I find myself tagging along with the crowd today… wondering at what compelled them to keep after Jesus.
Oh, Jesus says, and he is probably right, that they are persistent in their pursuit of him because of the free lunch they had just enjoyed. And this rings true, of course, because most of the time it seems we are too much unaware of the deeper hungers which drive us:
- Hunger for meaning.
- For belonging.
- For connection.
- For hope.
I live there, too, too much of the time, not really fully comprehending what the ‘search’ is really about. And then I find myself in the company of others who find themselves on the edge of all they have ever known. In a place where they cannot help but recognize that what they thought mattered most, really didn’t or at least doesn’t any more. A place we have all shared or will certainly one day share at one time or another. Indeed, a place where God has the chance to awaken in us a hunger for ‘the food that endures,’ rather than only the endless pursuit of ‘the food that perishes.’
I imagine you can name the times when this has been so for you… when you have been thrown into a place where the old ‘hungers’ just didn’t, just don’t matter any more. If you are fortunate, you went into those times with some sense of what to look for, even if you had never been there before, because you had heard Jesus’ words before us now — pointing to this central truth of the only thing that matters at all. The bread of life. This Bread of Life.
And yes, I saw this to be so with one precious family I was called to walk alongside this week.
Their loss had been sudden and profound and together they sat stunned — searching for meaning amidst the weeping. One among them seemed to speak for them all when over and over he gave examples of what mattered before, but doesn’t now and of losses which seemed terrible then, but pale in comparison to what they have now experienced. Indeed, over the last week I listened as they grasped for where to put their deepest value now — landing in places which are good and true, but still, I expect, won’t fully satisfy in the way Jesus intends for us, although they come closer, to be sure, than lots of places where we tend to lean. Things like family. Or just plain good health. And yet, at least in this case, the family’s husband and dad, was able to grasp for something more, something a part of now old memory for him, when he asked if we could hold the service in the church and not the funeral home. And I don’t think it was only just nostalgia which drove this desire. Rather, it seemed to me he was looking for something more, something so much more than all that had fed him before.
This is how it often is for those who find ourselves in pursuit of Jesus now. Something is awakened deep within us by a profound loss or a powerful joy and we realize, don’t we, that all we thought mattered, doesn’t so much. That we are, whether we recognized it or not, hungry for something so much more.
For oh, I have been right there with him, heart heavy with the recognition that what served me well before, just doesn’t any more. Like you, I too have found myself in those tender, heart wrenching times which make it so I cannot lean on what I did before — at least not as I did. So much of the time it is only then that God has the chance to show us a new way.
- And oh, I wonder if many of us do not find ourselves in such a time today, both individually and together. When we recognize that what we thought used to ‘feed us just fine’ simply doesn’t any more. Or simply can’t. Or really shouldn’t.
- And, I wonder if in this time we will allow our imaginations to be opened up beyond what is merely good, to that which has the capacity to literally change everything.
- I do wonder if we will allow God to use this time to open us up to new ways of being and doing — of being fed by what, by who, can actually satisfy.
And yet, now and then I also wonder if we are still in too tender a time, like the family I walked with this week, to be able to fully see yet, how Jesus is and always has been the Bread of Life and so much wants to be the One who feeds us now more than ever before. Indeed, I wonder what actual grieving still needs to be done first so that we can better see what God has in store next: helping us to live more fully as those who value even more than the wonder of simply the ability to gather with family and friends again. Or to come together, even with precautions, for worship once more.
Because it seems to me that many of us and many of our worshiping communities are in a really pivotal time. Yes, the threats to all we were or thought we were meant to be are frequently overwhelming and often painful to acknowledge. But could it be that we will find ourselves in a whole new place and perhaps very soon, where we will even more fully recognize the true and only source of that food which ‘endures,’ — Jesus, the very Bread of Life, with all the promises God promises to fulfill?
I believe the possibility for this is real now. I surely do not know what this will look like, but like every time before, it is clear that God is hard at work, using this time of challenge and heartbreak to work something new in us even now. Indeed, I find myself praying more and more for the ability to discern how our hunger for the ‘food that endures’ will play out in our lives and in our lives together very soon.
- Are you able to name a time or times as with the family I encountered this week, where you suffered such loss (or experienced such profound joy) that that which you believe ‘fed you’ before just didn’t any more? How did you weather that time? How were you changed in the wake of that? What mattered after that and what didn’t?
- I do think now of the blows which our congregations and yes, we ourselves, have taken in the last eighteen months. And yet, can you see how God may be using this time to reorient us toward what matters most? Are you yet able to find words or images for what that might be? What comes to you now?
- How are we able to understand more fully now (in ways we maybe never fully did before) that Jesus is the Bread of Life? What does that Life mean for you in this particular time and place? How has your ‘hunger’ changed given all that you have experienced now?