2 Samuel 11:1-15; Ephesians 3:14-21; John 6:1-21
Break out your record player and old Rolling Stones albums… because this week, we’re going to talk about satisfaction.
The message of our consumer culture is, in fact, that you can’t get none, no, no, no. Or at least not much and not for long. We are groomed to be insatiable. Companies target children in hopes of having those children nag their parents for Happy Meals, Minion gear and all manner of entertainment, toys and clothing. And, here’s the thing, it never stops. The goal is for there to be ever and always a new thing we must have. The latest Apple product, this season’s fashions, another experience to check off the bucket list. There is never any satisfaction, no, no, no.
Do a quick Google search of ad slogans and you get the message: You aren’t enough, there isn’t enough, ever. Cosmetic companies say, “There is no such thing as natural beauty.” They tell women, “You are in a beauty contest every day of your life.” Did you read the recent Time cover story? The one titled, “Nip. Tuck. Or Else.” Joel Stein writes about the increasing number of people going under the knife and how that will put pressure on the rest of us to do so as well if we want to get the right job, salary, partner or promotion. More and more people aren’t satisfied with their looks, with aging gracefully, with their body size and shape.
But the beauty industry is far from having a corner on this you-aren’t-enough culture. Car companies have telling ad campaigns. “Never follow” Audi. “The best never rest” Ford Trucks. “The relentless pursuit of perfection” Lexus. Never, never, relentless… In other words, satisfaction? No, no, no.
Perfume? “Between love and madness lies obsession” Calvin Klein “Let your desire lead you” BVLGARI.
Food? “Have it your way” Burger King.
Entertainment? “Think big” Imax “The happiest place on earth” Disneyland.
According to our culture, you are never enough and there is never enough. We are bombarded with the message of insatiability and told we deserve all our insatiable wants because we are “worth it” and “the most important person in the world.” And yet, no matter what we buy or how we lunch or where we live, we still don’t quite measure up. We need more or different or better.
Our economy counts on us buying into this message (pun intended). But God’s economy is different. Radically different. This week’s New Testament texts are all about abundance and satisfaction, but not in terms of wages or automobiles. The Kingdom economy offers satisfaction through the presence of God in our midst and the abundant life that comes in God’s wake.
Take a look at John’s version of the feeding of the 5,000. This isn’t a trickle down economy. It is a poured out one. This isn’t about stockpiling. It is about giving. It isn’t about security. It is about risk. It isn’t about calculated investments. It is about total trust. What would John’s slogan be for this event?
I like one of Jaguar’s slogans: Grace, space, pace. I am going to co-opt it. Posters could read: Join Jesus on the hillside for a day of grace, space and pace. It is sure to satisfy! There will be more than enough! Come as you are! To-go boxes available! Free!
Today’s New Testament texts are about satisfaction. They are about abundance. Super abundance, in fact. The beautiful prayer in Ephesians is for “sum total fullness.” John tells us that the 5,000 had as much as they wanted and when they were satisfied Jesus instructed the disciples to gather up the leftovers. Those leftovers filled 12 baskets. In the Kingdom economy there is enough. You are enough and there is more than enough. Cups overflow. Goodness and mercy pursue. Even in the dark, stormy sea there is nothing to fear. Contentment rules. Peace passes understanding. Yokes are easy. Burdens are light. Does this sound different than the message that bombards us? Different than the message we buy into, even in the church?
It is Jesus, not Jaguar, that provides the grace, space and pace that truly satisfies. Can we preach that this week?
Throw out some slogans and see how they jive with the gospel. You can use almost any perfume ad to lead the way into a discussion of 2 Samuel. “Let your desires lead you.” That’ll work. In good Dr. Phil fashion, ask David (and ourselves), “How’s that working for you?” Lift up all the things – both tangible and intangible – that we are told will satisfy us, make us happy, give us status and yet of which there is simultaneously never enough. Use a few slogans to make the point. Or list off the New York Times best-sellers under the advice category. (There are a lot about diet and food. That’ll preach!) Or read a few of the Fortune 500 companies’ mission statements. (They have a language all their own.) With what do they want to fill us? Now, look through your Facebook feed how much we are buying what they are selling.
Do you discover much satisfaction? Hey, hey, hey.
Then maybe just stop. Be absolutely silent for a full thirty seconds. It will make everyone, perhaps especially you, really uncomfortable. Then read, slowly, and with conviction, Ephesians 3:14-21.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
It is the love of Christ we are to know in all its poured out breadth and length and height and depth. This is what fills us up and satisfies. It is the love of God made known to us through Jesus Christ, the one who knows our need, our illnesses, our hunger and offers us the bread of life. It is the compassionate, servant love of Jesus Christ that comes to us in the dark, assures us of his power and gets us to the shore safely that is super abundant. It is this love that makes sure that nothing is lost that gives us satisfaction, contentment, peace, joy. This is the message we need to proclaim because the crowd is hungry for that which truly fills.
It is a Sunday for grace, space and pace.
Grace: Through Jesus Christ we are enough and there is enough. Every day isn’t a beauty contest, it is one that the Lord has made, so we can rejoice and be glad in it. We don’t have to relentlessly pursue perfection. We’ve been perfected through the blood of Christ.
Space: Through Jesus Christ there is room for us in God’s house. He goes and prepares a place for us. We don’t have to go on vacation to the happiest place on earth, our joy is complete because we abide in Christ and Christ abides in us.
Pace: Through Jesus Christ we are satisfied. We are told to sit and eat. We are to follow Jesus Christ, go at his pace and find rest for our souls.
This is Good News for the crowd gathered in John’s Gospel and the ones that will gather in our churches this Sunday and the ones nowhere near our sanctuaries. Offer all you have to Jesus this Sunday and trust he will take it, bless it and use it. Gather up the abundance left over and then take it out into the world so that they, too, will know that through Jesus Christ they are enough and there is enough.
- Do a word study on filled and fullness. What are the things that God gives us and fills us with to overflowing? Here are a few texts to get you started: Romans 15:13-14; Ephesians 5:18; Acts 13:52.
- Pay attention to advertisements you see and hear this week. Write down the ones that strike you. What message are they sending us? Hold them up to the light of the gospel. What do you see?
- Make Ephesians 3:14-21 your daily prayer this week.
- Why this detailed story of David and Bathsheba? Why would the writers of 2 Samuel want readers to know these things about David? Given this story, how is it possible that David is of God’s own heart? How does this inform our understanding of God’s character?
- Why do you think the story of the feeding of the 5,000 is followed by the story of Jesus walking on water in all but one of the Gospels? What are the Gospel writers trying to tell us about Jesus? Christology?
- What would it be like to preach the John text to a crowd that is physically hungry? Imagine that sermon and let it inform the one you write for your context, particularly if your congregation isn’t one where people know hunger.
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