Friday, 3 August 2018

The Bread That Endures

I enjoyed the following old Japanese story - a fable actually - about Tasuku - a stone-cutter. Tasuku was a poor man who cut blocks of stone from the foot of a mountain.  One day he saw a well-dressed prince parade by. Tasuku envied the prince and wished that he could have that kind of wealth. The Great Spirit heard Tasuku, and he was made a prince.

Tasuku was happy with his silk clothes and his powerful armies until he saw the sun wilt the flowers in his royal garden.  He wished for such power as the sun had, and his wish was granted. He became the sun, with power to parch fields and humble people with thirst. Tasuku was happy to be the sun until a cloud covered him and obscured his powerful heat.  With that, he had another wish, and the Spirit complied.

Thereafter Tasuku was a cloud with the power to ravage the land with floods and storms. Tasuku was happy until he saw the mountain remain in spite of his storm. So Tasuku demanded to be the mountain. The Spirit obeyed. Tasuku became the mountain and was more powerful than the prince, the sun, or the cloud. And he was happy until he felt a chisel chipping at his feet.  It was a stone-cutter working away – cutting blocks to sell to make his daily living.

How many of you know people who seem to be driven - unable to relax - unable to find satisfaction for more than a few moments at a time? There are people, a majority actually, who are constantly seeking something - they work, or they play, they build, or they drink, they join clubs and societies or they party, hoping to find in these activities some form of peace, some form of inner quiet, some form of satisfaction. - Yet, despite all they do, they continue to hunger and thirst. What are you looking for? What will make you happy? What will set your soul at rest?

As an aside, I have often wondered why men in general find these questions so hard to look deeply into. Why do men find it so hard to find some form of inner peace and quiet? Sadly, within Christianity one of the reasons I believe has to do with those denominations who pursue what Matthew Fox calls an “original sin ideology,” which seems to make men doubt their beauty and right to be here. These exclusivist and power orientated denominations seem to have this strange teaching about God as a punitive Father, which creates a toxic, punitive role model. These denominations also persist on a view of the Atonement called the penal substitutionary model that espouses an image of an angry vindictive God. No wonder our society is struggling to find inclusive cohesion.

Well back to Tasuku - he never found out - even though all his wishes were granted by the Great Spirit.  Nor - it seems did the people of Israel after they were led by God out of bondage in Egypt. They demanded water at Marah, - and what was once bitter was made sweet. They demanded bread and meat in the wilderness of Sin, complaining to Moses and Aaron that God had brought them out of the security of their bondage in Egypt only to kill them. To kill them with hunger, - and manna was provided - and meat - enough each day for each day. Yet within a few days, the people were complaining again to Moses and Aaron, complaining that God was trying to kill them, and their children and their livestock.

What were they looking for? They prayed, and God answered them. What would have made them happy? They complained, and God responded. What would have set their souls at rest? Their wishes were granted - yet they still were unsatisfied. What is it that you desire? Is it that which will allow you to "let go or is it that which will allow you to trust or even that which help you to face life with all its uncertainties? Or do you seek that which will only lead you to want more or to want something different? Do you seek the things of God or the things of this world?

When Jesus fed the crowd, all ate, and all were filled - all had as much as they wanted.  And they hailed Jesus as the prophet who was to come into the world.  And they sought to make him king:
   - for they realized that he could satisfy their hunger,
   - that he could free them from Roman control,
   - that he could put their nation on easy street.

Yet Jesus was not flattered by their interest in him when they sought him out after he crossed the sea. He knew what would last, what has the ability to truly satisfy, and what - by its very nature - is only temporary and passing, quick to wither and fade. "Very truly, I tell you", said Jesus, "You are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill. 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."

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