[Taken from a sermon to be preached this coming Sunday]
I start out with this opening question, “Are you hungry?” Right away our minds turn to breakfast, lunch or maybe a quick raid on the leftovers in the refrigerator. Yet, there are different kinds of hunger beyond food. If we are sick, the hunger is for healing and health. The hunger inside might be for peace or justice or truth. While the word ‘hunger’ can be used to describe the yearning that is inside each of us, this coming Sunday I’ll turn to what can be called the hunger for God.
I am going to ask you the question again but this time it isn’t about food. “Are you hungry?” This time we are looking at a different kind of hunger. The kind of hunger that reaches down into the soul.
Are you hungry to look upon the face of Jesus, the risen Lord?
Are you hungry for the presence of God to be as sure and as obvious as a tent pitched in your backyard?
Are you hungry for the divisions that hurt so deep in society to be removed as the kingdom of heaven brings healing to the nations?
Are you hungry for heaven’s feast…when death has been swallowed up in victory…when you will lift the cup of victory with the ones you have loved…and lost…and miss?
So are you hungry this morning? If the question is about looking upon the face of Christ in glory and for the coming of God’s reign, then the hunger is real and begs to be satisfied. The older you get, the hunger pangs get all the stronger.
This Sunday is Transfiguration Sunday and Lent begins with Ash Wednesday in a couple days. Preaching on this text is really hard because how do you with words tell of a vision that words can’t adequately explain? How do you describe what it would be like to stand next to the likes of Moses and Elijah from the Old Testament? How do you describe with words Christ suddenly glowing with the glory reserved for God alone? How do you describe the voice which said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” How do you make tangible the touch of Jesus saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” You can’t. You simply have to be there and experience the moment first hand. What we can do is express the hunger that we share with Peter and James and John. In the end, description isn’t good enough, we want fulfillment.
So this morning we are given a description of a vision that Peter, James and John were blessed to experience. Lets begin by engaging in what the Gospel of Matthew is trying to tell us.
Just prior to this amazing vision on the mountain top, Jesus tells the disciples that he was going to Jerusalem. What was about to happen in Jerusalem was not what they expected, he would be rejected and killed, but in three days he would rise. Peter pulled him aside with the message to stop such talk. Jesus responded with “Get behind me Satan.” He went on to say that if you wanted to have life and be considered a follower of his, you take a cross and die to this world.
We tend to be really tough on Peter then and in the reading today when he wanted to build three booths for Jesus, Moses and Elijah to stay. Shouldn’t he have known better but in reality he was just like the rest of us. He had a hunger that needed to be filled that was instilled as a boy hearing the stories of the glorious past and of a redeemed future brought by the Messiah. Unfortunately he had a hunger but didn’t know fully what the hunger was for. The problem is that we aren’t always sure what we are hungry for either. Haven’t each of us stood in front of an open refrigerator door not knowing what we are hungry for? So it is with faith.
We think the hunger is for political power and exert our will over others. Or, we think it is about celebrity and the biggest church, or how we remember or think life was like fifty years ago. And so we try to fill the hunger but to do so we lie, deceive, con each other, con ourselves and sell our souls. In the end we have nothing, not even life. The hunger instilled in us is not a re-branding or shuffling of the deck in terms of who is in power. The hunger is to look upon the face of God…to feel the touch of Christ and to hear his call to rise and not be afraid…to live in a world pulsating with God’s justice and peace.
Matthew then moves to the voice which speaks from the cloud saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved listen to him!” The voice from the cloud announced, “this is my Son, the Beloved” which is much like what was announced at his baptism. This time the voice said something more, “listen to him.” Just after the amazing vision on the mountain top, Jesus was going down the mountain and gave the three disciples a stern warning to keep this quiet until he was raised from death. The very presence of God for which we hunger the most is sandwiched between Jesus’ announcement that he was going to die and rise from the dead.
The hunger that runs so deep in the soul is satisfied only by the love of God in Christ who emptied himself out on the cross for us…satisfied only by the resurrection where the power of death is no more.
So we return to the opening question about being hungry. There is a meal for the people hungry for God. It is called Holy Communion. We are fed looking forward to the day when all hunger is gone.
Do not be afraid, this is the body of Christ given for you.
Do not be afraid, this is the blood of Christ shed for you.
A foretaste of the feast to come when we raise the cup of victory with those we have loved and lost and miss.
A day when all the lies and deceit and division and abuse will have come to their end in the cross of Christ. A new creation will be free in the resurrection.
So are you hungry? Then come, come to God’s Holy Table this coming Sunday in anticipation of the day when the hunger is no more.