Easter 5: Taste and see

Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation — if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:2-3,9-10)

Jesus said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it." (John 14:1-14)

One of those quirky-facts-you-might-not-know-about-Pastor-Melissa is that, in my spare time, I enjoy reading food blogs on the internet. There are a handful of sites that I visit regularly. One blog is written by a mom in New York city who has a teensy kitchen, an adorable one-year-old, and great love for the joy of simple food. One blog is written by a whole staff of writers who seek out interesting recipes from around the world, as well as reviewing the lastest and greatest kitchen tools and tipping readers off to seasonal ingredients showing up at farmers’ markets across the country. One blog is written by a photographer in Colorado who shares her best landscape photography as well as her best food photography.

Reading these blogs is fun for me because they offer me inspiration and new ideas. They help me figure out what to do with interesting, crazy, uncommon but beautiful items at the farmer’s market. They help me figure out what to cook for dinner when I don’t have any good ideas of my own. But mostly, reading food blogs is fun because I like hearing the stories of people who have tried and tasted amazing things, who get excited about the beautiful foods that they eat. All of these people keep up their blogs for one simple reason: they have tasted something delicious and they want to share with the world the flavors that move and inspire them.

Our reading from 1 Peter begins with these words: “long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation — if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” Honest question time: When is the last time you tasted the goodness of the Lord in such a compelling way that you felt compelled to share that flavor with the world?

The disciples were desperate to taste and see the goodness of God. They followed Jesus around like expectant puppy dogs, with wide eyes and searching souls. “Show us the way to the Father,” they say, and “How will we know the way?” Thomas asks. Jesus looks at them and shakes his head. “I am the way. In me you can find all life and all truth and all revelation of God’s hopes and dreams and promises.”

God bless the disciples for being confused and dense and, well, human, I suppose. Because Philip still doesn’t get it, and asks again, “Just show us the Father and we will be satisfied.” Jesus must be losing patience here. “Have I been with you all this time and still you do not know me? I’ve told you that the Father and I are one. I’ve done signs and wonders to show that the Father and I are one. If you can’t believe what I’ve told you, at least believe the miracles.”

Maybe the problem here is that the disciples are too close to Jesus, and have spent too much time getting used to his presence. They’ve seen signs and wonders, yes, but they’ve also seen him eat and sleep. They’ve seen him with bedhead, and they’ve smelled him after long stints on the road without a bath. They’ve heard him preach to crowds, yes, but they’ve also chatted with him about lesser things along the road, killing time between destinations. Maybe the problem is that some of the wonder has worn off. You spend enough time with ordinary-Jesus, and you begin to forget about some of the extraordinary.

I read an interesting fact this week: “The native mountaineering guides in the Himalayas, known as sherpas, are intimately acquainted with the face of Mount Everest. However, they only know it from one side – the view from their home valley. They have been known to respond in disbelief to images of Everest taken from the other sides. Their disbelief changes to one of amazement when they realize that something with which they are so familiar can have other sides to it.”

When we gather to worship, and when we approach scripture – when we come to the table or font, or when we show up with other faithful folks for one reason or another, do we come, expecting only to see Jesus from the one side that we know best? Do we seek only the parts of Jesus that have become ordinary to us? For all of us, there are days that we don’t have the energy to do much other than this. I understand. We all have days where all that we can handle is an encounter with a familiar Jesus who says familiar things, who looks exactly like we expect him to look, who doesn’t shake up our souls or lives too much.

But when this becomes our pattern – when we get so settled and comfortable in our home valley, with only one view of Everest rising up in front of us – we cultivate lives that remain unmoved by faith and uncompelled by wonder. And when we are unmoved and uncompelled, then the good news of Jesus doesn’t get out there into the world like Jesus commissioned us to do.

So let’s recover a little wonder today. It’s still the Easter season, after all. We are still basking in the glow of an empty tomb. Think about it! The empty tomb! And just when we thought we had Jesus all figured out....

He definitely taught us some amazing things about how to love one another and how to be humble and holy, and he promised us a new kingdom and an alternative vision to the despair of this world. He baffled us with some of his miracles. I mean, really, it’s a hard thing to ask of our rational brains to process this whole impossible business of water-into-wine, paralyzed-men-walking, blind-men-seeing, five-loaves-two-fish-feeding-thousands. And if all that weren’t enough wonder for us, we followed him into Jerusalem and watched, with that horrified sort of wonder, as he was arrested right in front of our eyes, and was beaten and betrayed and sentenced to death like the worst of your common criminals.

It was as if all of our wonder died right there on the cross along with Jesus.

