Summary: This passage calls us to Christian life and service using the powerful imagery of food.
I know that I am not alone in this here today… three weeks ago I made one of those New Year’s resolutions to take off some weight.
Pity me, because this is no small thing. First, I’ll be 42 this year. Even when I was 32 it really wasn’t that much work to drop a few extra pounds… but something happened.
At 42 they seem to go on really easy, but they come off only with a great deal of effort.
Second, life’s demands are against me. I go to meetings for a living. I am always at meetings… executive meetings, donor meetings, church meetings, meetings with business people, and academic people, and church people. And when I’m not at a meeting, I am sitting at my desk preparing for the next set of meetings.
We all know what we do at meetings… nothing! At least nothing that resembles any physical activity. To make matters worse, while we are sedentary around the meeting tables what do we do? We eat. And not just the lunch meetings, and breakfast meetings, and dinner meetings… we bring the snacks in for all the other meetings too.
I suppose if I had any sense, I would make one of my couple of jobs something that included a little exercise.
But the real problem for me is simple; I love food. I really love food. I love good food. I have enjoyed some extraordinary meals. I love home cooking, and I enjoy wonderful food at my house. And I have enjoyed spectacular meals at some pretty special restaurants. I enjoy the way good food smells, and the way it looks, and certainly the way it tastes. I like the rituals associated with food. Multi-course meals are a blast. I really enjoy meals that are an event like dim sum or fondue.
But I don’t think my biggest problem is that I love good food. I think the biggest problem is that I love bad food. As much as I enjoy a finely prepared meal with the most exquisite ingredients, I can get a great deal of satisfaction out of a bag of nacho cheese Doritos. The desert pastries at the Four Seasons are delightful, but a cinnamon sugar Pop Tart is pretty good too. Steak Daniels at Daniel’s Broiler, that lean filet topped with Dungeness crab and béarnaise sauce, is off the charts… but I like Spam too.
I really like the Hostess Chocolate Donette. You know… these little donuts wrapped in cellophane that are near the cash register at most convenience stores. I dare not look at the ingredients; I’m fairly sure that they are white sugar, white flour, lard, glue, black tar and some magic chemicals. 75 calories in these bite size gems; all you have to do is eat six of ‘em to get your recommended daily allowance of saturated fat.
I love these bad little boys… and I know that I’m not alone. The official Web site for Hostess Snack Cakes (www.twinkies.com) reports that they churn out 2 billion of these little gut bombs annually.
This is the stuff that this roll around my middle is made of.
I’m really happy for the moments that stuff like this is passing through my mouth. And one is never enough, because as good as I feel when I’m eating this stuff, there’s another feeling that is the close second. That feeling is the feeling I get when I’m full. Well, not really just full... but packed full. So, for example, when it comes to pizza around the middle of slice #3 I’m starting to feel full… but slices #4 and #5 (or maybe even #6) are the ones that give you that packed full feeling. That state where you need to recline to find any relief. Combine a pallet for donettes and pizza with the love for that packed full feeling, and it is a wonder I’m as svelte as I am!
The passage that John read to us this morning from Hebrews uses the imagery of food to get our attention and help us understand something more about this Christian life to which we are called. It contrasts good food and bad food, as well as food for the mature and food for the immature.
When we read food here in the Book of Hebrews, we aren’t thinking of Donettes (at least we shouldn’t be thinking of Donettes), we are understanding this to mean something more along the lines of food for our minds, hearts, and spirits.
The pastor who originally penned these words opens this passage by saying, “look, I have really good food for our soul here, but you don’t seem to care.” It is as if we were all packed full of those waxy chocolate Donettes, and then somebody comes along with something really good… but we can’t even think about having a bite because we’re packed full of junk. Or worse yet… we might be hungry, but we’ve so dulled our appetite for good food with junk food that we don’t even know a good thing when we see it.