January 13, 2019
May I speak to you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today we will witness infant baptism. Today, we also hear of baptism in our gospel reading – the narrative of the baptism of Christ.
Jesus, an image of the invisible God, come to us – Incarnation – taking off some of God’s self and putting on some of humanities self – fully human, fully God; has become one of us.
Jesus saves us and shows us the way – how to live.
Here. Now. In our narrative this morning Jesus is showing us the need for baptism.
Scripturally Jesus models two things for us that are what we call “sacraments” – though there may be a wider lens of considering sacrament. In the New Testament, it is Holy Communion and Baptism.
In Greek, the word for baptism has a more descriptive meaning than English conveys that helps us understand the significance of what is taking place. The verb “bapto” means to “dip in or under, to dye” – like dying a garment…when you dip in the cloth the garment changes completely into something different: it’s evident; it shows. The word “baptizmo” appears in different constructions throughout the New Testament: it may vary a bit but includes meaning “immerse, sink, drown, go under, sink into…” (Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 410).
We hear both the power and force of baptism. And perhaps the danger.
In the back of our Book of Common Prayer – which you have in your pews – there is a wonderful section called “An Outline of the Faith: commonly called the Catechism.” The word Catechism tells us the format of this outline – it is a summary in question and answer structure. How great is that?
On page 857 we have the questions: what are the sacraments? And what is baptism?
A sacrament is defined as an “outward visible sign of inward and spiritual grace.” We spoke recently of grace – grace is unmerited favor. Something we neither deserve nor earn…it just is…God’s extravagant posture toward us: full of grace.
A sacrament is something outward that is a means of grace. A vehicle of grace…of God’s extravagance…a special way God provides connection to God…revelation of God.
Bread. Wine. Water.
Normal and familiar things with cultural associations that God uses to show us God, to connect us to God.
December 02, 2018
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!
Truly. Happy New Year. In our Episcopal liturgical calendar, it’s the first day of a whole new year. And in that calendar, we begin the year with Advent. Advent means “coming” and we are starting a season of preparing for the coming of Christ. That’s why we lit the candle.
What’s so fun about our liturgical calendar, is that it’s different from regular time – our contemporary Gregorian calendar. This kind of thing serves us. Helps us remember whose we are. where we are. where we are going. We can be tethered to our spirituality as we attach ourselves to our liturgical calendar…on a different trajectory than the culture around us. It may serve as a powerful reminder.
And what do calendars do? Inform us of coming events or signal us to remember past events.
Though our calendars will not hit Christmas Day for 23 more days, in our stores and neighborhoods, Christmas has come…so much for effective calendar keeping.
However, we can effectually practice the season of Advent over these next four weeks – it can both inform us and signal us to remember.
We have additional help outside of the calendar as we practice Advent. We function in the midst of much sign and symbol in our Episcopal tradition – calendars, colors, candles, hymns, and music of seasons. We tend to involve many senses as we approach God. Sight. Smell. Touch. Sound. The more senses involved, the more we are involved. One sense is sight and has to do with color.
We’ve just come off what the liturgical calendar calls “ordinary time,” though there is nothing ordinary about it. It’s a season of growth after Pentecost. The color that expresses it is green – which kinda makes sense as it expresses growth. To remind us, this color was on the altar and lectern and podium, and we, as clergy, wore it. But now, new year, new season, new color – blue, or purple. Again, using our senses to remind us of reality. In our liturgical practice blue signals expectation and preparation.
And speaking of senses – the Advent wreath also helps us – light and color.
The flavors of waiting are illustrated in the Advent wreath: preparation, joy, and celebration. These are shown in the candle colors: dark blue/purple, rose, and white.
In simplicity, as an additional candle is lit each week it symbolizes growing anticipation for Christ’s coming. Increasing light. Advent is a time of journey from darkness to light.
The season of Advent is, on the whole, a season of waiting with some different flavors to it – Advent is both simple and complex.
Apart from colors and calendar and symbols we see from our readings today, that this waiting is not linear – we hear about the promise to be fulfilled in Jeremiah and in Luke, Christ’s return. It’s about looking back – Christ coming to us as a baby; looking forward – Christ returning, and looking around – Christ confronting us…confront is kind of a strong word – perhaps bringing us up short is more what I mean, getting our attention in our now…our daily lives.
