am a very sense-oriented person (One could use the words
sensible or sensual, but I think they send one down the
wrong pathway, okay) so stick with sense-oriented. I
delight in food for more reasons than my stomach
growling. You know that deep empty pit feeling that
longs to be filled.
Instead I bring into play, the
sense of smell and taste. The aromas wafting throughout
the house. The discovery of spices and herbs from around
the world. Think of the delightful smell of apple pie
with cinnamon. The pungent odor of curry or Thai food.
The musty yet spicey Mexican chili, cilantro and cumino.
The tongue senses salt, sweet, bitter. It feels the
textures of smooth slippery noodles, the crunch of nuts,
the chewy goodness of the crust on freshly baked
sourdough bread. You can hear the sizzle of steak on the
grill, the snap of potato chips, the slurp of a juicy
ripe peach. Feel the butter rolling down your chin from
corn on the cob. The combinations are like a symphony.
Imagine the satisfaction of
chopping, dicing, rolling and shaping the ingredients.
The sense of accomplishment and love as family pushes
their chairs from the table at a Thanksgiving feast,
filled and happy.
Are you with me? Have I painted
a complete sensory picture for you of the delightful
side of hunger? Hang onto that total feeling as we move
some other hungers in life. Try to look into your own
experience as completely as I have done with eating.
There is the hunger for fame.
For those who have watched American Idol this past year.
This hunger is not filled as easily for as many as
eating. Think of the applause, the promise of recording
contracts, lights sounds, people, clothing, money, dizzy
rise to stardom. We see how many along the way drop to
the wayside. But it is a hunger nonetheless.
What about building things,
sewing things, inventing, designing. Working with
materials, fibers, the joy of a well made project.
Science, physics, medicine. Discover how our bodies and
the world around us works. How to cure diseases, develop
What about video and computer
games? channel surfing, sports, action packed shows,
mysteries, drama. Water skiing, surfing, snow-boarding,
skate boarding, sailing. Sometimes, we do things to
heighten our senses with alcohol or drugs - and
sometimes we do that to deaden something unbearable.
What senses are at play by our
various activities? The nerves in our bodies, our
muscles, our hands, eyes, feet, mouths were given to be
used, they long to be stimulated. They hunger for
purpose, significance, to be known, to be at work. TV,
computers, internet, virtual reality games trick our
bodies into thinking they are actually participating in
So, looking now at the things
you long to do with your spare time, or maybe even your
work-time. Do you ever ask why? For example, I watch
with utter amusement at Timmy and Alex play-fighting
every spare moment. So, why do they do it? Are they
strengthening and toning their bodies, quickening their
reflexes, to prepare for some future enemy attacks,
practicing what they see on TV? to be best at something?
to win an award. To put someone down someday? to work
out anger, natural male animal urges, the amusement of
onlookers, or just because it is fun? I will never know.
And they probably would say none of the above, or all of
the above. And I'm sure they never really worry about
Yet, everyone of us is built
internally with longings, with hungers, with desires all
of which satisfy the senses in some way. All of our
senses and their desires are God given. All of the
hungers and desires to experience things are God given.
And, quite often, what we are doing is feasting and
delighting in the bounty and beauty of God's creation.
And often we are manipulating and distorting that which
is God's into something else. Yet, even that ability is
a God-given talent. And, so, in effect we are still
using a special gift.
We use them for good and
sometimes we use them for evil. Sometimes we experience
the sudden overwhelming sense of the divine when we ski
down a slope or smell the clean earth after a spring
rain. But just as often we recognize our sin in the
destruction of forests, the pollution of lakes, and the
mounting poverty, disease and violence that follows on
the heels of our greed to fill our senses.
Pastors, priests, and other
religious and concerned civic leaders preach about
modifying our behavior in order to curb sin and reduce
the destructive and initially unintended side-effects of
our sensory way of life. We talk about obedience to
God's commands, all of which are aimed at behavior
modification, character building, and ultimately
heavenly rewards. But once again, we are longing for
sensory gratification. No more pain, no more disease,
ahhhhh, eternal rest from all our toils.
Most of us stay at this sensory
level of life and this sensory image of heaven. We live
in creation. But throughout time, there have been those
who have contemplated the why question. Why were we
given these senses - just for our sheer pleasure? No.
That has never been a satisfactory answer. Not for the
person who looks beyond his own hunger. Instead of
living in creation, they long to know the creator. They
question the why of all things…not in order to
manipulate and use for one's own self, but rather to
bring one closer to God to try to understand God's will
in all things.
St. Augustine way back in the
4th century wrote about God. "You have created us for
yourself. And our hearts are restless until they find
their rest in you." Famous Greek and Roman philosophers
recognized that our desires and our longings were really
our inner longing for that which is eternal. NOT the
longing for a place in heaven when our bodies die. But
to experience life now through the lenses, the eyes of
the eternal one - God. If any of you have ever read any
of these great writers, you hear their longing to know
how we who know things through our senses can come to
know something that is not bodily or sensory - that
which is spirit.
Bible writers were no strangers
to such contemplation. They too longed to get beyond
self-satisfaction. They admonished their hearers to move
to a different plane of thought. To understanding, to
light, to wisdom. Everything that exists, everything we
sense points back to the one who created it for our
sensory stimulation. If we are wise, we will gather
these sensory experiences and see and experience God. If
we are wise, we will recognize the banquet God has
already set before us - not to fill our hunger for
pleasure, but to fill our hunger for the eternal. Go
back to the Proverbs passage. Hear how the Old Testament
writer no doubt long before Plato wrote:
You that are simple and without
sense, turn in here. Come eat of my bread and drink of
the wine I have mixed. Lay aside immaturity, and live
and walk in the way of insight. Now, who do you think
the writer is addressing? Simple and without sense?
Everyone of us. How many of us think of our simple acts
of breathing and eating as having eternal significance?
Most of us think of those things as what we have to do
to stay alive until God calls us home. But we forget
that we are home. This life is God's creation, God's
home for us created with great care and marvelous
variety. Our foolishness is that we do not live each
second and breathe each breath and eat each bite and
think each thought in partnership with God.
Look at the Psalm. Go down to
verse 12. I'm going to read it to you in a slightly
different translation - the NRSV, but one that I think
will get the meaning more clearly. Who among you desires
life? Who covets many days to enjoy good? I like those
words desire and covet. They get at the heart of human
existence. We long for life to its fullest. But how many
of us desire it enough that we are willing to grant it
to everyone who lives on the earth? I'm not talking
about wishing it were so but going through the hard work
of figuring out how to make it happen, of motivating the
powers that be to bring it to reality. How many of us
covet enough days of good to grant them to God? Have you
ever thought about how we deny God joy when we are not
in constant relationship? God created us for God's own
self not for ourselves. The creation story talks about
how God walked with Adam in the evening in the garden.
How long since God walked with you?
Paul in the Ephesians text
admonishes us. Be careful then how you live, not as
unwise people but as wise, making the most of our time,
because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but
understand what the will of the Lord is. Don't get drunk
with wine, but be filled with the Spirit.
In the midst of a banquet, we
can still starve. We fill our lives with the good
harvest of God's creation and yet we still hunger.
Because we stay focused on the creation and not the
creator. But, Vicar Joan, you may say. How do we get to
know the creator? Well, I suppose it can be as hard as
you want to make it. You can search in the sciences, you
can search with your reason and with your personal
satisfaction. Or you can know God as unassumingly as
falling in love. You can allow God's richness and bounty
and grace to flow all over you. You can read how God
loved and cared for all the people. How he disciplined
them when they lost their balance, always calling them
back to himself.