Feeding the Soul's Hunger

Come, Holy Spirit, come. Come as the fire and enkindle in our hearts the love of the Lord Jesus. Come as the dove and bring to our lives the peace of God. Come as the wind and blow away those clouds of doubt and uncertainty which would keep us from following Jesus Christ as Lord as Savior.

The scene is this: The Gospel writer Mark tells us the Apostles have been out on a mission trip, teaching and healing, and they return worn out physically and spiritually. Jesus suggests a quiet respite away from the crowd, but the crowd follows them. Seeing the great throng, Jesus has compassion on them and begins to feed their hunger. Ah, we think, we know what is coming. In our minds we jump in anticipation to the five loaves and two fish. But Jesus is aware of a deeper hunger than growling stomachs. Before Jesus gives them the fish and bread, he first begins to "teach them many things." The Word of God, in the flesh of Jesus of Nazareth, feeds their soul's hunger with the good news of God's love, mercy, and grace.

Now, don't get me wrong, bodily hunger is real and present among us even in America which seems to be flowing with milk and honey. For the last ten years I have served on the Board of the Harvest Hope Food Bank which strives to meet the hunger needs of almost one-third of the state of South Carolina. We collect and distribute hundreds of thousands of pounds of food--some donated, some surplus, some purchased--to begin to meet the hunger of the body. I see it as a Christian imperative. Hunger of the body is real. Jesus knows this and later in this chapter of Mark we see Him feeding the crowd the five loaves and two fish. It is clear that Jesus' compassion touches the hunger of the body as well as the soul.

But, if we miss the feeding of the soul that Jesus engaged in as he "taught them many things," we short change ourselves and the hungry crowd in which we live. Just as I have become aware of the large number of people without adequate food, I am deeply aware of the multitudes who hunger in their souls for meaning and peace. Many are those who wonder "Why am I here?" or "What should I do with my life?" "Does anyone love me?" "What will become of me?" These questions are expressions of the soul's hunger. It was to feed this hunger that led Jesus to "teach them many things" even before He gave them loaves and fish for their bodily hunger.

Who is this Jesus who can feed both body and soul? He is God in human flesh, God incarnate, the divine One dwelling in this world of carnal people. He knows the hungers of human life because He lived human life. He has the power to satisfy the hunger of body and soul because He is God, the author of all life. In my readings, I've come across a fanciful story that tells this truth in this manner:

"God, as everyone knows, created the heavens and the earth and everything in them. And, as we are now aware he created them through the use of words, for words, of course, are power. 'Let it be done', God proclaimed, and it was done. And everything he made was good. Well, God was especially proud and loving of the man and woman he made, because he had breathed into them a part of Himself, his Spirit. Not surprisingly the Devil was jealous and angry. So one day when God was enjoying the humans, the Devil casually happened to walk by. He sauntered up to God and asked Him what he liked so much about these creatures. When God opened his mouth to speak, the Devil craftily put a bond on his tongue so that he could not speak! God could not talk! Since God's creative power is in his words, the Devil had bound that power. The Devil laughed at God and quite had his way with the humans. Well, as eons went by, the devil came back to mock God. He scoffed at the silent deity and taunted this helpless God. God responded to all this by holding up one finger. "One!" asked the Devil. "Are you trying to tell me you want to speak just one word?" Yes, God nodded. The confident devil thought to himself, "I don't suppose that even God could do much harm with just one word." So the devil removed the bond from God's tongue. And God spoke his one word, in a whisper. He spoke it for the man and the woman and it brought them great joy. It was a word that gathered up all the love, forgiveness, and creativity that God had in his heart. The word he spoke was JESUS.

"A World of Stories for Preachers and Teachers" W.J. Bausch p 234.


Jesus. That is the word we are called to speak also. We all who are baptized are given the task of making Jesus known, but especially those of us who are called preachers. The Apostle Paul felt this responsibility powerfully, and he wrote to the early disciples in Rome: "But how are men to call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?" (Romans 10: 14)

Preachers have been spreading the word about Jesus ever since His life, death, resurrection and ascension to the glory of the Father. For the past 70 years this program, first called the Protestant Hour and now called Day 1, has used the radio to reach people about Jesus. Powerful preachers from the four founding denominations--Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist and Presbyterian--are joined today by others--Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, United Church of Christ, and individual preachers from other denominations--in keeping Jesus in the ears and minds of listeners. I personally was fed by the Protestant Hour back in 1962. I was a new clergyman serving three small mission congregations in rural South Carolina. On Sunday mornings I would ride the circuit, beginning with the congregation the most distance from my house and work my way home, doing a service in each church.

By the grace of God, a local radio station was airing the Protestant Hour as I made my first long drive, and I heard The Rev John R.W. Stott from All Souls, London, England, as he preached for twelve Sundays on the Creed. It was wonderful and nourishing to my life. My soul and my sermons were strengthened by hearing the truth about Jesus proclaimed in such a stirring way!

As you listen to my words today, I pray that you will be concerned about the dual hungers of the body and the soul. Even in America, there are those who don't have sufficient food for the body. Are you donating to local food banks or maintaining a food closet at your church or assisting in a local soup kitchen? I see Christians of many denominations banding together to meet this bodily hunger and I hope you will join in that Christian mission.

But what of the hunger of the soul? Those with little money are often the ones suffering bodily hunger. Ironically, it is often those with money who suffer the most from the soul's hunger. "I have all this, but what does it mean? I am successful in my business or profession, but does all this time and effort count for anything? Who would love me if they really knew my inner thoughts and actions that I hide from the public eye?"

The answer, now as always, is Jesus. He loves us in spite of knowing the secrets of our hearts. He forgives us when we stumble and fall flat in attempting to walk the straight path. Today I proclaim to you Jesus, the Christ, to meet the hunger of body and soul. Does your life proclaim that same Jesus? Today the word of Jesus is being proclaimed over the airways through the means of radio. I pray that Day1 will continue to evangelize a hungry world through the power of radio. Oh, that the name of Jesus will continue to resound on the airways and in our hearts!

(Prayer) Grant, Almighty God, that the words we have heard this day with our outward ears may through your grace be so grafted inwardly in our hearts that the hunger of our bodies and souls may be fed to our great good and the praise of the name of Jesus. Amen.