Advent. Looking back, looking forward, and looking around while journeying from darkness to light. In the midst of this, it is also both personal and corporate.
October 14, 2018
May I speak to you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Our readings today may confuse us if we’re not careful.
We hear three distinct voices in our readings. They communicate sadness, desire, need, and perhaps helplessness.
All of these may fall under the broad umbrella of suffering.
We hear Job’s and his angst about God: “If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him…”
In our gospel reading, we hear the question posed: “what must I do to be saved?” – Jesus walks thru some commandments in answer…the person – who’s not identified in this gospel is referred to as the ‘rich young ruler’ in the other gospel narratives – he says, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth” --- this response by him in our narrative seems to show assurance is not being experienced. No sense that this is enough or “working.”
We’re seeing individual perceptions of reality.
Perception is a funny thing. It has to do with awareness and understanding – especially through the senses. We all have perceptions of things – situations, people, ourselves, God. Our perceptions are how we interpret and orient ourselves in our daily lives. Our perceptions are our reality…what we tend to forget is that our perceptions can be on point or they can be really wrong…but they tend to feel right because they’re ours.
Perception is the reality to each of us. Though it is not always the same reality.
In Job, his perception is that God is not there.
In contrast, the gospel reading shows an angst that we all, in ways, can dial into. This person is perceiving his obedience as not paying off or doing the trick…this person is not satisfied.
We also catch a glimpse of perception in our psalm appointed for the day. This is a familiar Psalm of lament by one who feels utterly abandoned by God. The psalmist cries out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
September 02, 2018
May I speak to you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Christian life is a supernatural life. When someone is a Christian, we see an observable difference in their life. It shows up. Scripture tells us that we are miraculously, though we may not feel it, new creatures in Christ. The old has passed away and behold the new has come. Our Epistle today gives us a tangible example and exhortation of how our Christian life is different and observable…or not…
In this reading today, we hear about our actions, handling our emotions, and the importance of the state of our hearts.
“Be doers of the word, not merely hearers who delude themselves.”
And a great word picture: “For if any are hearers of the word and not doers they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away immediately forget what they were like.”
The Christian life is one of response and action to all that God has done for us. As we relate to God and one another, simply put – Love is something you do.
But this is not an expectation to live up to from God…we are not saved by any works we do and cannot make God think any more of us than God already does. Salvation, like all things from God, is a gift.
James asserts: God gave us birth by the word of truth and we are to welcome this word implanted in us with meekness.
We live in the midst of profound miracle through God’s power and provision for us, but we still – still - are plagued by limitation. We sin, we fall short…and we do this, at times with great creativity.
James also asserts: if we are mere hearers of the word we “deceive ourselves” and become like one who walks away from a mirror and forgets what they looked like. James strongly says, religion lived from a deceived heart is worthless…worthless.
The word for heart in the Greek James uses will sound familiar: Kardia. Cardia. Cardio. We think of our hearts physically. However, in the Greek this is a big word conceptually and, in our context, refers to the center of our physical and spiritual life. From the New Testament Greek, Lexicon sees that this involves the mind, the will and character, and emotions or appetites and desires. Great inclusivity in its meaning.
August 12, 2018
Not a word we hear much in our daily life these days…another related word we think about more – character. Character being in simplicity the habits of our lives.
Integrity is related. Integrity has to do with the quality of our behavior. C. S. Lewis in his essay “Men without Chests” gives a helpful glimpse as he criticizes development of people that is cerebral – the mind, and visceral – the appetites, but neglects the importance of the chest – that which links or tames our thinking and our appetites. Lewis calls the chest the seat of the sentiment or place of magnanimity in our lives. Magnanimity is the quality of our behavior – it is noble, generous. Lewis asserted boldly, “by intellect one is mere spirit and by one’s appetite mere animal.”
The biblical idea of integrity is wholeness - completeness, moral innocence. It has the idea of soundness of character and adherence to moral character. Often in scripture, it also is coupled with the idea of ‘walking’ in integrity. This implies the habitual manner of life as being bound with integrity.
Do you see David or Absalom in this? For both we’ve seen over the past few weeks lives lacking integrity. In the language of C. S. Lewis, David, and Absalom were literally “men without chests” - making choice out of appetites – lust, violence, selfish ambition, anger, greed.
