Barnes, Fay Copage

and others spent the day on Friday preparing for worship and a reception

for Adele VanDivender and her family

as they gathered to grieve the loss of Bob,

her husband, and give God thanks for his life…

…these saints, laying out food to feed these bodies,

and making a way for God to feed the hunger for community and consolation

that is given in the time of deepest of loss through Christian hospitality.

We are fed and nourished by Jesus

and we become signs to the world

of where true nourishment comes from.

Or as Martin Luther said,

the Christian witness it is nothing more than

“one person telling another person where to find bread.”

We are signs and that is good because the world keeps needing signs.

Because that’s the funny thing about hunger. 

It always returns – physical hunger and spiritual hunger,

no matter how many times we eat – hunger returns.

And perhaps God has designed our life in just this way.

Perhaps God has given us our hunger and our desire

to spur us all on into his bosom. 

Perhaps the God who made us,

our Father who treasures us,

wants nothing more than to have us return to him,

knowing that our true hunger can’t be filled by a fleeting moment of entertainment,

not a piece of juicy gossip,

not from something we buy online,

not from the dopamine a positive intermittent reinforcement payday

or the millions of flimsy mannequin substitutions for our Father’s love and embrace.

Jesus sees our hunger and comes to us saying:

I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never be hungry,

and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Jesus is bread for your soul, for your spirit, for your heart,

Jesus is the true bread of God,

broken on the cross and given to you…

…and because he is risen, his life goes on forever.

He comes to you today,

forgiving your sins,

remaking you anew,

and joining you to all God’s people. 

Here at this table

he feeds us

And satisfies us

and reminds us:

We are Children of God, blessed, broken, and given for the world. Thanks be to God.

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