Sunday, September 5, 2010
Communion Meditation - September 5
Faithful Feeling: Desire
Using Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-8 and Philippians4:8
We’ve been talking about how our emotions and our faith are related. This series grew out of several of the questions that the congregation submitted at the beginning of the summer. Some were questions about fear, anger, grief. There were no questions about desire. Which sort of reminds me of one the joke (repeatedly told by Philo’s most brilliant writer to date - David Foster Wallace. He used this most than once):
So there’s these three young fish, hanging around the ocean floor, chatting it up about fishy stuff, when an old fish swims by, and greets them - “how’s the water, boys?” And they look at each other, and say, “What’s water?”
We, like the fish, sometimes fail to recognize, and maybe don’t even know the name for what surrounds us, what we breathe in and what we “swim through” all the time. I think that’s true of “desire”. We live in a culture so awash in desire that we may not even recognize that it is all around us all the time. We live in a culture that is driven by consumer spending and depends on making us all driven consumers. Our most powerful desires - the desires for acceptance, the desire for sex, the desire for pleasure, the desire for happiness . . . these are all manipulated by Mad Men and Women. Madison Avenue has become Mainstreet in the USA and much of the world.
So lets just notice the water first, OK? As Christians, what are we to make of this water in which we swim? We can’t hold our breath, or hold our noses. This is where we live. This is where we bring up our children. Media studies reveal that
Today however, half of the clothing that kids wear include an advertisement of one sort or another. Backpack, shoes, and many accessory items also display the most popular brands for a child's peers to see. Today, ads are much more pervasive and less recognizeable as a sales pitch.
(Fast food - child’s toy - movie or TV - clothing, accessory, transportation, cell phone cell phone apps . . . )There are a seemingly limitless number of products that are then presented to the child.
These ads for children, just as those targeted toward adults, create a need where none existed previously. They also hook children, and subsequently their parents, into an endless loop of buying more and more products. (squidoo.com - advertising and children)
A lot of this desire onslaught, especially that aimed at those of us who have outgrown “Happy Meals” uses the “hook” of sexual desire. And while, on the one hand, it seems quite right that sexuality is not a subject that automatically seems shameful and unmentionable - That is good. God made our bodies and our sexuality is part of who we are supposed to be - it is also true that sexuality is hard to talk about without recognizing about how it is constantly influenced, shaped, and most of all USED to sell us things.
As people of faith, what unique insights and resources do we bring to life in this time and place? What do we know from Scripture? What does Jesus Christ’s life have to do with desire?
Well - maybe first off - our spiritual tradition does not demonize desire. In fact, our tradition recognizes desire as part of our souls from the very beginning. The story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden from the third chapter of Genesis is attempt to describe the souls of human beings:
Desire is a permanent part of human life. And God wanted to set up the world in a way that good desires would be satisfied: He put human beings in a garden with all that they needed to eat. He gave them work to do, to satisfy their desire to be useful and purposeful. He gave them each a partner - a soul mate. Adam calls Eve “Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh”. Desires are satisfied. Needs are met - but not just in a utilitarian, joyless way. There is abundance. There is beauty. There is fulfilment.
But God’s plan is that there be something in the center of our lives that cannot be satisfied. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is “fenced”. It’s off limits. And to live faithfully is to recognize and respect that our souls have an off limits section - a desirable part - which belongs only to God.
We feel desire for beauty (it was lovely to look at) and good (to eat).
So our tradition recognizes a deep kind of desire as part of our souls’ very structure. Are we in touch with that desire?
When we see something truly beautiful - or hear something truly beautiful - isn’t there an ache of the unobtainable about it? Beautiful music. It’s so great that we have the Korean Presbyterian Choir here this morning. When we hear beautiful music, it washes over us, but we can’t grab it or keep it. Even the musicians are not in possession of the music. It passes through them, but it doesn’t belong to them. Real beauty is like that: - a beautiful person - a work of art - a stunning landscape - a perfect flower. These touch our souls and awaken in us a longing for more that cannot be satisfied. There is in us a longing for something that cannot be bought or owned. We ought to pay attention to that.
Jesus pointed to that beauty that can’t be bought when he invited his disciples to look at the birds of the air and the Flowers of the field. Look - he said, the lilies are clothed more beautifully than Solomon. Even the richest man we know of couldn’t buy the beauty that is only God’s to give.
Pastor and writer John Jewell puts it this way: If you have ever experienced a deep inner longing, but could not quite put your finger on what exactly the object of your longing was -- you have experienced the spiritual condition of humanity. It is a longing for that original intimacy with God and intimacy with each other that only God can give. It is the soul's "not quite conscious" memory of the way it should be.
It is amazing the lengths to which people will go to fulfill that inner hunger. Physically, emotionally, socially and intellectually we search and ingest and try to fill the void -- this God shaped blank as some have called it. And it's never enough -- never quite it.
Adam and Eve attempted to fill in the hole in the center - and we do that, too. We try to fill in the basic longing of our lives by our own efforts and initiative rather than standing in respect and appreciation of it.
Desires can be reminders of the things that we do not and cannot have. And so point us toward God. Or they can be motivators to forget and misunderstand God and so separate ourselves from Him.
I think that it’s significant that in our foundational story - Desire is symbolized as a beautiful piece of food. It is a fruit that Adam and Eve want. It is something to eat that they believe will dissolve the distance between themselves and God. And God said, “no”.
But In Jesus Christ, God turns the table - God sets the Table and offers to dissolve the distance between us - not by making us like God (which was the snake’s pitch to Eve, remember). No, God dissolves the distance between us and satisfies our deepest desire by becoming like us - and offering Himself to us - in a little bit of food. He satisfies our desire on His terms:
Finally, we come to the Table where God offers the relationship that satisfies, that nourishes and delights. Rather than saying, “You shall not eat . . . “ At the Table, God holds out to us the true bread of life and says, “Take, eat. This is for you.”