Let me sum up – because we’ve missed a few headlines in our Sunday propers:
David had many children – 20 are named in scripture – and David had many partners. There was struggle relationally among the four oldest – all from different mothers – for Absalom, 2nd in line for succession, this was personal between him and Amnon, 1st in line for succession.
May 06, 2018
May I speak to you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Over the last several weeks we’ve been hearing of many miraculous stories from the book of Acts and through John – both his gospel and letters – we have been very repetitively hearing about love, and this last two weeks abiding and obeying commands. It’s an easy time as we’ve reached week six in celebrating Easter with all these repetitions to zone out…to miss it…but there’s some stuff going on here…
The word love is getting thrown around a lot. It’s a word we hear all the time.
We think about it a lot.
The Beatles asserted – All you need is Love
In the musing on love all is not good news – the J. Geils Band in the 80’s exclaimed – Love Stinks
Tina Turner asked, What’s love got to do with it?
The Captain & Tenille claimed (before their divorce) – Love will Keep us Together
Huey Lewis is wowed by the Power of Love
What’s funny in the English language is that we have one word for love: Love. We use the same word to say to our spouse or significant other to express ourselves that we say to express our feelings about pizza: I love you. I love pizza. Love. This concept can seem so vague while being so significant.
No wonder it's befuddling when we hear that God is love.
It helps us to consider the word love in the Greek – the language of it’s writing in the New Testament. In Greek, there are four words for love – Eros, Philos, Storge, and Agape.
In our readings today, the repetitive use of the word love is actually 2 kinds of love (Strong’s concordance helps us here) they are cognates of Philos – friend love or confidant, beloved and the other is a cognate of agape – in its meaning it is wide: a benevolence, unconditional – transcending circumstance or behavior…it just is.
March 29, 2018
May I speak to you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Here we are. Maundy Thursday. The tipping point as we go into the Triduum – the Great Three Days of Easter.
It’s challenging for us to do this remembering. Bunny trails of thought can distract us. Or we can get hyper-focused on one idea or concept. As we approach things in our lives often we may think – “If I just do this one thing” or “change this one thing.” We tend to make things singular.
But here, now as we enter the institution narrative – the place where Jesus is declaring the “already but not yet” through the cup of wine and loaf of bread. Jesus is at once mediator, sacrifice, servant, friend, and Lord. There is a multiplicity of things going on. These involve Jesus’ roles, but they also involve the timing and convergence of symbols and ritual.
This comes from two directions for us in this night: the institution of sacrament stated as “new covenant” and Jesus declaring himself as mediator and sacrifice.
Covenant and sacrifice.
Scripturally these two streams, though really important in the followership of God by Israel are not connected. We hear of both throughout the Old Testament with great detail but not paired. They are promise and provision but are separate practices and concepts.
But here, in this night suddenly they are connected together.
Covenant serves to provide a means of right relating.
A covenant is something that binds parties together. Historically, covenants were made between people groups and nations as a means of relating. And through redemptive history covenants with different focus took place to bind people to God:
Noah and the rainbow
Abraham – land, and descendants
Israel at Sinai – Moses and the 10 commandments
David – a generational promise of a King…lineage to the Savior.
Each of these had a flavor of a sovereign and a servant and a binding of parties together.
Looking at covenant’s in scripture we often see an animal killed and displayed…but don’t confuse this. This animal killed and dismembered in the context of a covenant was no offering. It was a gruesome symbol. A symbol saying to each party: so be this done to me if I do not keep this covenant. The dead animal displayed symbolized consequence for breaking the covenant.
March 04, 2018
May I speak to you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
In today’s gospel, we see Jesus’ outburst…how startling!…our God has an emotional life – and those emotions are not just warm fuzzies. There’s anger, there’s yelling.
But what is happening? In the passage, we see that the Passover is approaching and through lack of detail the passage makes it sound pretty neat and tidy, but at the time of the year of the Passover festival, there is great chaos in Jerusalem.
To understand this chaos, we need to consider both the crowd and the temple. During the time of Herod, while Jerusalem was under Roman rule, many changes took place to accommodate the festival crowds and, perhaps seek both efficiency and benefit to Rome. As we read the Old Testament our understanding of the temple may get lost in descriptions of sacrifice and instruction of how to do things, but we need to remember that after the Babylonian Exile, there was a re-start of practice and location that emerged over time. The dispersed Jews began to pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the three major festivals each year - Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. As time went on changes continued and things became modified. Not unlike today in our culture as we use Amazon to mail order our shopping needs instead of physically going to a store or read on a Kindle instead of using a bound book – culture changes, and behaviors change.
