Sermon for Pentecost 10, Proper 14, preached Sunday, August 9, 2009.
Have you noticed how menus only picture the food that is not so good for you? How the “healthy food” (low carbs, low fat, etc) is relegated to the back page of the menu? That is because our eating habits, advertising, and finally our bodies all want the food that is not so good for us and only after severe training do we learn to train our taste for something healthier.
We all know the stereotype of the pregnant mother and her cravings. The truth is that we all confuse cravings with hunger, taste with nourishment. That is why we can have fully bellies and be malnourished. That is why children should not be allowed to decide what they eat – because they will choose what meets their craving instead of what will help them grow. Although we often say we are hungry, we generally mean that our cravings are not satisfied – not that we are undernourished. How many of us here have actually gone hungry – so desperately hungry that we will eat anything just to be full? For most of us we talk about hunger when we mean cravings.
Jesus comes not to satisfy our cravings but to fulfill our hunger. Remember last week how Jesus spoke of those who followed Him because they got food to eat and not because they saw in Him the kingdom of God? Jesus challenged them because what they wanted and what He was offering were very different things. Jesus came to give us life – not a mere extension of life or better version of today but real life that death cannot overcome. Instead we crave a little something for the moment. Sadly, we are often willing to settle for what we crave instead of what we need. Jesus is prepared to give us to much more.
Eat and die. This is the reality of life here on earth. Food is necessary to our bodies or we will die. But even if we eat well, we will die. So we face a choice – do we eat the food we want to or the healthy food we should? The food we imagine in our minds is not the food our bodies need. Here on earth we find ourselves caught between what we want and what we need. The wrong choice will fill our bellies but leave us malnourished. So do you force yourself to eat what you do not want or do you give in to your wants and ignore what is good for you?
Jesus offers us another alternative. Jesus offers us the food feeds us life. If we eat of this food, we have life – now even within this world of sin and death, and eternally in the heaven He rose to bestow upon us. But the food that Christ gives to us offers us is not what we want. We want a Savior who gives us what we crave. Jesus has not come to satisfy our cravings. He is not a snack food Savior but the Holy Redeemer who feeds us upon heaven’s bread and salvation’s cup. This is not the food we want, but it is surely the food we need.
If we feed upon Christ, the earthly cravings that sin has taught us will go unfulfilled but the hunger of our mortality crying out for life will be met beyond imagination. To feed on Christ is both a spiritual activity and the concrete activity of eating and drinking – both come together in the real food of Christ’s body hidden in the bread of the Eucharist and His blood hidden in the Cup of Holy Communion. When we feed upon Christ, where Christ has made Himself accessible to us at His Table, then we eat the food that both feeds us for today and for all eternity.
Christ is not about what makes us feel good but leaves us malnourished to eternal life. Christ has not come to figure out the changing whims of our taste and satisfy the craving of the moment. He is no bread King who gives us what we want. No, He gives to us the food that we need. He feeds us grace, rich with forgiveness, life and salvation. He comes to us with the gifts He won in the suffering of the cross, in His death for the life of the world, and in His resurrection that was the death of death itself. Sin has taught us to want and crave other things, but this is the only food that gives us life now and life forever. Jesus is determined not to make us feel good for the moment at the expense of our eternal lives. So He gives to us His Spirit so that He can expose to us the truth of what feeds us life and what can only feed us death. This Spirit teaches us faith so that we learn to desire the food Jesus offers.
Though we must eat to sustain these mortal bodies, the food we eat cannot keep us from dying. To those of you into organic food or healthy eating, I am sorry to say that even if you eat the healthiest food there is, you will still die. To those of you who do not care what you eat, I am sorry to say that you can make your life more difficult and even hasten death by answering your cravings and ignoring the nourishment your body hungers for. That is the sad reality of mortal life. We can force ourselves to eat good foods that do not satisfy our cravings and we will still die. Or, we can give into our cravings and eat what is bad for us – making today a burden and shortening this mortal life.
Jesus offers another kind of food. It is His flesh for the life of the world. This is the only food of which we eat and we will live today and forevermore. His flesh is our food here in this Holy Sacrament. The Church is not a fast food counter to satisfy our need for snack food that meets our cravings. The Church is here to give us Jesus Christ, to bestow upon us the fruits of His saving death and life giving resurrection, in the places where Jesus has made these accessible to us. Unless the Church faithfully proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ and administers His sacraments, the Church has the potential to do the same damage as junk food – to fill our bellies and leave us malnourished for eternal life.
We live in a junk food world and sin has taught us to want a junk food Savior. Thanks be to God that Jesus refuses to be that kind of Savior. Thanks be to God for those churches that refuse to give in to that junk food mentality. What we want is not what we need. What we crave can cause us great harm. Today Jesus makes the choice plain. We can eat and die or we can eat and live. In just a few moments He will give us food that is an acquired taste – food we learn to want, to crave, and to eat only by faith, under the prompting of the Holy Spirit. This is the real food of His flesh and blood. Eat this food and live. Eat this food and you have His life in you now and His life that bestows eternity upon you. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” So, come. Come in faith. Come to eat. Come to eat and live. Amen