I am a very sense-oriented person

I 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 new technology.

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 these things.

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 WHY.

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.

Read other sermons by Pastor Joan