That’s where we find ourselves in today’s reading. As I said, Passover was a Pilgrimage feast where Jews, who had been dispersed would return for worship. The population of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus has many estimates, anywhere from approximately 100-200 thousand people – less than half the size of present Little Rock, but on the three major festivals per year the population would swell, some assert to close to a million – but at least double in population…you can only imagine how hard it was for the city to cope – food, accommodations, animals, offerings, ritual facilities. So, Herod began work on the temple: we hear it intimated today – “This Temple has been under construction…” Herod renovated both the city and the Temple to accommodate these times of massive influx – these changes in the Temple were not changes in what took place there, but in approach for greater ease of number of people and their needs – it had to do with bridges of connection, building a large plaza around the Temple that linked some aspects of commerce to the location of the temple for the ease of the city as pilgrims descended for the festivals. We can glimpse the chaos of this Passover festival: crowds, animals, sounds, smells, chaos…and Jesus comes into the Temple…
Jesus’ angry outburst is interesting and instructive to us. It might show us more of who God is – that God has an emotional life, but it also shows us more of who we are.
February 14, 2018
Lent is here…this special season of preparation – historically this predominately preparation was for baptism, but for most of us having been Baptized, it’s a season of preparation to encounter Christ’s resurrection. This means we seek to understand who we are as sinners, and who God is in God’s Holiness and God’s Extravagant love and power.
There is a juxtaposition in Lent. The word Lent in his root meaning is “spring.” Springtime…a time of life, of a new beginning. This life and a new beginning are found as we focus on sin and death and need for forgiveness…the making of a right relationship. Here we find the contrast – life and new beginning is found through a focus on sin and death. Through this, we move to reconciliation with God, self, and others. From separation to union.
This is a season of gazing, really looking. It’s also a season of remembering: to remember – to re-put together – re-member Christ’s suffering and death – as we look, as we remember it gets in us. As we with intentionality enter into this ritual of Lent, it helps us know our need for God and God’s power and love.
We’re exhorted about motives and behavior for the Lenten season – listen carefully as we are called to a holy lent in a moment.
With all of our hearts we heard in our scripture readings – we are called to come to God in this season: this is both corporate and personal and without fear. And let us be reminded: this is not a season to earn something from God or about making commitments to our self-care by diet and exercise – the ever popular giving up chocolate for Lent. It is about ordered self-control to let go of something that may draw our heart from God and pick up something that may draw us toward God.
Drawing near to God
How might we demonstrate this? We hear in scripture several things:
Prayer- perhaps picking up a prayer time personally or corporately – this may mean we let go of something else that currently occupies time in our schedules.
Alms – intentional giving of our money
Time alone “secretly” with God to pray and read scripture
Fasting – abstaining from a food or foods remind ourselves as we hold from a food or foods – perhaps weekly or daily - of our need or desperation for God.
What does this do? This letting go and taking up?
It makes us aware…aware of whose presence we are in every moment of every day. God who is Holy, powerful, perfect, the King, and love. We see God’s faithfulness and our limitations. We experience grace.
So, let us consider our returning to God with all our hearts. To God who is gracious, merciful, and abounding in steadfast love…and may God bless us with a fresh revelation of Christ’s resurrection at Easter.
January 21, 2018
May I speak to you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve moved at warp speed from the nativity and beholding little Baby Jesus, to adult Jesus. BAM! What does that mean for us – how do we not only catch up but how do we enter in?
This season in the church calendar following Advent and the 12 days of Christmas is Epiphany. An author I appreciate and a former seminary professor of mine lend help in understanding where we are on the calendar: Jan Richardson has written devotionally on Advent and Epiphany. She provides definition and description:
Epiphany means “manifestation,” “appearing,” or “showing.” Epiphany refers both to the appearing of Christ in the world and to the arrival of the wise ones who followed the star and welcomed the child.
We hear from Richardson a nativity focus.
