Never Hungry, Never Thirsty

(2 Sam 11:26 – 12:13a; John 6:24-35) – J G White

11 am, Sun, Aug 5, 2018 – UBC Digby

D. T. Niles said “evangelism is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.” What bread do people hunger for?  What do we thirst for? We have longings – wants and desires – of all kinds.

A couple months ago I decided to take up the challenge of using the Old Testament readings for each Sunday this summer that are prescribed in a list called the lectionary.  In many different churches across the globe, and just up the street,  the stories of 1st and 2nd Samuel have been read and preached.

Today’s moment in the saga of King David and his contemporaries is a follow up to his infamous moment… with Bathsheba.  David’s moment of adultery that is referenced in Leonard Cohen’s famed song, ‘Hallelujah.’ Now, David has seen to it that Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, has got himself killed in battle.  Bathsheba mourns her husband, then becomes one of King David’s wives.

And Nathan the prophet comes.  Comes to the king. Tells a story, a parable.  About a poor man with a dear little sheep, and rich man, who steals the sheep and serves it up for dinner.   “How terrible!” says king David. And the prophet declares: “You are the man!” David is immediately sorry, but the consequences of his actions cannot be avoided.  

As I pondered this 3000 year old story, I saw all the hunger and thirst in it.  A king’s lust for another lover. His thirst for the power to get rid of her husband.  His desire to save his reputation and keep things secret. Nathan the prophet’s longing for truth and justice.  And, is the ancient storyteller here, the narrator, hungry for a God that will take revenge and give king David what he deserves?  Punish him? That is what happens.

So many human longings are illustrated here.  You and I know our own hungers and thirsts. We want freedom from something that happened in our past.  We want someone to get what we think they deserve. We want to be more safe and secure than we feel now.  We want attention, acclaim, adoration.

To be hungry, to be thirsty, is not necessarily bad… unless the hunger is misplaced. Unless the thirst goes overboard. Or, unless that which is needed is not available.

Our connection with God is our source of everything.  A song Margo has taught us here is # 608 in our hymnbook. As water to the thirsty,
as beauty to the eyes,
as strength that follows weakness,
as truth instead of lies;
as songtime and springtime
and summertime to be,
so is my Lord, my living Lord,
so is my Lord to me.

A thousand years after king David comes king Jesus, a very different ruler in Israel.  ‘Ruler’ is almost the wrong word for who Christ is; He is so different. At the root of our longings and desires is our heart and soul, and there, Christ satisfies.  

‘I am the bread of life,’ He once said.  ‘I am the well of living water.’ ‘I am the light of the world; you are the light.’  I am the grape vine; you are the branches.’ Getting the point?

Fifteen minutes ago we heard the conversation Jesus had with a crowd, following him.  After they were fed real bread, He speaks to them of so much more. “I am the bread of life.” He says. “Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

You and I find the ways to approach God.  We find our ways to put our confidence in Jesus.  And in every year and decade of our lives we may learn more about walking with God.  Little things mean a lot.

In C. S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, Uncle Screwtape reproaches the apprentice demon, Wormwood, for permitting his “patient” to become a Christian.  Nevertheless, he says, “There is no need to despair; hundreds of these adult converts have been reclaimed after a brief sojourn in the enemy’s camp and are now with us.  All the habits of the patient, both mental and bodily, are still in our favour.”  If a convert’s habits remain the same they will realize little of the life in Christ. (Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines, 1988, pp. 113-114)

The hungers and thirsts we have inside us, let us know them, and bring them to Christ.  Bit by bit, we are still being transformed, still being fed.

Life’s Blood

(John 6:52-60, 66-69)
Sun, Feb 11, 2018 – UBC Digby – J G White

Tomorrow, at the Clare Legion in Saulnierville, our nearest blood donor clinic will be open, and a few of us from here will go down to give blood. Blood: it’s in you to give.  Thanks, in part, to Dr. Drew, we have this medical way of giving life to others.  

Diane H— got moved this week from Yarmouth Hospital to Digby Hospital.  She seems improved; one month ago she was getting blood transfusions, among other treatment.  Bruce G— is in hospital in Halifax.  He told me he received a blood transfusion since he has been there.  In the blood is life.

In Christianity, we say that the shed blood of Jesus is life-giving.  Perhaps many of us are so accustomed to this way of talking we don’t notice the shock it gives to others.  We sing the old hymns all the time, such as What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Blood, when it is leaking out of a body, is typically gory, gross, awful.  Some people turn away at the sight of blood, and some even faint.  I have one friend like that. Blood gets associated with violence, with horror movies, and with illnesses.

But I don’t think these are the reasons those listening to Jesus one day were appalled.  “Amen, amen, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”

“How can he give us his body to eat?” some asked.  “This is a difficult teaching,” said some of Jesus’ followers, “Who can accept it?”  

Think of who these people were, way back then, and what they knew.  Theirs was the Hebrew religion, with a history of lots of sacrifices to God of grain and of oil and of animals.  Animal sacrifice.  That was worship.  They knew the stories of Moses and their people of old, set free from slavery after each family sacrificed and ate a young sheep. They were a people fed with manna in the desert: bread from heaven.

“I will feed you now,” Jesus tries to tell them.  “I will give life to your souls.”  Killing of living things and shedding of innocent blood is over and done – Jesus will finish it.  In his most recent book, Brian McLaren suggests that when Jesus overturned the tables in the Temple, one day, Jesus was overturning that belief that God is angry and needs to be appeased with blood. (The Great Spiritual Migration, 2016, p. 27) Jesus, now, is life-giving.

Most people did not get it. After a lot of Jesus’ followers quit, He asked the twelve chosen disciples if they would leave too.  “To whom can we go?” said Peter.  “You have the words of eternal life.”

It is a different kind of Life Jesus offers.  The whole story of His blood being shed has a lot of complicated explanations.  I want to make it simple.  Life is given away.  To us.  To all who will take it.  Life is shared, flows out to reach us all.