Posts Tagged ‘Isaiah 55’

Fast Food Nation vs. The Good Life Diet
Is 55
3/7/10 Lent 3C

“Over the last three decades, fast food has infiltrated every nook and cranny of American society… fast food is now served at restaurants and drive throughs, at stadiums, airports, zoos, high schools, elementary schools, universities, even at hospital cafeterias. In 1970, Americans spent about $6 Billion on fast food, in 2000, we spent more than $110 Billion. Americans now spend more money on fast food than on higher education, personal computers, or new cars. We now spend more on fast food than on movies, books, magazines, videos, and recorded music–combined.”1

Because this is the only world I’ve known, I never thought about how pervasive fast food is. My dad actually remembers when the McDonald’s sign in his neighborhood was changed to say “One Million Served”, and what an incomprehensible thing that was. But McDonalds has always been a part of my world– even on Sundays after church when I was a small child, that’s where we’d head. Hey, you could feed our whole family for just a few dollars, you didn’t have to cook it, there are no dishes to do, and bonus: they had a place for the child to play so the adults could have a much needed respite. What’s not to love?

And somehow, families all over the United States, and now all over the world, have gotten the same idea. The fact that America is the unhealthiest that we’ve ever been almost never enters our brains, and we’re quite convinced that a hamburger or two won’t make us like them. Maybe it won’t, and I know the value of quick food just as much as anyone with my busy schedule.

But what if fast food was all you were eating? If you’ve never seen it, there’s a mind blowing documentary out called “Supersize Me.” This guy agreed to eat nothing but McDonalds for 30 days, and if someone asked if he’d like to “Supersize it?”, he’d have to say yes. He was tremendously athletic at the beginning, and went to a doctor so that he’d accurately know all the numbers. He was ok, for about the first three days or so, but after that his health and well-being just went down the tubes. He was so lazy and sluggish that he could no longer go running, and could barely drag himself off the couch. He said he felt drugged. I can’t remember now what the numbers were, but both his weight and his cholesterol skyrocketed, and by the end of the thirty days, the difference was considerable. The most interesting thing, at least to me, was that after several days of making himself eat all this food, that all the sudden he started wanting more and more of it. It became less and less of a chore. Instead of thinking about eating other meals as he would at the beginning, he fixated on when next helping of fat, salt, and cholesterol would come.

“Gosh, that’s awful” we piously think to ourselves. As someone who has been working hard to shrink, I shake my head at him, because I really try to limit my intake of bad food.

But the truth of the matter is that we are a fast food nation, whether or not we’d acknowledge it. We want things when and how we want them… or as Burger King claims for us, “Your way. Right away.” And if we’re honest, this isn’t just an attitude about our food. It’s kind of our attitude about…well… everything.

We’re a country of consumers. We work and work so that we can have any thing we want at our fingertips, whether or not we can afford it. We grab and shove so that we can finally have the things that we are convinced will make us happy.

Truth be told, the people Isaiah as preaching to were a lot like us. They were concerned about lots of things, but Isaiah argues that they were missing the point. They were rushing around trying to get the best things, the things that would make them happy, but they were more or less bypassing God. Isaiah makes the argument that the best things are free– without any cost. As Isaiah sees it, this banquet is available to all of us, but some of us would rather our daily bread come in the form of cheap, easy potato chips and greasy hamburgers than we would sit down to a steak dinner.

Isaiah’s words to us remind of how thirsty and hungry we are for good stuff, even if we don’t know it. “How would we not know it?” you rightfully argue. I’ve gone out for long walks and rides during the summer, and I’ve come home and felt really awful. Maybe I’ll drink a little bit because I know I should, but there have been times when I’ve not realized how depleted my body was, and I’ve felt awful for days. One of the times that my dad was the sickest (and it actually required a trip to the hospital) was from major dehydration. And the problem when you get dehydrated is that all your systems get out of whack, and weird symptoms show up. You can feel overwhelmingly tired, your heart can race, and you can be nauseated. (Unless you happened to know that these symptoms were from dehydration, you wouldn’t associate any of those things with needing something to drink, and unless a doctor told you, you’d probably have no idea. You wouldn’t know that your body was thirsty.) And a bigger problem than that, is that once you reach a certain point, your body has a hard time accepting the fluids that it needs.