J. Neil Alexander, Dean of the School of Theology at Sewanee’s University of the South asserts an almost contradictory point of view in his writing on liturgical time – the seasons of the church year:
Epiphany is something of a fulcrum that shifts the balance from the incarnation of God seen in relation to the nativity of Jesus, to the incarnate one being manifest in new ways as God’s anointed one whom we will come to know as teacher, healer, and miracle worker, and ultimately as the Crucified and Risen One.
…the present shape of things often makes Epiphany seem only the end of Christmas, it is important to recognize…that Epiphany is also about looking forward, about beginnings, about what is still to come.
Alexander and Richardson both challenge us in our understanding and approach to Epiphany. It is not merely the end of Christmas, but a season to engage this adult Jesus and what he’s showing us – how he’s manifesting himself to us…and perhaps be willing to be surprised and welcoming.
Epiphany is a season of recognition. As we hear the readings, we are shown Jesus in his character, nature, and commitments – we heard of Christ’s baptism last week, and this week we see the beginning of the call of the disciples.
King David’s appetite got the better of him. What he wanted was good, but not for him.
In the Summa Theologiae, Thomas Aquinas affirms that love was God’s reason for the making of the world and that his goodness permeates creation—but in pieces, disassembled like a jigsaw puzzle. He writes: “The perfect goodness that exists one and unbroken in God can exist in creatures only in a multitude of fragmented ways.”
So David was drawn to a fragmentary good. His desire was one that we instinctively appreciate, because without it none of us would be here, but the wrongness of his acting on it was severe. Our appetites cause trouble when we are heedless of the good of others, and the puzzle as a whole.
What is love? “Willing the good” of another person, according to Aquinas. David’s motive wouldn’t count as love. He wanted Bathsheba for himself. Perhaps her feelings were reciprocal, but David left her husband’s good, his kingdom’s good, and other puzzle pieces, neglected on the floor. Inconveniently, a pregnancy occurred. Plan A was to give Uriah, the husband, grounds to believe he was the father. When that plan failed the king successfully arranged to have him killed in battle.
Evil, according to Aquinas, is a corruption of the good. “Power tends to corrupt,” as Lord Acton warned, and in this story we see why. Only a king could be tempted to sin like David did, because it would take a king to pull it off. David’s failure is common to men in high places, shadowing the lives and times of several of our recent presidents and even Martin Luther King. Like kings and presidents, prophets are susceptible.
When I started SUMMA, the high school theological debate camp, I named it partly for the Summa Theologiae––“the Summa,” for short. SUMMA, the camp, highlights faith’s intellectual dimension. According to the Summa, the book, our intellect is like an appetite. As David’s eye was attracted to the beauty of Bathsheba, our mind’s eye is drawn to truth. We call this attraction “reason.” Aquinas writes; “As the good denotes that towards which the appetite tends, so the true denotes that towards which the intellect tends.”
If truth is the sun, sometimes our sight of it is fogged by other appetites. David had broken three of the ten commandments (the sixth, seventh, and tenth, if you are keeping score) but he was oblivious. Nathan the prophet found a way to lift the fog. Lawyer-like, he caught the king’s attention with the case of a poor, honest sharecropper and his beloved lamb. David’s first job had been tending sheep, so he could relate. A selfish plantation owner took the poor man’s lamb to feed his party guests. The king was livid. “Is this for real?” “For real.” David’s appetite for justice burned. “That Simon Legree will pay!” he swore. Coming from a king that was a verdict, not an empty threat. Nathan had him. He drew out his mirror and held it to the king’s face. Look close, he said. You are that man. “The moment of truth.”
“We must no longer be children,” Paul writes to the Ephesians. “We must grow up,” he says, by “speaking the truth in love.” At SUMMA, the camp, the highest honor, “the SUMMA Prize,” is awarded to the camper who best shows us how that’s done. The prize is one thousand dollars. That is one way to make our point that truth and love are intertwined.
Often, finding truth takes expertise: science, logic, math. Aquinas’s expertise was logic and it took him years to learn. Not everyone would have the skill even if they afford the time. By God’s design, love requires no expertise. Everyone can understand and anyone can do it if they will. “It is evident,” Aquinas writes, “that not all are able to labor at learning and for that reason Christ has given a short law. Everyone can know this law and no one may be excused from observing it based on ignorance. This is the law of divine love.”
