This Homily was given at 9AM Morning Prayer Rite II on August 12, 2018 by Pat Vine, Spiritual Director
I Kings 19:4-8 ~ Psalm 34:1-8 ~ John 6:35, 41-51
In our first reading, Elijah was told twice by an angel, “Get up and eat” and after the second time the angel said, “Otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” The back story to this reading is that Elijah had just shown the prophets of Baal who the real God is, by asking God to bring down fire on a slain bull that was doused again and again with water. Baal’s prophets called on their God to bring down fire but no fire came. Elijah called upon his God to bring down fire and Elijah’s God sent the fire, totally consuming even the water with the flames. Then Elijah slew all of the prophets of Baal. After this event, you can imagine that Elijah was totally exhausted. So here is God, taking care of Elijah by meeting his human need for nourishment and rest. God is also taking into consideration the limitations of Elijah’s humanity by telling him through the angel that if he doesn’t eat, “the journey will be too much for you.” God is teaching Elijah about the important aspect of self-care.
(Incidentally, one of our worship leaders commented, “I’d like to go on the same diet that Elijah ate that kept him nourished for 40 days and 40 nights!”)
Keeping in mind the nourishment given to Elijah, we look at today’s second reading from the Gospel of John. Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Once again, the Jews begin to complain about him saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?” Once again, they are looking at the outward appearance and judging Jesus by their own literal standards. Because they are judging Jesus, they are blind to the spiritual implications of what Jesus is saying. When we judge others, we instantly become blind to see any truth that may be coming our way.
Do you know that the Scriptures admonish us not to take things literally, especially when it causes death and not life? Second Corinthians 3 verse 6 tells us that we are ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
We know that in the human sense, we can’t take Jesus literally when he says "whoever comes to me will never be hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” As fully human beings, our bodies need water for our thirst and food for our hunger. So likewise Jesus, who quenched his human thirst with water and satisfied his human hunger with food. So Jesus is hinting here at an underlying spiritual truth: When we come to Jesus, a tremendous hunger and thirst in our life is filled. When we ask the age old question “Is this all there is?” we get the answer: It is the person of Jesus who fills that void within us. Our spiritual hunger becomes satisfied. Our spiritual thirst is quenched.
I remember an instance in my past when for a long time, my emotional life was terribly unsettled. Some of my emotions were out of control and I was scared. I was uncertain about most everything and cried out to God in my kitchen to help me. I was deeply yearning to have that hunger and thirst in my life filled, even though I was not totally aware of it or even aware of what that “it” was. At that time, my local church was offering a 7-day retreat, evenings and on the weekend. My husband John was willing to watch our young children while I attended the retreat. There was small group sharing that I was unaccustomed to. And I heard a talk about the fact that we are gifts to one another. Very gently and almost imperceptibly, I came home several days into the retreat, telling John that I was experiencing “a door to truth opening up inside of me.” The seed of Jesus inside of me was being watered and beginning to grow. My hunger and thirst was beginning to be satisfied. I was receiving the spiritual bread of God’s word and the spiritual drink of his love in the depths of my being.
Two verses from today’s Psalm are what I experienced:
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord, and was saved from every trouble.”
Do you know that an experience of Jesus awaits each and every one of us? Your experience will be different from mine. Sometimes the enlightenment comes in a very gradual way over time. Sometimes it comes in a flash, like Saul when he was thrown off his horse. God’s creativity in revealing himself to each and every one of us is unique and custom made so that we would understand that he is God who is revealing his Son Jesus to us. And Jesus comes to us in the fullness of time in our lives, unique to each and every one of us. All we have to do is ask and Jesus will come.
So for what purpose does God reveal his Son Jesus to each and every one of us? God’s purpose is to reconcile you to himself, to establish a full relationship between you, Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit, so that we are able to partake in the holy circle of love that is eternal. So that we can learn and be fed and grow into the unique expression of God that each of us is. So that we can give the unconditional love that we receive from God to others in our lives. So that all people will be drawn to Jesus and find eternal life in Him. Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” This is Jesus’ desire for each of us. That we, you and me, and the Father are one. So when he says in today’s reading that “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father,” it will be the Father in us, in you and in me, who draws people to Jesus. By God’s grace this will occur.
Jesus says further that “They shall all be taught by God.” We will have the privilege of being taught by God himself—directly—so that we can discover the length, breadth, width and depth of the love of God in Christ Jesus for each and every one of us. This is wonderfully Good News, folks!
So, do you have spiritual hunger and thirst inside of you that hasn’t been filled? I urge you to ask Jesus to fill it. Invite him into your life in the places that you may think are too small for Jesus to care about. God cares about every little detail of our lives, so much so that it blows my mind when I see God’s faithfulness in the smallest of things.
Let me give you an example.
Several years ago, on my way into work I had a yen for a bagel and stopped at the bagel shop nearby Office Depot when they had a store at the end of Hinchman Avenue. Then off I went to the Office Depot Clearance Section, the Clearance Section being one of my favorite spots. On my way past the Print and Copy Center, I ran into Jaimee Bickford who was ready to order 50 color copies at 66 cents per copy. I told her I can make color copies for 8 cents each in the office, and in addition, I can make her a large poster from her 8-1/2 x 11 original. She exclaimed “This is a God thing!” We both marveled at God’s leading and timing! We also marveled at God’s wanting to save Jaimee some money! This is God’s faithfulness in the smallest details of our lives. Someone may call this a coincidence and it is. But here’s Webster’s definition of the word coincidence: the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection. Do you see with me that the connection, the serendipity, the coincidence in this event is God?
So, God is waiting to fill a void you may be feeling in the center of your being. When we’re physically thirsty, we fill an empty glass with water. When we’re physically hungry, we fill our bodies with food. When we’re spiritually thirsty and hungry, God can fill the deep emptiness within us with the presence of Jesus and His Holy Spirit.
So, I’d like to offer the time and space right now for each of us who would like to, to be silent in our hearts, minds, and souls, letting go of any concerns you may have in your life. I suggest you close your eyes, and as you see those concerns leave, there will be an emptiness left that you may ask Jesus to fill. Invite Him into that emptiness as you would invite a revered guest. Ask him to fill you anew with his Holy Spirit, or perhaps to fill you for the first time. Spend a moment in silence basking in his presence—perhaps with gratefulness welling up inside of you. (Silence) I now invite you back to the sanctuary of St. Michael’s.
Let us pray. Gracious and loving God, we are grateful for the gift of your Son Jesus, for your Holy Spirit, and for the gift of each other in this place. Thank you for making each of us a part of your Blessed Trinity’s Circle of Love. Be with us as we go through the week, ever mindful of your presence and faithfulness. In Jesus’ name, we pray.