“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry; and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6: 35
“Wait a minute,” I thought, “Why would Jesus want to take away our thirst while the psalmist encourages our thirst?”
I have to admit that my thoughts immediately went to Psalm 42 when I read our gospel lesson for this Sunday from John. Psalm 42 begins with these words, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”
These verses have become some of my favorite lines of the whole Bible in recent years. If, at one time, I was content with my knowledge of God, today I am a jumbled mess of yearning and thirsting and hungering for God. My faith is less marked by certain and solid beliefs than it is with a deep, aching hunger to experience God in all God’s fullness.
It is an unquenchable thirsting for God that is at the core of my Christian faith. My mind can be content with exercises in belief, but my soul is often a swirling pot of discontent, yearning, wanting and aching. It’s as if I can never get enough–not enough of God; not enough sunrises and sunsets; not enough squeezes with grandchildren; not enough pure goodness, robust laughter and sacred presence; not enough of the really good stuff.
“Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty,” promises Jesus, and I want to plead, “Please don’t take my thirst away! Please don’t make me satisfied with the blandness of our world! Please don’t dim my ‘hunger and thirst for righteousness!’”
On this issue, I am closer to the sentiment of The Most Interesting Man in the World who, while holding a bottle of Dos Equis, encourages us to “Stay thirsty my friends.” It’s great marketing, but not bad spiritual advice.
Jesus reassures us, “If you believe in me I will take away your hunger and your thirst” and then just as reassuringly offers in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness….” I want to ask him, “Do you want us to thirst or not!”
This past weekend I joined a movie group to see the documentary, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” about Mr. Rogers (a good Presbyterian pastor!). I am not ashamed to admit that I wept through much of the movie. During the group’s discussion over dinner, I shared my experience of weeping through much of the movie and found myself saying, “I think what struck me most about the movie was the contrast between Mr. Roger’s pure authentic goodness and the reality of our world today. I think my tears were clearly tears of grief over our current political and social climate.”
I was thirsting and yearning for a more innocent time. I was grieving over a lost world. I was hungering for more evidence of a Mr. Roger’s kind of goodness.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…” says Jesus in Matthew and the psalmist echoes his words, saying, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”
Thirst is important. Desire is necessary. Spiritual aching is a sign of health. Hunger is part of the journey.
Yes, someday we will fully meet the Jesus of John’s gospel, and our thirst will be quenched and our hunger will be satisfied. Until then…
“Stay thirsty my friends.” Stay thirsty. Don’t get too satisfied with the world as it is.