Holy Thursday Homily, “I’m Still Hungry”
Jesus said early in John, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” If that’s true, why am I still hungry? Maybe he’s not talking about what’s in my cupboard, but I still get hungry every day and I’ll be honest with you, even after I receive Holy Communion I am still hungry.
Plus, the Gospel of John, the same Gospel that records Jesus saying “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never go hungry” doesn’t specifically mention the gifts of bread and cup. John does speak of the meal they would share, the table they would gather around, and the act that would transform the disciple’s perspective on service, humility, and love. What does Jesus offer the disciples in John? He offers them himself in love and service. He got up from the table and did something that the host would have done. I can picture the disciples quizzically looking at each other as Jesus pours out water into the basin and started to wash their feet. “What is this guy doing?” they probably wondered. I can see the look on their faces. He was showing them what love looks like. Jesus would show them again the next day as he is placed on the cross. Christ would show them again a few days later.
The other three Gospels, the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, all include another piece of the story of this night. They all include Jesus offering the bread and the cup to the disciples. Again, Jesus showed them what love looks like in the breaking of the bread and the taking of the cup. It’s a simple meal and a kind gesture; here’s some bread and some wine, but Jesus adds this meaning, “This is my body that is for you. This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this in remembrance of me.” The Apostle Paul adds even more meaning to this simple meal by writing to the Church in Corinth, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” You receive Christ, you live in Christ, and you follow his Passion from this table.
This evening we sang a beautiful hymn titled You Satisfy the Hungry Heart. It’s a beautiful hymn, but I kept thinking, “You satisfy the hungry heart? I’m still hungry.” Now I realize that it’s not about filling my stomach with food, but it’s about having my heart filled or satisfied. Even so, my heart is still hungry. Maybe that’s the point of the Eucharist. It is at this table and this simple meal we are given a taste of the Kingdom and it should make us hungry for more. It should be a meal that transforms us into desiring more and more of God and God’s Kingdom.
I remember visiting Hal. He was a long time member of First United Methodist Church. I would visit him almost monthly when I was pastor there and I would always bring Holy Communion with me. We would talk and laugh and confess and talk some more until eventually Hal would say, “I see you brought the good stuff with you.” He was referring to Holy Communion of course. I knew that meant it was time to dine together. It wasn’t the most elaborate meal ever. Nor was it ever easy to offer without a table. I would fumble through the pieces of bread or the tiny cups I would fill with grape juice trying not to spill it on his couch. Once I would get the meal ready, I would offer a prayer, then silently offer to Hal the bread, which he would take and grasp closely in his hands then close his eyes. It was like I was offering him manna from heaven, the finest and best bread ever given. He would then do the same as I offered him a tiny bit of grape juice. This is Christ’s body given for you. This is Christ’s blood shed for you. “Amen,” he would say, as he savored the one bite and the small cup of juice. For Hal, it was not just an ordinary meal. It was the ordinary made extraordinary in Christ.
We would end every visit with Hal asking me to return the next month with more bread and more grape juice, because as he said, “I’ll be hungry for more.” Are you hungry for more of God as we enter the end of Holy Week, as we sit with Jesus at his Last Supper, as we sit in silence in the garden, as we watch him on trial, as we witness his torture and mocking, as we watch him carry his cross, as we stand silently at the tomb in grief, and as we eagerly anticipate the light of Sunday? Are you hungry for the fullness of Easter?
It makes me wonder about this meal we’re about to receive tonight. Why will I leave this meal still spiritually hungry? Did I eat the meal too fast? Was it because my piece of the bread was too small? Did I not confess enough or pray hard enough? Maybe it’s because this meal calls us from the table to desire God even more when we leave this place. This meal is about giving thanks (Eucharist), it’s about forgiveness and grace, it’s about transformation, and it’s about desire.
Sarah Miles, who is not an Episcopal priest and author, before she ever attended church stumbled into Saint Gregrory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco one morning and found herself joining the congregation in their movement forward to eat bread and drink from the cup. In that simple act she found herself transformed. She wrote, “Saint Gregory of Nyssa (whose name adorned her church) says that the way we are most like God is in our desire: that God desires us and we desire God. And that desire, that hunger, is what connects us to God. It’s a beautiful hunger.”
If you leave tonight still hungry, maybe that’s alright. Maybe that’s the point. May we discover tonight that Jesus is indeed the bread of life and when he said we will never go hungry, I think he is trying to remind us that there’s always more than enough of God, enough grace, enough love, enough forgiveness, and enough bread for everyone. Even so, it is our hunger that continues to drive our relentless pursuit of God, as God ceaselessly pursues us. Isn’t that what we learn this week? God desires us as displayed on the cross, in resurrection, and in the bread and the cup. May our desire tonight be for more grace, more love, more forgiveness, and more bread. May we always be hungry for more and more of Jesus.
Let us pray:
We are hungry, Lord! We come to church on this Maundy Thursday with different types of hunger for you.
Some of us sit down at the table eagerly, because we are hungry.
Some of us have come because we know we should eat, even though we don`t feel like it.
And some of us have lost our appetite, and we don`t even know why.
And yet you have drawn us to your welcoming table of love, one and all, your arms open to embrace us just as we are.
As we come to this table and eat this meal, fill us with your presence
so that when we leave tonight, we can leave saying, “I want more and more of You and Your Kingdom. Keep us hungry, Lord. Amen.