My sermon this week was based on John 36:24-35.
To download an audio of my sermon, click here.
When I was a child, I had this toy that I am sure many of you had, and my own son is now trying to figure out how to use. It was a wooden box with different-shaped holes in the sides, through which you were supposed to fit different-shaped pegs, and of course only the right-shaped peg would fit through each of the holes.
Years later, a friend of mine referred to "The God Hole", referring to that space in him that only God would fit into. He explained that over the course of his life, he had tried to put a number of things there: money, possessions, drugs, alcohol, sex...but none of these things satisfied him. He discovered that God was the only thing for him that would fill that vacancy in his spirit.
I could certainly relate, having been down a number of those same roads, and having found myself at the end of them, totally unsatisfied and spiritually and morally bankrupt to boot. Chances are, most of us can relate.
Jesus today speak of himself as "the bread of life", saying that whoever comes to him will never hunger and never thirst. As I child, I remember being somewhat disappointed by the Eucharist because I was hungry immediately after taking it!
Of course, now that I am a little older, I have had cause to reflect on what Jesus actually meant by those words. He is, of course, not talking about bread that feeds our body. He is talking about bread that feeds the soul.
This would have been a much more poignant metaphor in his own time and place. In our time and place, bread is but one of literally thousands of things we can eat to nourish our bodies, and in fact in recent years, the nutritive value of bread has been called into question.
In Jesus' time, bread was much more important, partially due to the fact that in a time which pre-dated refrigeration and many of the other preservation techniques we now employ, grain could be stored for long periods of time. Bread quite literally was the stuff of life.
Many of us are diligent consumers: we read labels to make sure that what we are putting in our bodies is healthy and nourishing, but why are we not more careful about what we put into our spirits? Why do we insist on seeking stuff, money, respect or even other people to fill the empty spaces in our souls when we have proven to ourselves time and time again that those pegs simply do not match up with the empty spaces?
I don't actually know the answers to those questions. Maybe it has to do with the fact that we can immediately go out and buy something that makes us feel better for just a few minutes, and feeling better spiritually often takes longer to achieve. Maybe it has to do with our culture that emphasizes stuff and does not emphasize personal emotional or spiritual wellness.
Either way, I think we know in our heart of hearts that certain roads we are currently on are simply not going to be satisfying, no matter how long or how far we trudge them.
Today I would like to encourage us all to seek new paths of meaning, to place our spiritual well-being at our centers, to place God where he needs to be.