Lessons for Late Summer Sundays "Facing The Empty Fridge"

Have you ever been to Washington, D. C.? (Hands up.) The U.S. Capitol? (Hands up.) Statuary Hall there? (Hands up.) It houses the statues of great figures in our history and culture. You can tell our shared story, standing in the middle of that room. NOT! They're one statue short. This one. (Illustrate.) Yep, the sight of the backside of a 15 year old peering into an open refrigerator. And frequently singing out, "Maaaa, there's nothin' here to eat!" This, despite the $150 you just spent at the grocery store. Ahh, the terror of facing the empty fridge. We assume the position too. One hand on the door. The other on the fridge, staring inside. 'Trying to figure out what's there to fill the gnawing feeling inside us. Hungers. Empty places, yearning to be filled. We try to fill them, inside this opened door. But, we are often disappointed. The teens are right. There's nothing in the refrigerator that'll fill our yawning emptiness. It's not the fridge that needs filling. It's us. It's a spiritual problem. God knows. Jesus does too. And when we need, God will provide. And that's why we're here today. To receive what God will provide, as nothing and no one else.

To satisfy our hungers, we need to understand them. God does. Jesus does. Do we? If so, we'll learn to leave the fridge behind. You and I need to get in touch with what leaves us feeling empty. Our culture does too. Desperately. The nutritionists still know what we preachers and believers have forgotten. There's more hunger in our souls than in our stomachs. That empty-place-within may be more of the heart and mind than of our middles. Of our faith, rather than our fridge. This is the door to open. Here's the place to hang out. All the junk food we can forage/find is no substitute. Our real empties have their own names. Loneliness. Anxiety. Doubt. Boredom. Lovelessness. Anger. Unhappiness. Unfulfillment. Unforgiveness. Unbelief. And more.

Scripture helps us see how Heaven looks at our real hunger, and moves to satisfy it. Consider Moses' day. Ah, yes, manna from heaven. Delicate as frost, light as dew. Everybody gets an omer's worth a day (about 2 dry quarts). May I make bold to suggest what you haven't always heard before? This delicate delight, this manna, may have been more like a quart of cotton candy, or Cool Whip, than Dolores Bell's Chili or Dan Lewis' biscuits and gravy. You wanna live a day-on-the-march on that? In a wilderness that makes last week's weather look mild? I think the wispy wonder is so described to clue us in on a more sustaining truth. Manna feeds Israel's doubt and fear about God-still-with-them in their trials. That's the hunger heaven's feeding. The miracle's not just in the timing or the means of delivery. It's in seeing God's desire, his determination, to deliver us! To a people famished for faith, drenched in doubt strong-smelling as their sweat, comes a meal of assurance. To a people who can no longer feed themselves comes a vision of a God who will not leave them starved of what they need. Of course, Jesus is right. They'll need this manna day after day. It is not eternal bread. That will wait for Jesus.

Jesus says, "I am the bread of life… let down from heaven. …Who comes to me shall not hunger; who believes in me shall never thirst…. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day… So he who eats me will live because of me." Let me give a for instance. Bill was a friend and fellow pastor. He was in the magazine shop on Main St. A guy got off the greyhound right outside. (The store was also the bus station.) The guy was broke, smelly-dirty, disoriented. Bill asked him where he was going, what he needed. Long story! Bill offered him a meal at the Princess Restaurant a couple doors down. The guy said he smelled too bad to eat in there. But maybe a carry out and the front stoop of the vacant old hotel across the street would do. Bill got the lunch; the guy ate like he hadn't in three days. He hadn't. Bill understood this was a broken soul. He looked for a chance to tell him about Jesus. 'Was none. He was gonna leave the guy with enough money to make it to the next town. The fella said it was his birthday! And thanks for the ride. Bill left. Sorta. He returned to the Princess. 'Got 2 cake slices. 'Went and sat on the stoop, ate cake and sang "Happy Birthday" to the guy. "Why?" he wept. Bill told him about Jesus. And the prodigal son whose Father couldn't wait to feed him again and sing happy birthday. The bus came. They parted. Two years later a stranger to Bill's church came up and retold this story. He was the guy. Dressed. Workin' miles away. Back with family. A believer. 'Said he just wanted to thank Bill for feeding him that day, not the sandwich, but the Jesus story. That was what filled his empty place, he said. 'Said he wanted to come because this was his birthday today… and the day he counted himself born again, and to hunger no more.

