Beginning with Hunger

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“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.
When can I go and meet with God?”
(Psalm 42:1-2)

In the story of Israel after the exodus from Egypt, God’s people were hungry for many things. They were hungry for food, so God provided miraculous manna and quail (Exodus 16). They were thirsty for water, so God provided miraculous water from a rock (Exodus 17). They were hungry for guidance from God, so God provided the miraculous Ten Commandments and other instructions (Exodus 20). They were hungry for victory over their enemies, so God provided them with a way through the Red Sea and success over their foes (Exodus 14 and 17). They were hungry for rest, so God instituted the sabbath (Exodus 31). 

Yet there were times when their hungers stretched beyond what God would give. They hungered for a god they could control, so they constructed an idol in the form of a golden calf (Exodus 32). God interrupted that desire by sending Moses down to stop that idolatrous feast. There were other times when God’s people reached out for satisfaction in ways God knew would not bring life to His people. Eventually, they wandered for forty years in the wilderness until, purified of their sinful attempts to satisfy their hungers, they were ready to enter into the Promised Land (Numbers 14). They needed to feel their hunger deeply and discover that their hungers could only be satisfied in God.

Today we begin a journey that parallels the forty years of wilderness wandering for Israel. It is a journey in which we will get in touch with our hungers and desires. In this journey we want to allow God to search through our hungers, including ways we attempt to satisfy our hungers that are skewed. We will enter into the prayer of Psalm 139:23-24: 

“Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Through it all, the foundational level of our journey is remembering that only God can satisfy the deepest longings of our souls. Let us join in this journey together as a community, beginning with the prayer of Psalm 42:1-2: 

“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.
When can I go and meet with God?”

Let us say together: God, we are hungry for You.

[This a devotional I wrote for the first day of the Eastbrook Church Lenten devotional, “Hungry for God.”]

St. Augustine on Overcoming Temptation

Saint_Augustine_PortraitHere St. Augustine of Hippo comments on Psalm 61:1-2, reflecting on the reality that Christ was tempted in the wilderness to show us how to overcome temptation and trials.

Hear my cry, O God;
    listen to my prayer.

From the ends of the earth I call to you,
    I call as my heart grows faint;
    lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

 

Hear, O God, my petition, listen to my prayer. Who is speaking? An individual, it seems. See if it is an individual: I cried out to you from the ends of the earth while my heart was in anguish. Now it is no longer one person; rather, it is one in the sense that Christ is one, and we are all his members. What single individual can cry from the ends of the earth? The one who cries from the ends of the earth is none other than the Son’s inheritance. It was said to him: Ask of me, and I shall give you the nations as your inheritance, and the ends of the earth as your possession. This possession of Christ, this inheritance of Christ, this body of Christ, this one Church of Christ, this unity that we are, cries from the ends of the earth. What does it cry? What I said before: Hear, O God, my petition, listen to my prayer; I cried out to you from the ends of the earth.  That is, I made this cry to you from the ends of the earth; that is, on all sides.

Why did I make this cry? While my heart was in anguish. The speaker shows that he is present among all the nations of the earth in a condition, not of exalted glory but of severe trial.

Our pilgrimage on earth cannot be exempt from trial. We progress by means of trial. No one knows himself except through trial, or receives a crown except after victory, or strives except against an enemy or temptations.

The one who cries from the ends of the earth is in anguish, but is not left on his own. Christ chose to foreshadow us, who are his body, by means of his body, in which he has died, risen and ascended into heaven, so that the members of his body may hope to follow where their head has gone before.

He made us one with him when he chose to be tempted by Satan. We have heard in the gospel how the Lord Jesus Christ was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. Certainly Christ was tempted by the devil. In Christ you were tempted, for Christ received his flesh from your nature, but by his own power gained salvation for you; he suffered death in your nature, but by his own power gained glory for you; therefore, he suffered temptation in your nature, but by his own power gained victory for you.

If in Christ we have been tempted, in him we overcome the devil. Do you think only of Christ’s temptations and fail to think of his victory? See yourself as tempted in him, and see yourself as victorious in him. He could have kept the devil from himself; but if he were not tempted he could not teach you how to triumph over temptation.

[Source: Commentary on the Psalms Ps. 60, 2-3: CCL 39, 766]

Caught in the Middle of Things

The-Name-Facebook-coverI began our new series, “The Name,” this weekend at Eastbrook Church. This series explores Moses’ encounter with the Living God at the burning bush in Exodus 3 and 4. My message today focused on the fact that God meets with us even in the wilderness places of our lives, and came from Exodus 2:23-3:3:

23 During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God.24 God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. 25 So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.

3:1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.  So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”

You can listen to my message, “Caught in the Middle of Things,” at the Eastbrook web-site here. You can also follow the RSS feed for Eastbrook sermons or follow Eastbrook Church on Twitter or Facebook.

The message outline from the bulletin is included below. I must confess that I didn’t stick to that outline too strictly today.

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