So, that makes me wonder. If you could be physically thirsty and not have any idea until you were so sick, if you could be spiritually starving to death and not know it?

What if we feed our souls with the empty calories of junk food, and have been doing it for so long that we don’t realize it?

You know– at least in your head– that a little debbie may have the same 300ish calories that a peanut butter sandwich has, but you probably also know that if you choose the little debbie, you’ll be hungry again in a few minutes, because while it tasted good, it didn’t meet any of your nutritional needs.

I wonder to what extent we fill our spiritual lives with junk, and because our spiritual lives don’t have nice measurable units like calories, we wouldn’t even know it. I wonder what the spiritual equivalent of an empty calorie filled little debbie is?

Maybe it’s having lots of friends and being well liked. Maybe it’s having power within an organization. Maybe its serving on this board or that. Maybe it’s doing “stuff”. All of these things are great, but they aren’t enough to live on. The problem is that we can convince ourselves that we’re full with these things, and we can do it for a long time. But all the sudden, when our organization goes away, or when we are no longer needed to do that “stuff”, then we look around and we feel empty. But most of us have no idea what’s going on, and so we try to find similar things to fill the void. A different board, different “stuff” to do. Something that fills our cravings, whatever they are for us. (And they are different for each of us.) And the cycle continues, ad infinitium– forever. Then, all of the sudden, our spirits are starving to death.

I am quite convinced that we were created with a God-shaped hole in ourselves. But this hole is funny– it’s not clearly defined. It’s like the difference between the shape toy (where kids have to get the square shape in the square hole, etc.) If it were like that, we’d figure it out pretty quickly. But this God-shaped hole is more like a 5,000 piece puzzle– where a piece looks like it should fit, but it doesn’t exactly. If you’re like me, the temptation is to shove a close piece in there– but we all know the puzzle won’t work out if you don’t get it right.

I think our God-shaped hole is like this. Lots of pieces look like they should fit, and so we feel a void, and cram other pieces that seem like they should fit, into the hole that can only be filled by God. To go back to the food metaphor, we fill our void with spiritual junk food, instead of sitting down to a delicious meal which will keep us satisfied.

I wondered earlier what the spiritual equivalent of a Little Debbie is, but now I wonder what the spiritual equivalent of a good, hearty meat and potatoes meal is?

I thought about studying the Bible– but sometimes that becomes an end to itself.
I thought about spending time in prayer– but sometimes that’s a lot more about us than it is about God.
I thought about helping other people and showing God’s love, but sometimes we forget whose love it is that we’re showing.

It’s not that those things are junk by any means, in fact they’re great. But to have a whole spiritual life filled with only these things is like eating only broccoli, which is good, but only when it’s a part of a complete diet. Sometimes, we do these things really well, but they take the place of a real relationship. The only thing I could think of as a spiritual equivalent of a meat and potatoes meal is a real relationship with Christ, which certainly includes those other things. The banquet of things that we’re supposed to feast on includes an honest, seeking, two way relationship between us and Christ. It includes allowing ourselves to be showered with Love, both on the days we get it right, and the days when we fail miserably. It’s about working to know Christ as fully as we’re able, and trusting that we’re loved even though we’re known really well. Dining with Jesus means dining with our neighbors, and making room at the table for them. Sitting to dine at the banquet means allowing ourselves to be filled up by the bread of life.

Isaiah indicates that we’re a fast food nation, substituting junky things for the real deal. Isaiah seems to think we’re in need of a change in diet. Those of us in TOPS are working to change our diets and lifestyles and know that that’s a hard job. We’ve talked about how much time it takes to chose something other than fast convenience food. But when Isaiah thinks we need to change our spiritual diets, I get the feeling that he thinks it’s easy. As far as he can tell, there’s a banquet of delicious, satisfying things– the table is all set, and all we have to do is choose to sit down at it.

I love the idea and the image of that, but as I think about the things I crave, and the spiritual junk food I use to fill those cravings, I don’t think it’s that easy. Just as if you were trying to lose weight, and had to retrain yourself about what foods were healthy, the same is true when we’re trying to purge ourselves of the spiritual junk that we’ve been filling up on. We need to relearn what it means to feast. The things we crave, nor the things we use to satisfy those cravings are not the same as sitting down to the banquet that has been set for us.

Power is not at the banquet.
Being well liked is not the entree.
Doing stuff–nope, not even a side tray.