For a counterpoint, Franklin Roosevelt once compared our nation’s moral progress to our scientific progress unfavorably, which might suggest that finding truth is easier than loving. According to Jon Meacham, Roosevelt had drafted a speech to give on Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, April 13. This was 1945. The speech was discovered on Roosevelt’s desk in Warm Springs, Georgia, April 12, the day he died. This is FDR:
Today, science has brought all the different quarters of the globe so close together that it is impossible to isolate them one from another . . . Today we are faced with the preeminent fact that, if civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships—the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together and work together in the same world, at peace. . . . Let us move forward with strong and active faith.
That’s from Meacham’s book The Soul of America: The Battle for our Better Angels. From 1776 to now, the book tracks our national ups and downs in answering to what what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.” Meacham wrote the book because he thinks we need to listen much more closely to those better angels now. Who could disagree?
Aquinas and Roosevelt were both right. Aquinas, because only an Isaac Newton could discover calculus; and Roosevelt because, once discovered, truth is ours to keep. Libraries are full of it. Love is more like breakfast—we have to make it every morning. Aquinas called theology the “Queen of Sciences” because it's the science that has to reckon with both the library and the kitchen.
SUMMA, the camp, is a crash course in truth detection. I tell the students: “I didn’t bring you here to tell you what to think, but to show you how.” They learn the three parts of an argument: claim, evidence, and warrant. Claim: ‘What are you trying to get me to believe?’ Evidence: ‘What are you giving me to go on?’ Warrant: ‘How does the evidence support the claim?’
For example, claim: I say “Tomorrow it will rain.” Evidence: You ask “Why should I believe that?” I answer: “Open the window and take a whiff.” You open the window. “Oh,” you say, “the paper mill.” Warrant: By what logic does this smell support my claim? It’s called an “inference from sign.” Does the Pine Bluff Paper Mill cause rain? No, but it lets us know the wind is from the south, and southern winds bring moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. Summer heat means afternoon convection: hot air rising from the earth. Add moisture and boom! Summer thunderstorms.
In one sentence in our gospel reading, Jesus makes two claims: (1) God sent me. (2) Faith in me is a sign of God’s activity in the heart and mind of the believer. “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent,” he says. Again: “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” Smartly, people ask Jesus for evidence to support these claims. Moses gave us evidence, they remind him, out there in the wilderness. Our ancestors were hungry and thirsty. Miraculously, he gave them manna for bread and water from a boulder. So show us. “What sign are you going to give us that we may see it and believe in you?”
For John, the gospel writer, this question is like a student’s who had dozed off in class. It is summer school, the air conditioning is out and the windows are open. The air is hot, moist, and heavy with that familiar smell. The boy wakes up and asks the teacher to answer something she had just explained in detail: “So why should we believe that it will rain tomorrow?”
Jesus’ questioners had been dozing. In John’s gospel, signs followed everywhere he went. In Cana, he turned water into wine. In Capernaum, he healed a dying child; in Jerusalem, it was a sick old man too weak to walk. The latest sign had been the most spectacular so far, and these people who were asking for a sign had either seen or heard about it. From five loaves and two fish, five thousand hungry appetites were satisfied. In a fog, these interrogators fail to draw the inference from sign.
Jesus backs up and tries another tack. With Moses still in mind, he offers an analogy. Analogies are warrants that work by comparison. “This is like that.” You know what its like to hungry and be given bread? They nod, still digesting loaves that he had given. I am like that he says. “Those who come to me will never hunger and those who believe in me will never thirst,” he promises. He isn’t talking now about digestion, but about that activity of God in human hearts and minds––also called the Holy Spirit.
By this, he puts us on watch for good that answers to a longing deeper than hunger even, and more thrilling even than that dizzy dancing feeling that draws us to each other sometimes. Powerful and necessary though they are, these appetites, they point to only fragments of the good we need as human beings. We are made for more.
We don’t need faith to know this. Aristotle knew it. Reason, he taught, is like an appetite for good things greater than our emotional enjoyment and even our physical survival.
We do not live by bread alone. Reason shows us that much. Faith, hope, love—the activity of God in the minds and hearts of all believers––now show us more: eternal truth, everlasting goodness, and transcendent beauty. They are like coffee, eggs, and bacon cooking in the kitchen early in the morning, smells wafting up the stairs into the bedroom as we’re dressing, getting ready for the day.