08/01/21 Dr. John C. Van Nuys
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time John 6:35
Dinner Is Served
Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
Anthony Bourdain was a celebrity chef, best-selling author, and an award-winning television star. Bourdain was handsome, smart, wealthy, famous, and seemingly on top of the world. Sadly, Bourdain committed suicide in 2018.
The documentary Roadrunner tells the story of his meteoric life and tragic end. In one scene Bourdain interviews the legendary bad boy punk rocker Iggy Pop. These two old school, adrenaline junkies share a meal and Bourdain asks a smart question given Iggy Pop’s reputation: “What thrills you?”
Iggy Pop’s answer left Anthony Bourdain speechless. The old, grizzled rock star said: “What thrills me is being loved and appreciating the people who love me.”
While the reasons for Bourdain’s suicide are ultimately unknowable, I suspect that part of the answer why Bourdain killed himself is because this rock star chef, who knew all the best recipes, forgot or lost hold of the most important recipe of all.
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
Translation: God is love. Jesus is the face of God; the human incarnation of Love, which ultimately will save us all. It all boils down to love. God created us out of love. We are here to give and receive love with God, neighbor, and creation. Love inevitably involves pain. When our loved ones suffer, we suffer. Jesus, the Crucified One, is the One who suffers with us and for us. And his love saves, heals, resurrects, and restores us to life.
What thrills you? Being loved and appreciating the people who love me. What gives you purpose and brings you joy? Giving love and being blessed through that sharing. What gives you hope? Knowing that Love is the greatest power in the universe and trusting that that Love will have the final say over everything and, yes, even about us.
What if we really believed that? Not belief as mental agreement with a principle that we occasionally think of, but belief as intimate connection with a Presence we deeply trust – as our Friend who we know will never let us down.
In John’s Gospel; in seven statements, Jesus tells us he is that Friend. In seven different ways, Jesus tells us that he’s got things covered so we can live freely and fully without fear: I am the Bread of Life (6:35); the Light of the World (8:12); the Door (10:7); the Good Shepherd (10:11, 14), the Resurrection and the Life (11:25), the Way, the Truth, and the Life (14:6); and the True Vine (15:1).
I don’t know if Iggy Pop goes to church. I don’t know if Iggy Pop believes in Jesus. That’s between him and God. But I do know that Iggy Pop has gotten hold of a truth – or, rather, The Truth has gotten hold of him – that has set him on a different path than that of Anthony Bourdain.
If I’m completely honest, I’m more like Anthony than Iggy. Like Bourdain, my default setting at age 60 is cynicism. While I say I believe, I mostly behave like a functional atheist: Whatever I do is all up to me to make it happen. I whittle down faith by equating it with duty. Yes, obedience and action are important, but trust and hope are, too.
What if I really believed that Jesus is the Bread of Life? What If I absolutely trusted that the Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want – I shall lack for nothing? What if I worried less and trusted more? What if Jesus – what if the gracious self-giving of God – really has me covered? And you covered? And it all covered? Simply, supremely provided for with a Love that will not stop until all is right and good and beautiful. If we really believed that, trusted that, lived that – then we’d stop existing and really begin living. Maybe then we’d relax our white-knuckled grasp on what’s ours and start giving and sharing more love and goodness with others.
Jesus said: I am the bread of life. I am what is essential. I am what nourishes. I am Love, forgiveness, generosity, humility, selflessness, trust, hope. These are the essential nutrients for a truly human life; for a eternally blessed life that is filled with peace with joy.
I don’t remember what they ate when Iggy Pop and Anthony Bourdain sat down for dinner. But I know that the bread of life was and is a staple of Iggy Pop’s diet.
In all his meals with “tax collectors and sinners,” Jesus was eating with hard-living, rough-edged people like Iggy and Anthony. He broke bread with them. He shared himself with them. He loved them and he loves you.
The good news is that the same table is spread for you today. While this world offers many choices on its menu of empty calories and junk food, a common Carpenter has saved a place at his table for you. His fare will quell your hunger. Dinner is served. Bon appétit.
In reading this, your heart may be stirred. What you’re feeling is the Holy Spirit drawing you to Christ. To begin or renew a relationship with Jesus, just pray:
“Lord, help me receive your love. I regret the wrong I’ve done. Forgive me. Jesus, I believe you are God’s Son and the Savior of the world. Be my Savior. Save me from myself. Save me for yourself. Enter my heart. Fill me with your Holy Spirit. Help me to serve you faithfully and well. Help me to love as you love. Lead me in your Way, Truth, and Life now and forever. Continue to show me who you are and who I am in you. Amen.”
Jesus says: “Behold, I make all things new.” The good news is that that definitely includes YOU!