Southminster Presbyterian Church

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Finding Satisfaction

Ken Onstot

Scriptures: Isaiah 55:1-7, John 6:25-35

             As I said in the eNews this week, I never thought I would quote Lady Gaga in a sermon.  But here goes.  These are lyrics from Lady Gaga’s academy award winning song “Shallows”:

 Tell me something, girl
Are you happy in this modern world?
Or do you need more?
Is there something else you're searching for?

I'm falling
In all the good times I find myself longing
For change
And in the bad times, I fear myself.

 Tell me something, boy
Aren't you tired tryin' to fill that void?
Or do you need more?
Ain't it hard keeping it so hardcore?

I'm falling
In all the good times I find myself longing
For change
And in the bad times, I fear myself.

             Isn’t it interesting that Lady Gaga raises the same issue as Isaiah?  “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”

            Earlier this year I had lunch with a friend from high school who had grown up across the street from me in Tacoma.  During an earlier visit, I told him about my book A Faith Worth Believing, so he got one and read it.  When he finished it, he contacted me and said he would like to talk about it, so we met for lunch.  He told me he had thought carefully about what he was going to say, and he decided to begin with a story.  He said, “When I go to the grocery store, as I am checking out the clerks always ask the same question.  They say, ‘Did you find everything you were looking for?’”  He looked at me and said, “When I read your book, I realized I hadn’t found everything I was looking for.”

At first I thought he meant he had not found what he was looking for in the book, that the book had disappointed him.  But then I realized that was not what he meant.  He meant that the book had raised for him a question: “Have I found what I’m looking for in life?”  And his answer was no.

We talked for another hour about his experience growing up with an alcoholic parent and all the things he had gone through since high school: touring with a rock band, getting married, getting divorced, losing his job, getting another job, but still wondering what he was looking for.  He concluded by saying, “I think I need to start going to church.”

  If no one else ever reads my book, that conversation alone makes it worth writing it.

             As both my friend and Lady Gaga recognized, there is a void in our lives which cannot be filled at a grocery story.  There is a search going on that does not end with getting a degree, getting a job, getting married, getting a house or getting anything else.

            Which brings me back to Isaiah 55.  Here is the first irony in Isaiah 55.  You cannot buy what you are looking for, but you can have it for free.  “You that have no money, come, buy and eat!  Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”

            How do you buy something without money?  Simple, you accept it as a gift.  Notice the verbs that are used in Isaiah 55, verses 2-3:

-          “Listen carefully to me”

-          “Incline your ear”

-          “Come to me”

-          “Listen, so that you may live”

It is not the things we do that will make our lives meaningful.  It is not the things we buy that will give us satisfaction.  It’s the words we listen to and the person speaking them.  Meaning is not found in possessions or accomplishments but in a relationship with Someone whose words we can trust and who will be there with us when everything else is gone.

            Did you notice the similarity between Isaiah 55 and our first scripture reading in John 6?  A crowd of people come to Jesus wanting to make him king because he has just fed 5000 people with five loaves bread.  Who wouldn’t want a king like that?  Someone who could balance the budget, fund social security, increase spending for education, and provide cradle to grave Medicare, and do it without raising taxes.  He is the ideal candidate for president.

But Jesus says to them, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”  Son of Man is an expression Jesus often uses to refer to himself.  It is your relationship with Jesus that gives you food for eternal life.

The crowd does not understand this.  They are still thinking about accomplishments and acquisitions, so they say to Jesus, “What must we do to perform the works of God?”  Their very question is based on the idea that satisfaction comes from works, from what we do.

But Jesus replies, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he sent.”  It is not your work that will bring ultimate satisfaction to your life; it is your relationship to God, a relationship that Jesus came to make possible.

But there is something else in Isaiah 55 that gives our lives meaning.  Not only are we given a relationship to God, it is a relationship we can share with others.  Verse 5: “See, you will call nations that you do not know, and nations that you do not know will come running to you, because of the Lord your God.”

For several years in Spokane I belonged to a fitness club.  One morning while I was working out, the background music was interrupted by an advertisement.  A voice came on inviting people to join the 24-hour Fitness staff as a trainer.  The voice said, “You can change people’s lives forever, and there aren’t many people who can say that about their job.”

When I heard that announcement I sort of smiled to myself.  I looked around the gym at all the people there, including those strong, muscle-toned trainers, and I thought, “You know, all of you will eventually get arthritis or cancer or heart disease or macular degeneration or Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s or some other terminal malady.”  If you want to change people’s lives forever, don’t be a trainer; be a minister!  Sooner or later our bodies will let us down, as will everything else to which we might commit our lives: career, possessions, advancement, even spouses, parents, or children.  Sooner or later all these good things will let us down, especially if they become the sole focus of our lives.

“Do not work for the food that perishes,” Jesus says, “but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”  And here is another irony: if you seek first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, you will discover more satisfaction in the other areas of your life.  If your job, your family, your possessions, and even your precious but deteriorating body are not the ultimate priorities of your life, you will find more joy in them than if they were.  Seek first the Bread of Life, and all the other bread in your life will be more satisfying.

"Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care."

Psalm 95:6-7