Now, the food we need is ours for the having. All we need to do is take up and take home the right stuff. Like our refrigerators, we fill ourselves with so much that's just empty calories. It's time we cleaned out our refrigerators and our souls. Look at our fridge stuff. Diet drinks swap chemicals for sugar, a taste trick for a taste treat. Artificial margarine! An imitation of an imitation. (No wonder milk cows get mad.) We process the vitamins and vitals outta readymade meals then microwave to the table. We sit down, maybe alone or in a rush, 'cause the family's elsewhere or need us to take them there. (We're already late.) Spiritually, we're not better, maybe worse. We obsess on our looks and our homes. But botox doesn't get us loved and house-beautiful is an empty substitute for assurance of a mansion in the sky. We rear our kids more for success than character. Our teens can name 6 of the top 10 Rock Bands, and on average, 2.5 of the 10 Commandments and 1.5 of the 12 disciples. It's not that all we do is bad, just that so much is so empty, leaving us so hungry for the Bread of Heaven.

Soul food. That's what we oughta have on hand! Not some vague low fat, low carb or high anti-oxidant diet that leaves us guessing what's what. No, if you're lonely, Jesus nourishes specifically, "I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever… I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you." If you're anxious, feed on this, "Which of you, being anxious, can add…to his lifespan? 'Anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies… How much more will God clothe you!… Seek first his kingdom… and all these things shall be yours. Don't be anxious about tomorrow, it'll be anxious for itself." If you're in doubt, fill up on a generous portion of that old standby, John 3: 16. If you're bored, without purpose, a bowl of John 15: 16 will help. "You haven't chosen me, I've chosen you to bear fruit that lasts." If you're a sinner (who here isn't) there's this, "While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us." Feel unloved, unhappy, looking' for more? What more could you ask than a God who pours himself out, just to lift you up? Can't bring yourself to forgive? Get a straw. Drink this in. Jesus says, "As you forgive, God forgives you; don't and he won't." Remember the speck and the log! Not sure what to believe? Come to supper here, "Believe in God, believe also in me…." And again, "I know whom I have believed and I am sure that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me." In all this, there is no emptiness at all.

Oh, and once we have what will fill us, we'll need to preserve it. Then there'll be plenty for the next time hunger comes to call. And it is just for this, that Christ has set this table. The bread of communion delivers us to the Bread of Life. The communion cup offers us the Cup of Salvation. Christ himself says, "Whenever you do this, do it remembrance of me." The classic words when we offer you the sacred meal are, "The Body and Blood of Christ, given and shed for you, preserve your soul and body unto everlasting life." It turns out what we need to fill our emptiness isn't in our refrigerator. 'Never was. 'Never is. 'Never will be. It's in the Resurrection Bread and in the New Covenant Cup. It turns out what we need is not a fridge to preserve our victuals, but a Savior for the vitals of our souls. Nobody ever opens the door to Jesus and turns around and shouts, "There's nothin' here to eat." No, the word instead is this one, "Come, and taste and see the goodness of the Lord!"

Friends, if you or yours are feelin' a little empty this week, or even alot, don't look to your fridge. Look first to your own heart. Look at whatever it is that makes you feel hungry in your soul. Name it. Claim it. And then look to Jesus. Name him. Claim him… and all he has to say to you… and all that he has done for you. Come to him. Dine with him. Feed on him in your heart by faith, with thanksgiving. In fact, if you're feelin' a little empty, a little hungry right now, come. The table's set; the meal is prepared, and Jesus can hardly wait to fill you up, body and soul.

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