Not by Bread Alone – Matthew 4:1-11
March 2, 2020 – Presented by Pastor Trudy Franzen
About 25 years ago, after I had baby Grace, I found myself losing weight even though I ate and ate and ate. I was also insatiably thirsty and always carried a big iced tea around with me. I loved the fact that I could eat all I wanted, yet got down to a size 7. A size 7! It was the holy grail for me. But I didn’t notice more and more symptoms as they very gradually came into my life.
My family thought that there might be something wrong when I went on vacation and visited my sister in South Dakota. She noticed that I was skinny, yet wanted to eat enormous meals every three hours. I had insomnia and excess energy. Excess energy! Again, it was like a dream. Who wouldn’t want that?
Gradually my eyes became unnaturally large, my insomnia grew worse; I became very irritable, and suffered heart palpitations and rapid pulse. I was always too warm and wanted to run the air conditioning all the time.
But still, because I was skinny and could eat all I wanted and had so much energy, I thought I was healthy. Finally, I went to the doctor because of two things.
The doctor felt my neck and said, “Your thyroid is enlarged. I’m going to order a blood test. And congratulations, you are pregnant!”
I thought I was healthy, but I was actually very sick with a condition called “hyperthyroidism.” My thyroid was raging out of control. That is why I had a lot of energy and was losing weight. But I was also irritable and in danger of losing my eyesight. My heart was beating too fast. Untreated, hyperthyroidism can be very serious.
This whole story is to say that although I was eating and eating and eating, there was something wrong in my body that preventing me from properly functioning. And I never would have guessed it. It all happened so gradually.
Sometimes we as Americans don’t realize how very spiritually starved we are. It happens gradually. We are surrounded with good resources. We’re very blessed in this country. Few of us here in this congregation suffer from hunger.
We think we’re healthy and everything is ok, but we can’t guess how very spiritually hungry we are.
We’re longing for God and filling ourselves with all kinds of other things. But we’re not necessarily absorbing what we truly need. When we slow down and really reflect, we notice how truly hungry we are.
In today’s Gospel, the Tempter is trying to get Jesus to take the easy route, to eat “spiritual junk food,” to somehow go around the fact that he’s a human being and he’s hungry. Jesus never takes the easy way. He never uses his divinity to make things easier for himself. He knows that proper spiritual food is what he needs, not a quick fix.
God is like a spiritual mother, who longs to feed her children healthy food. Just like a mom who tries to get her kids to eat fresh fruit and vegetables, “real food,” as opposed to junk food, God’s greatest desire is to feed us, and for that good food to be properly absorbed.
That is why Jesus says, “Not by bread alone do we live. We live by the Word of God. Jesus wants us to eat good, real spiritual food, his very self. With that bread of life that he is, he equips us for living this life as his disciples.
He is the Word of God. He is the living bread, the only thing that truly satisfies. We have to collectively recognize that our spiritual bodies are craving the Word of God.
I love the Spanish translation of the verse from John’s Gospel: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. In Spanish the word that is used is Verb. In the beginning was the Verb. And the Verb was with God and the Verb was God. Jesus, the Living Word, is all about action. Spiritual food strengthens us to take action.
After his time in the desert, Jesus immediately takes action. He goes out to preach, calls disciples, teaches, and heals. The real spiritual food that God gives us prepares us for action, too. We go as Jesus went. We, too, preach, call others to faith, teach, and heal, each in our own way as God equips us.
We live in a spiritually hungry time, yet many fill their lives with stuff that does not satisfy. What I actually needed when I was so sick was not more food. I needed to be healed of a serious ailment. Folks need to be spiritually healed in our world, too.
Part of our spiritual healing as Lutherans is looking around on Sunday morning and noticing who is here and who is missing.
We notice that our denomination in California as a whole is made up of primarily descendants of northern European immigrants. We reflect well El Dorado Hills when it comes to race, here at St. Stephen’s, but in Northern CA and Northern NV, Lutherans do not reflect the greater community around us.
We as a denomination need to work together to make intentional plans, to take action and to connect with those who are missing. If we look around at the others who are at God’s table we notice who is there and who is missing. We aren’t the full body of Christ if whole segments of the population are excluded.
This may seem like a hard step to take, but we’ve already made strides. Here at St. Stephen’s, we hosted a Racial Healing Workshop in January and will soon host another in a couple weeks in March.
Eating properly actually takes planning, and intentionally becoming a more diverse church takes planning also.
Jesus is very wise to connect our need for food with our need for God. Our bodies tell us that we must eat real food each day. We must plan ahead to make sure that happens.
So, too must we be eating real God food each day. We continually reflect on our hunger and those who hunger around us so that we do not become depleted.
When you leave our sanctuary, do you feel that you have been spiritually filled? Have you connected with God and with each other? Have you noticed that the Word, the Bread of Life has equipped you and blessed you?
If what we have received makes us more loving, stretches our hearts, makes us believe that this love is for all people, if what we have received fills us with awe and wonder at God, the source of all that is good, then we are on the right track.
If we’re not quite on the right track, if there is something missing even if we can’t quite define it or explain it, it is time to come together and come to God with our unexplained hunger. If we’re not on the right track, God will lead us to the one that is.
I thought I was doing just fine back in 1995 when I fit into a size 7. As it turns out, I was terribly sick and didn’t know it.
God knows what we need, even when we do not know it ourselves. God feeds us, even when we do not know what food is. God loves us, even when we do not know what love is.
Blessed are we when we know what we need, when we know what God’s food is, and when we know what love is. Blessed are we when we know without a doubt that we are beloved of God and when we know the Source of all that is good. Amen.