"Bread of Life: Donut Desires"
The First United Presbyterian Church of Loveland
“Bread of Life: Donut Desires”
Rev. Amy Morgan
March 21, 2021
Psalm 37:3-5; 23-27
3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
4 Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.
23 Our steps are made firm by the LORD, when he delights in our way;
24 though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong, for the LORD holds us by the hand.
25 I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.
26 They are ever giving liberally and lending, and their children become a blessing.
27 Depart from evil, and do good; so you shall abide forever.
35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.
37 Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; 38 for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.
39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
40 This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day."
41 Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven."
42 They were saying, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, 'I have come down from heaven'?"
43 Jesus answered them, "Do not complain among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.
47 Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life.
48 I am the bread of life.
49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.
50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.
51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."
A small, hand painted picture hung on the wall of the bathroom in our home when I was growing up. “Delight thyself also in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” Psalm 37:4. Since we didn’t keep any other reading material in our bathroom, and it was conveniently located right next to the commode, I set myself to memorizing that verse as the necessary business of the lavatory unfolded. And though the words of Psalm 37:4 are etched in my mind, the meaning of these words has been much more elusive.
As a child, it seemed enticing to have God give me all the desires of my heart. What if I desired fame and fortune? Or at the very least a new bicycle? Or a puppy? Or a friend? But I never asked for or expected any of these things from God, because I knew I had to first sort out what it meant to delight in God. And that was a real puzzle for me.
How to delight in a God who was immortal, invisible, inaccessible, hidden? How to delight in a God who held the whole world, who was almighty and all righteous? Awe, fear, even wonder might be possible with such a God. But delight? Delight in what?
I delighted in walks along the creek on a summer day. I delighted in reading a good book while eating peanut butter cookie dough. I delighted in making up songs or swimming in a spring-fed pool. How could any of these things be like God?
When I was a freshman in college, one of the first Krispy Kreme Donut shops opened up in the lobby of a building where one of my classes was held. And Krispy Kreme had a deal where whenever the HOT NOW light was illuminated, you could get a free donut. (Just for the record, they have discontinued this practice.)
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting a hot, fresh, Krispy Kreme donut, you truly understand the definition of delight. Those donuts are so light and airy and sweet. They have no nutritional value, no ethical virtue, no purpose whatsoever other than to elicit pure and unadulterated delight. I’m pretty sure the shop I passed twice a week on the way to class timed their HOT NOW sign to correspond with my class schedule. So I quickly became psychologically dependent on this delightful sugar rush to get me through a lecture on The Artist in American Culture.
To this day, the sight of that red and green logo sets my mouth to watering. Because the real delight was never in the eating of the donut. It was the smell, the anticipation, the hits of dopamine that started coming well before that crispy, warm sweetness ever neared my lips. Krispy Kreme taught me about the relationship between delight and desire. Delight doesn’t need a definite object. And desire can be fulfilled even without obtaining the object of our desire. I could very happily live out the rest of my days without eating another Krispy Kreme donut. But I will always delight in the thought of them and my heart’s desire for them is already more than satisfied.
It is this kind of delight and desire that Jesus brings into the world. Throughout his ministry, people delight in his healing, his compassion, his miraculous wonders. And a crowd of 5,000 people get the Krispy Kreme delight. As they delight in Jesus’s teaching, he flips on the first-century equivalent of the HOT NOW sign, feeding them all to their hearts’ desire.
But when he tries to head out across the sea after this tantalizing taste of delight, the crowd is hooked and wants more. They get in boats and follow Jesus, asking him for more donuts. They connect Jesus donuts to the manna God provided in the wilderness, showing that they understand there is some kind of connection between Jesus and God.
But instead of dishing up more hot and fresh donuts, Jesus starts talking in these confounding metaphors. Bread of life and bread from heaven. Eternal life and being raised on the last day. And finally – eew – eating his flesh.
Suddenly, we’re not talking about donuts anymore. The crowd isn’t sure what Jesus is talking about. He keeps referencing his father, but that’s just Joseph from down the block. What does he have to do with anything?
There’s this disconnect between the ability to see what Jesus is doing – teaching with authority, healing, feeding people, walking on water and other miracles – and “believing” in Jesus. This comes up a lot in the Gospel of John. In this passage, Jesus parallels this with the disconnect between hearing what Jesus says and learning from him. My son, Dean, loves trying to explain all kinds of scientific principles to me or describe inventions he’s planning to build. I hear him. But I rarely understand what he’s talking about. It’s difficult for me to learn these things.
Likewise, the crowds have seen Jesus at work. But it’s still hard for them to believe in him. Now, you’d think that if Jesus showed up here are miraculously healed someone of an illness or magically produced an abundance of Krispy Kreme donuts, we’d all immediately agree that he is God incarnate. But that probably isn’t true.
