Don’t you just love a crisp, fresh, green grape? It’s refreshment. You take a handful of green grapes and then,, pop them in your mouth one by one. Enjoying the explosion of slight sweetness. One green grape after another. You could almost close your eyes as you eat them. That second of delight. Then it happens! EWH! The sour grape! The sweet taste is gone from your mouth. Its sourness lingers in the crevices of cheeks and places that you were sure you didn’t even touch the grape to your lips, tongue or teeth. Now you search for sweet grapes to change the taste in your mouth back. Once you have a taste of the sweetness, you want to enjoy it again.
We search and seek. Some of us travelled around the world seeing the sunset on each of the continents. In the Florida Keys or from the Grand Canyon. Over the Egyptian pyramids or by a fire in a ski lodge nestled in the Swiss Alps. Across the plains of the Serengeti or painting the Australian outback. On the Great Wall of China or accompanied by penguins in the Antarctic. Our souls become filled with wonder and awe as the whole world is painted with beauty. The wanderlust of travel swirls within us. And then moments, hours later, we are still wanting.
It is the exhilaration of a new love, a sweetheart. We meet someone and begin to wonder about the possibility of them. Will they like me as I like them? Will they call me back? Will they respond to my message? Humanity finds connection in one another. As fingers begin to touch and sparks fly, potential connection is electric. Closer and closer until we find ourselves picking out all the ways in which the other is flawed and can never measure up! Still haven’t found what I’m looking for.
Day in and day out, we work. From beginning to end, until the next day comes. From one day until the next. It can feel like- for what do I work? For what do I put in my hours and why do I do the work that I do? I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.
The psalmist writes in the first verse of Psalm 63, “I seek God, my soul thirsts for God”. The Hebrew word used here for soul is closer to the esophagus – the way through which the sustenance enters the body. Our physical thirst for water and bodily hunger for food are met here in the same place we feel longing for our sweetheart who is traveling, our child who is away at college, the ache of broken relationships. The place where we know longing. We try to fill in.
And yet there is a small part of us that is still yearning. When the room is noisy and filled with people all around us, we can hear our own emptiness and we take another drink. Or in the quiet, we feel the loneliness and eat another couple of cookies or a bag of tortilla chips. We binge on Netflix series and pornography. We fill our shopping carts with items we do not need. We make wagers and bets on games with money that we don’t have quite yet.
Our humanity numbs our pain. We self-medicate. The emptiness and yearning we feel is not sin. The yearning we feel is a desire to find our complete rest in God. We, who are made in the image of God, are restless until we find our home in God. Sometimes, the actions we take to numb our pain can harm ourselves and others, can disconnect us from God. Then, the very actions we took to relieve our pain of disconnect from God separates us from God. Ironic, isn’t it?
Within each of us, there is a longing. There is a need to be filled that can only be filled with intimacy and closeness with God. A God-sized hole. Paul teaches the church at Corinth in his letter that even prophecy, the tongues of spiritual discernment, faith, generosity, only begin to glimpse aspects of the fullness of God’s love for us. Each of these has a season in our lives. A distinct purpose and beauty, but in and of itself, is not the fullness of God. So, how do find what we are looking for? We are restless until we find rest in God.
Summer nights are perfect for baseball games. You can settle into the rhythm of the game, sitting back enjoying company and rooting for your team. Nobody gets by without at least something to eat – a hot dog or popcorn and ice cream. It could be easy to watch the game and miss the foul tip as it comes down 3rd base and into the stands – directly towards you! Heads up!
Let me ask you, what are you paying attention to? From behavioral scientist, Winnifred Gallagher: “Far more than you may realize, your experience, your world, even yourself are the creations of what you focus on. From distressing sights to soothing sounds, protean thoughts to rolling emotions, the targets of your attention are the building blocks of your life. ”(1)
What we pay attention to shapes our world – our thoughts, emotions, experiences, desires. If you pay attention to finances, you will think about money all the time, your emotions will ride the ups and downs of the stock market, and you will desire financial success and stability more than anything. If you pay attention to your family, your emotions will be tied to their joys and sorrows and your greatest desire will be for their happiness. If you pay attention to what’s wrong with your life, you will always be on the lookout for more bad news, sensitive to every insult, passionate about getting even or running away, living with anxiety and depression all the time. What we pay attention to shapes our desires. If we are caring for aging parent, we will be attuned to all those who are caring also to aging parents. We will see others who we have not previously seen. We will become aware of the need for excellent long-term care, advocacy of families, and hear stories of caregivers. When we are raising up our children, we see children at the age of our children.
The challenge is that much of our paying attention is involuntary or bottom up, response to stimuli. This is response to stimuli like a phone ringing, screaming child, bee buzzing, or pain in your body. Paying attention to God is “top down attention” that is deciding not to focus on minor items and determining with what to engage and when. Set your mind above, not on earthly thing, says Colossians 3. But even in the act of prayer, our attention can wander. We’re worrying or solving problems or even sleeping. So, we must then do what the Psalmist talks about in verse 6. Think about God as you pray. God’s presence is as life-sustaining as water and food.
As we come to the Table, we come knowing we long for God and have need for God. God extends you an invitation to the communion table. This table is more than bread and juice, more than remembering an act of two thousand years ago. This table features the transformative Jesus now and then, offering his very self for you, and then bidding you to go give yourselves for others. Teaching them, preaching to them and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ – who live, died, was buried, rose again on the third day with life eternal for all people. Jesus who opened the Kingdom of God for all people and then calls us to usher The Kingdom in.
Still haven’t found what you are looking for?
God found you! Draw near to God and feast on God.
This is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, thanks be to God, Amen.
(1) Gallagher, Winnifred. Rapt Attention and the Focus Life, 2009.
O God, you are my God, I seek you,
my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands and call on your name.
My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,
and my mouth praises you with joyful lips
when I think of you on my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
But those who seek to destroy my life
shall go down into the depths of the earth;
they shall be given over to the power of the sword,
they shall be prey for jackals.
But the king shall rejoice in God;
all who swear by him shall exult,
for the mouths of liars will be stopped.
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels,
but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
And if I have prophetic powers,
and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,
and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains,
but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away all my possessions,
and if I hand over my body so that I may boast,
but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love never ends.
But as for prophecies, they will come to an end;
as for tongues, they will cease;
as for knowledge, it will come to an end.
For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part;
but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child,
I reasoned like a child;
when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.
Now I know only in part;
then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
Meditations For Your Week
Sunday, August 4 ~ Saturday, August 10
Sunday: “O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” Psalm 63: 1. No matter how noisy the room or how full the conversation, we always yearn for God. There is a God-sized vacuum inside of us. God, too, is seeking you and will not rest until you rest in God.
Monday: “For you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.” Psalm 63:7. In the shadow of the wings of God, you are covered and cared for, even if you feel anxious about what might still be. Breathe in the presence of God. Consider that God is already caring for you.
Tuesday: “My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” Psalm 63:8. Pray for those in recovery as they cling day by day. Pray for a new community of hope to surround them.
Wednesday: “But the king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by him shall exult, for the mouths of liars will be stopped.” Psalm 63:11. Pray for all those who make decisions. May their decisions bring joy and justice.
Thursday: “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” 1 Corinthians 13: 1. God’s love sometimes speaks without words. Consider a practice today of noticing God’s love towards you and others without words.
Friday: “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2. How is your love inspiring hope in God?
Saturday: ” Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.” 1 Corinthians 13:8. God’s love through us continues. Share that love with expressions of joy today.