Summary: World Hunger Sunday: The younger son found that physical hunger starved his soul; the elder son found that spiritual hunger hardened his heart; the Father hungers for all of his children’s needs.
When I read the Gospels, I know that Jesus must have been a Baptist, and the twelve disciples must have been the Deacons of the First Baptist Church of Galilee. Must have been! Do you know why?
Because there is all this talk about eating! Everywhere you turn in the Gospels, there are stories about food! There is a wedding feast at Cana, where Jesus brewed up a few extra jars of wine. (Actually, that doesn’t sound all that Baptist!) There is that parable Jesus told about giving a great banquet and going out to the highways and hedges to compel guests to come in. There is that moment when Jesus looked up in a tree and found a little man named Zacchaeus, and then promptly invited himself over for dinner. There is that scene with Mary and Martha, and, although Jesus said that Mary’s interest in things spiritual was better than Martha’s concern with things physical, the record does not show that he turned down Martha’s food! Everywhere in the Gospels there are stories having to do with food, banquets and feasts, eating and drinking, the joys of the table. It was so much they accused him and his deacons, I mean his disciples, of being gluttons and drunkards! Wow!
I say again, they must have been Baptists! If our church had to choose between building a kitchen and constructing a sanctuary, we’d pick the kitchen every time, wouldn’t we? And I wouldn’t even want to raise the question, "What if we had to choose between employing a pastor and retaining the church hostess?" I am afraid I would be in the ranks of the unemployed in a hurry!
We love to eat! We think it’s important! We even think it has something to do with being spiritual. Rather like the old mother hen who was so proud because so many of her sons had gone into the ministry! The Gospels have a lot to say about food. Maybe that’s because we do know, instinctively, that everyone is hungry, everyone is a starving soul.
Everyone is a starving soul; we just are starving in different ways, but everyone is a starving soul.
One of Jesus’ great food stories is the parable of the prodigal son. You may never have thought of it as a food story, but it is. Just listen and watch for all the references to hunger and food:
God’s mercy is all about relieving hunger. God’s love and mercy are all about satisfying starving souls. And He will do whatever it takes to satisfy the starving souls of His sons and daughters. He may have to sort through their sins and go slopping with the swine in order to do it, but He will do it. That is what our God is always about: satisfying the starving souls of His sons and His daughters, though sin and swine be in the way.
There are three very important characters in this story. There is the prodigal son; there is the elder brother; and then there is the waiting father. All three are starving souls. All three of the people who show up in this food story, this Baptists-Iove-to-eat, this Americans-Iove-their-burgers-and-fries story, all three of them, are starving souls, each in his own way.
The younger brother is a starving soul. The younger brother is a starving soul who one day decided that he was entitled. He wanted what he wanted, and he wanted it now. Entitled. Like most American politicians and a good many American voters, he just felt that nobody should mess with his entitlements.
"Father, give me the share of property that will belong to me." Not satisfied with what he had right now; not satisfied with the bright promise of the future; not satisfied with waiting for nature to take its course. This is an early warning sign of a starving soul. Well fed physically, but a shriveled, starving soul, who wants more, more, more.
"A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his field to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything"
It wasn’t long before the younger brother had to meet reality. It wasn’t long before the bank account ran low and the distant country’s allure dimmed, not long before the fair-weather friends deserted him and the notion of an endlessly youthful summer began to fade. And he got in touch with his own starving soul, this younger brother.