Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 5; 147:1-11, Jeremiah 18:1-11, Romans 8:1-11, John 6:27-40
Have you ever tried to give up excess sugar? At first it’s an unpleasant mixture of headaches, cravings, and fatigue. After a while those symptoms fade, and you start to feel pretty normal – maybe better than normal, without all the highs and lows of unsteady blood sugar. Eventually candy and soda may become so unbearably sweet on the tongue that you wonder how you ever enjoyed them in the first place. Your appetite changes, and you are better off for it.
The Apostle Paul tried to teach members of the Christian church in Rome about changing their appetites. He knew many of them still had more of an appetite for the flesh then the Spirit. When he tells them “those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit,” he knows they aren’t excited to give up their earthly habits cold turkey. He also knows that by practicing a life in Christ (and enduring a few resulting headaches and cravings) they will wean themselves off a taste for sin. Maybe they’ll begin to wonder why it was ever so appealing.
Years before Paul wrote to the Roman church, Jesus spoke to the Jews about an appetite change. The Pharisees wanted a sign from him, like the manna they ate while wandering the desert after fleeing Egypt. For a time manna was necessary for survival, but it was limited. Manna, gathered in the mornings, would not keep overnight and rotted away before morning. Instead he offered them himself as the Bread of Life: “Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” To develop a taste for that bread, they would have to stop feasting on the law which they craved but could no longer sustain them.
To savor a better life, we must sometimes figure out which lesser appetites we have been feeding instead. Whatever sweet temptations we think we can’t live without, Jesus promises us something far better.
Comfort: God always has something better in store.
Challenge: Make a list of what appetites – social, physical, mental – you give too much priority. Then write down some goals and strategies for changing that.
Prayer: Abundant Lord, I wish to be filled with the Bread of Life. Amen.
Discussion: What’s your favorite food? Is it good for you?
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