Thursday, July 3, 2014

Peering Outside Our Walls: Just Fill Me Up

In the classic film All About Eve, Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) gives the impression of being an innocent theater fan. She is bedazzled by the stars of Broadway especially her favorite actress, Margo Channing (Bette Davis). When Eve is introduced to Miss Channing, she befriends the actress and the actress's circle of famous friends. But Eve holds a secret ambition. Her "innocent young fan" act is a manipulative charade. In the months to follow, Eve schemes, lies to, seduces, betrays, and even blackmails her new famous friends. She purposefully destroys Miss Channing's career and she takes center stage on Broadway for herself. She will do anything to anyone to get what her heart desires. Why? In one scene, Eve reveals the motive behind her manipulation.
After a director friend admires how many actors work so hard for so little, she responds:

So little? So little did you say? Why, if there's nothing else, there's applause. I've listened backstage to people applaud. It's like…like waves of love coming over the footlights and wrapping you up. Imagine, to know every night that different hundreds of people love you. They smile, their eyes shine; you've pleased them. They want you. You belong. Just that alone is worth anything.

For Eve Harrington, deception, manipulation, and betrayal are small prices to pay for applause, for approval, and for the acceptance of others. This movie was wildly successful at the box office back in 1950. It was nominated for 14 Academy Awards. It won 6 of them, including Best Picture. It is still the only film in Oscar history to receive four female acting nominations, two for best actress and two for best supporting actress. I believe there was a reason All About Eve was so successful, even beyond its talented actresses and actors. This movie describes one of the deepest human issues. The desire to be satisfied! We seek satisfaction from all sorts of things; fame, money, and relationships. So many times in our lives, we have said, “This thing or this person will fill me up. If I can just attain this one thing (degree, title, image), then my life will be complete. Then, I will finally be content and satisfied.”

Every person has said that at least once. Guess what? People outside these walls say it all the time too. People outside these walls are looking for something to satisfy them. They are looking for something or someone to fill the void in their lives. Let me tell you the story of another group of outsiders that was on that same search a long time ago…

When they found him back across the sea, they said, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
Jesus answered, “You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free.
 “Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.”
 To that they said, “Well, what do we do then to get in on God’s works?”
 Jesus said, “Throw your lot in with the One that God has sent. That kind of a commitment gets you in on God’s works.”
 They waffled: “Why don’t you give us a clue about who you are, just a hint of what’s going on? When we see what’s up, we’ll commit ourselves. Show us what you can do. Moses fed our ancestors with bread in the desert. It says so in the Scriptures: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
 Jesus responded, “The real significance of that Scripture is not that Moses gave you bread from heaven but that my Father is right now offering you bread from heaven, the real bread. The Bread of God came down out of heaven and is giving life to the world.”
 They jumped at that: “Master, give us this bread, now and forever!”
Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. I have told you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don’t really believe me. Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don’t let go. I came down from heaven not to follow my own whim but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me. John 6:25-35 (The Message)

By this point in Jesus’ ministry, the crowds around Him had grown quite large. Why do you think the crowds had grown so large? Because Jesus was satisfying a lot of needs! When the wedding guests needed more wine, Jesus took some ordinary jars of water and made wine. When a father with a sick son came to Jesus, the boy was made well. When hungry crowds came to Jesus, He gave them something to eat. The crowds had become so attracted to Jesus, in fact, that they are literally chasing Him around the Sea of Galilee! Jesus fed 5000 people on one side of this big lake. Then, He suddenly disappears from the crowds. They hear Jesus has headed to the other side of the lake, and so they get in boats and chase after Him! These crowds were committed! Jesus understood perfectly well why the crowds kept growing.

You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free! (John 6:26)

We would love to think sometimes, wouldn’t we, that people are attracted to Jesus because of some deep, spiritual reasons? In reality, some people are attracted to Jesus because of “free food”.

When I was in college in Lubbock, I kept a calendar, showing me which congregations served food to college students on which nights! When I arrived to eat my pizza, I realized something; other college students had the same calendar. Sometimes folks come for the free food, and food comes in all shapes and sizes, doesn't it? Sometimes it looks like a flashy worship service, other times food looks like an exciting, activity-filled youth program, sometimes food takes the form of a beautiful building with stained glass and nice cushioned pews, and we flock to eat this wonderful food, believing it will satisfy us.

