A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Friday, April 28, 2006

We Can and We Will Get Satisfaction!

Revelation 7:9-17

Revelation states that before the Throne the multitude worships God �day and night.� In other words, the reward for their faithfulness, even to the point of forfeiting their lives on earth, is an unending worship service in heaven!

Mark Twain said, �People cannot stand too much church.� But consider what heaven holds: church that lasts forever! And from what we read in Revelation, everyone is going to enjoy it.

There are plenty of people who enjoy being in church, but that is not the only point of these verses. It is simply that the all-encompassing presence of God makes eternal life a wonderful experience. John�s vision intends to convey that truth in the language of worship.

There follows then this comment about those gathered around the throne of God: �They will hunger no more ....� What do these words mean? It can be taken to mean that those who have suffered from an insufficient diet in this life will, upon reaching the life to come, be freed from that pain. In our world today, where thousands and thousands around the world die every year of starvation, that is not an insignificant point.

But these words tell us something more. We need to recall that in John�s Gospel (chapter 6), Jesus described himself as �The Bread of Life.� Obviously, he was not talking about satisfying physical hunger but something deeper. Jesus explained the distinction to the crowd: �Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.� On another occasion, Jesus said, �Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.�

So when we say that in eternity someone will hunger no more, we are speaking of both physical hunger and spiritual hunger. What kinds of hunger do wish to satisfy in this life?

Probably the primary hunger of our day is for love. We certainly have that need as babies. Studies have shown that babies who are adequately cared for but who are not cuddled or held tend to grow up with something missing from their psyches. We never outgrow that need.

Another of life�s hungers is the longing to be valued. The Christian faith declares that every human being is of infinite worth, a value given us by God. But who among us is content to be valued just because we are part of creation? We hunger to be valued for what we personally achieve. Not every one of us cares about public recognition, but we still want to be valued by the important people in our lives. We want to be thought of as good parents, a faithful son or daughter, people who stand by their friends, people who get things done and who can be counted on. And there is nothing wrong with that.

We are all vexed by some sort of discontent; by an appetite for something we cannot seem to get enough of. In fact, if there is one thing that delineates life on earth from life in heaven, it is that on earth, some hungers go unsatisfied and others can only be satisfied for a time. In fact, there are many hungers in life.

In addition, some of our hungers, when fulfilled, seem to mock us. For example, if we hunger to be popular, and then actually become popular, we may find it to be an empty experience. Likewise, many who become wealthy find that it makes them no happier than when they had less income, and sometimes it makes them unhappy in new ways.

Other hungers even get worse with fulfillment. What satisfies a particular hunger the first time may not satisfy it the next. It keeps requiring more and more for even temporary satisfaction. And then there are some hungers that, when met, leave us feeling only guilty or disgusted.

So heaven is described as a place where we hunger no more, but what does faith in God do for our hungers right now? One of the images the Bible uses to describe the presence of God, which is something we can experience right now, is the word �fullness.� In Psalm 16:11 we read, �You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy ....�

The Hebrew word translated there as �fullness� literally means being satisfied by eating food. It refers to the kind of sensation we have after having completed a splendid dinner. It is also used figuratively to mean being full of joy.

Contrast that with what Paul says in Philippians, commenting on those who live as �enemies of the cross of Christ.� He says, �their end is destruction; their god is the belly.� This verse is more than a blast against gluttony. On a deeper level Paul is saying that people who live for themselves are driven by hungers they cannot satisfy. Frederick Buechner defines a glutton as �one who raids the icebox for a cure for spiritual malnutrition.� These persons are servants of their �belly,� literally and figuratively speaking, because they have not experienced the satisfying fullness of God in Christ.

To return to Revelation�s imagery of heaven as an ongoing worship service-- what it invites us to picture is not sitting around all day singing hymns and listening to sermons; it wants us to picture the experience of being in the fullness of God�s presence, the fullness that fills us up as well, so that the hungers of life are forever satisfied.

A day is coming when we can and we will get satisfaction!

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