At the banquet, the love of Christ is a main course. Being in a real relationship with our Christ is the thing that keeps us full. It sounds great to sit down at that banquet, but truth be told it requires some work on our part. To really dine at this banquet, we have to change the things we value. It requires us allowing our lives to be remade by the love of Christ. For some, that sounds like too much work. Others are convinced that the fare won’t be as good as it would be at a Fast Food joint. And still others won’t like some of the dinner guests. Some will choose the junk food life, but Isaiah offers us alternative.

I talked earlier about how we are a “Fast Food Nation”, wanting the things we want when and how we want them. We crave a meat and potatoes meal, but who has time to cook that? So we instead settle for McDonalds or whatever else is fast, easy, and cheap.

But there is an alternative called the Best Life Diet. The Best Life Diet is a real diet, and it was made famous by Oprah. The premise behind it is that you chose the best foods that are out there: Whole Grains, good cuts of meat– things with real ingredients, not things manufactured in a test tube. The idea is that if you fill yourself with these good things, you won’t even want the junk.

I’d bet that with all my talk of McDonalds and Little Debbies this morning that I’ve set off some major cravings. No doubt, if you head over to McDonalds or Food Lion for a Little Debbie run after church, you’ll have your cravings satisfied. But perhaps in a few hours you’ll feel sluggish and lethargic, and perhaps worse, maybe you’ll crave more and more of that same type of food.

And our souls are that way. We crave all sorts of things, but the more we try to satisfy our cravings with things that don’t really fill us up, the more we’ll crave the same type of thing, all the while, getting hungrier and hungrier.

Isaiah’s word’s invite us to come to the banquet. Isaiah invites us to take the tough step, and to go from Fast Food Nation to the Best Life Diet. And it is a little tough. At first, sitting at the banquet seems like work. We have to use table manners, and dine with our neighbors well. We have to rely on the host of the banquet to meet our needs instead of floundering around, trying to take care of them ourselves. Sure, we can sit at the banquet without these things, but it won’t feel like much of a feast.

It doesn’t feel like a feast when you’re so worried about the cost of your meal. We all know that it takes more money to eat well. A steak dinner might $20 or $30, but a bag of chips is only a dollar or so. Maybe we worry that we can’t afford the good stuff. Or maybe we think the sacrifices of moving from living off fast food to dining at the banquet are too much. But Isaiah says “Don’t worry about that. The best things are free for the taking, offered as a gift. Come feast up on the riches of God’s love. Pull up a chair, whoever you are. The banquet has been set, and you’re the guest of honor. All you need to do is agree to sit down, and taste the Goodness of God.”

Reverend Kim Justice


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Well, not exactly Keys to the Kingdom, but more exactly, keys to the copy room. This is the latest source of conflict in our small church, because we (the session) felt like too many people had keys to things– we didn’t even have any idea who had keys to what (even though the unenforced rule is that once you stop being a session member, you turn in your keys). No one particular thing prompted our decision, rather an attitude of trying to be responsible for the gifts that we have.

That’s right. We changed the keys to something as insignificant as the copy room. And now folks are upset, left and right. Even folks that never set foot in the copy room are upset that we’ve changed them.

I just don’t get it. I don’t understand why folks are so upset. I’m the pastor, and I don’t even have keys to everything…and it’s fine, because I know that the places I don’t have keys to are places that I don’t really need to be in.

I’m not sure. Do keys equal power? Do keys make you a part of the “in” club? Do you feel less a part of the church if you don’t have a key to some places? I’m not sure why, but folks’ ire at having the key changed kind of reminds me of the disciples who quibbled over getting to sit at the right and left of Jesus. “I’m so important, I should sit by Jesus for all eternity.” “I’m important enough that I need to have keys even though I’m not currently in a position of leadership.” It’s not that I’m angry, really, it’s that I’m completely baffled. And heartbroken. And ready for our church to be able to move forward and not find ourselves tangled up in more conflict over the tiniest of things.

As I’m thinking about my sermon for Sunday, and Isaiah’s words, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”, I can’t help but wonder if we don’t do that all over the place, but especially in churches. We grab after small things, because we are convinced that they make us powerful, or accepted, but in the end… we’ve spent all this energy, and we still aren’t satisfied.

What if we spent all this energy that is going to such small things on the things of Christ? What if we sought after the things that satisfy?

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