But that food spoils. Before long, that dynamic worship service becomes stale and worn out (routine), that youth program is not quite as new and exciting as it once was, and that building gets old. Food spoils, and Jesus knew that. In fact, that is exactly what He told the crowds that day…

Don't waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. (John 6:27)

I have challenged you, this summer, to try and hear these words as people outside our walls might hear them. Interestingly, that was exactly the make-up of this crowd. These were not insiders. The discussion we overheard this morning was between Jesus and the crowds. They were outsiders. They were curious. They were skeptical. They were probably a lot like most folks outside of our walls. They were empty in so many ways, and they were looking to be filled up…to be satisfied.

“The crowds” today bear a striking resemblance to the crowds that followed Jesus. I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the kinds of food “the crowds” try to fill their stomachs with today, believing that if they just eat enough of these things, their life will finally have purpose and meaning. Some of those things are obvious, money, titles, degrees, and acceptance. But I am choosing to concentrate on only one of those “foods” this morning. There are many people outside these walls this morning (and inside these walls) who believe that if they can get their body to look a certain way, if they can lose enough weight, if they can build enough muscle, if they can wear the right clothes, if they can somehow, someway look like those airbrushed people on the front of magazines, then, they will finally be satisfied.

The average woman in America sees about 3,000 ads each day. Many (if not most) send messages about what the "ideal" female body should look like. But 98 percent of American women are not as thin as the fashion models that supposedly have the right body type. The average American woman is 5'4" and weighs 165 pounds. The average Miss America winner is 5'7" and weighs 121 pounds. It's not surprising, then, that:

42 percent of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner
81 percent of 10-year-old girls are afraid of being fat
70 percent of 18-30-year-old American women don't like their bodies and
60 percent of women in middle age still remain unsatisfied with their bodies.

50 percent of girls use unhealthy weight control behaviors, skipping meals, vomiting, taking laxatives. Nearly 20 million women will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives. Some of those women are extremely famous. Lady Gaga, famous singer, known for her theatrics recently said:

I used to throw up all the time in high school. So I'm not that confident. I wanted to be a skinny little ballerina, but I was a voluptuous little Italian girl whose dad had meatballs on the table every night. I used to come home and say, "Dad, why do you always give us this food? I need to be thin." And he'd say, "Eat your spaghetti…." It's really hard…. It made my voice bad, so I had to stop. The acid on your vocal cords … it's very bad.

Weight is still a struggle. Every video I'm in, every magazine cover, they stretch you—they make you perfect. It's not real life. I'm gonna say this about girls: The dieting has got to stop. Everyone just knock it off. Because at the end of the day, it's affecting kids your age—and it's making girls sick.

This insatiable appetite to “look the part” has had a tremendous affect on people outside these walls…and inside these walls.

When Kim and I were living in Stamford, TX there was a beautiful young girl there who was an athlete. She was a star in track. She eventually came to Lubbock Christian University and we became reacquainted with her. Not long after her arrival, her parents made a request of us. “Watch out for our daughter…No one knows this, but she struggles with her self image.” She had an eating disorder. She was very thin already, but she thought she was getting too fat. She would run hours each day, always trying to lose more weight. She wouldn’t eat.

That story is not only her story. If that is your struggle, I want you to hear this. You do not have to look like those runway models you see on TV. In fact, I guess we should say: They don’t look like that either. Those pictures are airbrushed; they are altered in a studio, all in an effort to create an image of the perfect body. This strong desire to conform our bodies to that make-believe image is an addiction. And like all addictions it can never be satisfied. You will never lose enough weight to feel adequate. Your body will never be “perfect”. And the more you try to conform to that make-believe image, they more you will feel inadequate. That is what addictions do.

And this is not just a female issue. There are men who cannot stay out of the gym, and it has nothing to do with being healthy or being fit. Some of us men are seeking to satisfy our longing to create the perfect body. If you find yourself trapped in this cycle, you need to get help. This treadmill leads to severe depression. It leads to significant eating disorders that can even end in your death. Moms and dads, our addictions have significant impact on our children. If you cannot find help, come find me and I’ll help you find help.

There is an interesting thing about this text that I haven’t mentioned yet. Our temptation is to hear this message and leave with the conclusion, money is bad, our bodies are bad, and food is bad. But did you notice…God gave the people food. God gave us our bodies. Food and bodies are good. God gave them to us for our enjoyment. There is nothing wrong with all-you-can-eat buffets and there is nothing wrong with eating right and exercising! The problem comes when we seek to find our identity in those things. ANYTHING can become our god if we let it. But what Jesus told those crowds that day, we need to hear it to.

Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever.

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