But then there’s this empty tomb. Jesus’ body was supposed to be there, we placed it there so lovingly, caring for what was left of our hope, tending to the graceful shrouding of our broken faith. But today, there’s nothing left inside this stone cave. Nothing but this pesky light that won’t stop shining. Nothing but this intense and heart-pounding curiosity. Nothing but this sneaking suspicion that we are being watched by angel-eyes...or by the eyes of a gardener...and when we turn around to leave that tomb, we come face to face with the impossible. Not your garden-variety impossible, but the ultimate impossibility. There is Jesus, and he’s alive! I mean, really, truly, honestly ALIVE. It was amazing enough that he empowered the poor and stood up to the authorities and gave us a sneak peek at God’s kingdom. But now, he’s here, the one who was dead, who is now alive. Death is done for. Resurrection is real. Life wins.

Don’t hold this truth at arm’s length. Don’t fend off the wonder. Don’t dismiss this side of Everest that shows you that the empty tomb is FOR YOU. On this other side of the mountain, you can catch the awe-provoking vision of your own life, claimed and loved by God.

1 Peter says, “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

Do you believe this?

Do you believe that you are chosen?
Do you believe that you are anointed and called?
Do you believe that you are holy? Your whole life and whole being?
Do you believe that you are God’s own?

All those times that you’ve felt that you were nothing – all of those times when you were not – those times are behind you. Where once you were not, you now are. You are chosen. You are called. You are holy. You belong.

All those times that you’ve felt like life is merciless or harsh – all of those times when life has seemed nothing but a survival of the fittest, gritty, competitive, cutthroat – all those times are behind you. Where once life was merciless, you now have been shown mercy. You have been picked up and placed back on your feet by a God of compassion. You are helped up when you slip. Your heart and soul are being carefully tended by the one who has called you out of darkness into marvelous light, who has pulled you from the comfort of your valley over to the other side of the mountain to give you a new and breathtaking view.

When we gather on the far side of Everest, we hope and pray and trust that God will show up. And when God shows up, then we are pushed beyond ourselves, out into life beyond the safety of church doors.

When God shows up, he calls us to the risky business of letting wonder permeates every moment, every action, every fiber of our being. It’s risky because we are compelled in faith to share this wonder with everybody we meet. It’s risky because faith compels us to share the good news that is in us.

When we share God’s good news, it’s not because we’re trying to convert anybody. It’s not because we want more members to join our church. It’s not because we can promise anybody an easier life or a quick fix for their problems. And it’s certainly not about saving people from the flames of hell.

It IS about sharing with the world this hope that we carry as a flame inside of us – this joy that permeates even the deepest grief, this confidence that we HAVE been promised a future, and a future with hope. It’s about sharing the wonder that has been enlivened inside of us by our experiences with a God who saves. It’s about our divine motivation to see the world with love and to see one another as blessed and beautiful children of God.

Those opening words from 1 Peter today are a challenge set before us: “long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation — if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

If, indeed we have tasted that the Lord is good...

If we have tasted that the Lord is good, then we will be compelled by the taste that lingers on our tongues. If we have tasted that the Lord is good, then we will long to taste that goodness again and again. If we have tasted that the Lord is good, then we will be hard-pressed to keep this good news to ourselves. If we have tasted that the Lord is good, then the praise of God will always be on our lips and the joy and purpose of our life will be growing into the salvation that God has prepared for us.

If, indeed, we have tasted that the Lord is good...

Well, my friends, I’ll just put it out there. This table is risky today. Because when you come up here, you’re going to get a piece of bread that is more than just bread. It’s probably the most unsafe piece of bread you’ll ever receive. And it’s going to look like ordinary bread, and taste like ordinary bread, and it’ll have a crust and crumbs just like you’d expect it too. But the taste that lingers on your tongue will be so much more than just the aftertaste of bread. And the wine that you sip, or that you drench your bread in, will taste just like you’d expect it too. It’ll be all grape-y and it will warm your throat as you swallow, and it’ll remind you of other wines that you’ve sipped at other times. But the taste of that wine which remains under your tongue will be so much more than just the aftertaste of wine.

This bread and this wine are the spiritual milk for which we long. This meal is not a meal of bread and wine, but a meal of Christ, in, with, and among us. By this meal, we grow into salvation. but more than that, by this meal, our faith takes the nourishment it needs to jump and leap inside our hearts so that it can rise up within us, and shove us back out into the world to share the wonder that is inside of us.

So, my friends, if you dare...

...come to the table today. Venture to the other side of Everest. Eat this bread, drink this cup, and taste. Taste and see that the Lord is indeed good.

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