Lent is the Old Anglo Saxon word for SPRING. It is a time for us to practice being renewed. Get ready for resurrection and the new life in Risen Christ. So far our scriptures have pointed us toward Renewal through gratitude, and the Renewal that comes in the midst of Life’s darkness.
This week’s scripture points us toward a renewal experience that is has more pleasant associations for us: Call it a renewal of appetite.
Hunger and thirst are important parts of human experience.
God has used hunger and the satisfaction of hunger as powerful ways to communicate his love and care for his people. Our scripture lesson this morning is just one instance (and one of my favorites, at that.)
Isaiah portrays God as a gracious and bountiful host, calling his people to come and get it! - come take part in a banquet of rich and nutrient dense food and delicious clean water and nourishing fresh milk.
This invitation to eat, drink and rejoice is welcome good news for those who are looking for renewal. And there is nothing quite as renewing, quite like the feeling of joy and relief when real hunger is assuaged. Moods lift, pains dissipate, outlooks brighten. Food is great stuff.
What has worried me this week, as I’ve lived with this passage, is that we live in a time and place where food is cheap and hunger - real, stomach growling, hunger is getting to be a rare thing. Physically, I mean. The Biblical metaphor of God feeding his people works spiritually because it taps into what we know physically. And I think we are living in a time and place in which hunger is becoming rare.
A story I heard on the radio last week seems to confirm my sense that hunger is not a common experience. It said:
“Gone are the days when parents forbade their children to snack in between meals. The trend these days seems to be toward continuous eating.
Childhood snacking trends are moving toward three snacks per day as compared with 30 years ago, when children ate an average of about one snack a day. And many school-age kids — about 1 in 5 — are snacking up to six times a day.
The same is true of young adults and adults in general: In young adults
Snacking prevalence increased from 77 to 84%. Calories consumed per snacking occasion increased by 26% and the number of snacks per day increased 14%.
Among all adults, snacking has become more common. 1 in 3 adults eat more than 6 times a day.
This is not the way it used to be. You know that. Studies prove it.
But so what? What would your mother say? Don’t snack, you’ll spoil your appetite! The danger is that we won’t be hungry when we sit down to eat the good, nutritious meal. We won’t want to come sit with the fam, or sit with ourselves over something worth saying “grace” over.
Which makes me wonder - could that be true in the spiritual aspect of our lives as well? Could we lose our appetites for the spiritual food God prepares and spreads before us?
The scripture seems to confirm that God’s people have always faced this possibility: The Bible asks: Why do you spend your resources on things that don’t feed you? Why do you waste your money on what doesn’t satisfy? Apparently, even in Isaiah’s time, God’s people were eating spiritual junk food, rather than coming to Him to be fed.
So think with me - what are the spiritual ding dongs and ho hos (I’m sure none of you actually eat REAL ding dongs and ho hos. As if there was anything real IN a ding dong or a ho ho, which there isn’t, by the way.) we use to get by when we need a little spiritual pick me up during the day?
When we have worries - do we take them to God in prayer? Or do we open the fridge?
REAL Comfort or comfort food?
When we feel unhappy with our lot in life, do we take one of the many opportunities to do something good for someone less fortunate? Or do we buy something?
Divine Love? Or “love those boots?”
When we are bored, do we take a walk and let our mind be filled with the beauty of creation? Or do we call up the town gossip, or get on the internet, and laugh at someone’s stupid decision or misfortune?
Priceless JOY? or a cheap laugh?
When we feel the need for enlightenment and a little time spent thinking of higher things, do we struggle through a difficult passage from God’s Word, or do we pick up an “inspirational” story from some magazine . . .
Wisdom from on high, or a quick dose of sentimental sweetness?
Maybe you are different. In fact, I’m sure you are different. Those are just snacks that tempt me and spoil my appetite for the goodness of God. Your specific ding dongs are no doubt slightly different. TV? Video games? Counting your money? Day dreaming about revenge? Pride in your own accomplishments? I don’t know. There are lots and lots of ways we can dull our appetites for God. I’ll give you a minute to think about those things. But before we get to that, it’s important to remember that none of those things really, in the long term, WORK.
Thanks be to God’s gracious love and wisdom in creating us, the hunger and thirst for The DIVINE never is entirely satisfied until we finally come to CHRIST and take what THE HOLY SPIRIT has to give us.
Even when we don’t realize it, we still are hungry for the good stuff that only God can give. We are thirsty for the life giving water, whether we know it or not. Like those signs out in the desert southwest - at the grand canyon and parks out there where the humidity is so low it’s almost dangerous. There are signs that say: "'Stop! Drink water. You are thirsty, whether you realize it or not.'"
Well, Scripture tells us that we are thirsty for God, whether we know it or not. We are hungry for the comfort and joy and peace and purpose of God, even though that hunger may be so dulled by the snack-y junk food we’ve downed to try to satisfy ourselves.
And God promises that, when we accept his invitation and come to the table, he will fill us with good things. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Take. EAT.”
the last couple of weeks we’ve made renewal circles - prayer circles - as a way of focussing on how God might renew us during this season. This week, take a couple of minutes and get in touch with your spiritual appetite for God’s goodness.
the prompt on the circle says, “God, help me give up snacking on . . . . . Renew my appetite . . . “
After a couple of minutes, Betty will play through “Break thou the Bread of Life” We’ll stand and sing.