More likely, we’d go looking for the scam. We’d be skeptical. We’d try to figure him out. But we’d also love the donuts and possibly ask for more.
When Jesus calls for belief, this isn’t about church doctrine. He doesn’t say, “Believe I’m the Savior of the world” or “Believe I’m the Son of God” or “Believe in my virgin birth or my full divinity and full humanity.” It’s also not a demand for our full devotion or change of heart – though that does come up elsewhere. But that isn’t what “belief” is about.
Belief, in the context of Jesus, means “trust me to do what I say I can do” and “believe I will keep my promises.” It’s like when I have a friend who consistently shows up 10 minutes early to every meeting, I believe, I trust, that she will not be late to our scheduled coffee date. And if she is late, I’ll probably trust that something reasonable has delayed her. Meanwhile, if I have another friend who is consistently late to meetings, I probably won’t believe her when she promises to be on time to our coffee date and will be surprised if she gets there before I do.
But then there’s the friend who has been on time to meetings, had my back when I needed support, helps out other people on a regular basis, and has successfully completed numerous challenging projects. When she comes to me and declares that she is going to make her company the most successful business on the planet and solve world hunger, simultaneously, that’s a big promise. It’s something she’s never done before, something no one has ever done before. But she asks me to believe in her.
Skepticism is natural in this situation. At the same time, she’s proven, time and again, to be able to deliver on her promises. Belief in this particular instance may be a stretch, but it isn’t totally unwarranted.
Jesus has been teaching, healing, and performing miracles. And now he is promising eternal life now and resurrection on the last day. Something he’s never done, something no one’s ever done, before. Skepticism, even confusion, is natural in this situation. At the same time, Jesus has proven, time and again, to be able to deliver on his promises. Belief may be a stretch, but it isn’t totally unwarranted.
Eternal life is a tricky subject in scripture, but here in John, and in other parts of the New Testament, it refers to what is happening here and now and what will continue forever, even after death. It’s what scholars call a “realized eschatology,” meaning the end-times are already upon us and have been ever since Jesus came to earth. God’s final, redemptive purposes for the creation are already underway, working out in time and space. This is eternal life – now and always.
But Jesus is also very specific about raising up believers on “the last day.” There is a defined endpoint and an expectation of physical resurrection. It is rare in scripture that these two ideas are found together in the same place, and they offer a combined promise that is immensely desirable. If we believe that Jesus will do what he promises, we’ll experience eternal life, now and always, and a physical resurrection when God’s redemptive work is complete.
Jesus is clear, however, that belief in this promise isn’t entirely up to us. He says that “no one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me.” This sounds pretty exclusive, and totally out of our control. And indeed, that’s precisely how John Calvin interpreted this in his doctrine of election.
But God draws us to Jesus the same way Krispy Kreme draws us to donuts. With delight. And that delight is offered and available to everyone. Jesus quotes the prophets, saying, “And they shall all be taught by God.” Everyone is invited to see and hear, to learn and believe, to delight in God and God’s promises in Jesus Christ.
Now, this isn’t a question of declaring Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and getting saved from eternal damnation. There’s nothing especially delightful about avoiding eternal punishment by submitting to a feudal authority. But there is clearly some human agency involved.
When that HOT NOW sign lights up, and the sweet, sugary scent of Krispy Kremes wafts into your nostrils, you have a choice. You can take that free donut, or you can walk on by. You are drawn by delight, but it’s your choice to allow Krispy Kreme to satisfy your desire.
Likewise, God initiates our delight. In puppies and peanut butter cookie dough, in friendship and swimming holes. Jesus initiates our delight through incarnation and compassion, healing and miracles, teaching and forgiveness, crucifixion and resurrection. The Holy Spirit initiates our delight in signs of hope and movements for justice, in acts of kindness and in communities that continue the delightful life of Jesus on earth. All this delight draws us to God in Jesus Christ like a Krispy Kreme HOT NOW sign. And Jesus will no more drive us away than Krispy Kreme would drive away hungry, sugar addicted customers. Instead, Jesus will follow up delight with the fulfilment of desire.
And what could we desire more than what Jesus promises? A life now that is lived in the peace, love, and justice of God. A life forever in God’s loving presence. And a final, resurrected life in a new creation, returned to its original goodness. When I think about all my heart desires, most things fit somewhere in this picture.
We will still come to Jesus with our Krispy Kreme desires. Those things that ultimately won’t nourish us or provide ethical value or any purpose beyond some immediate delight. And that’s okay. Jesus will hear those requests. And sometimes he’ll even deliver what we desire. But unless our real delight, our belief and trust, is in his ability to come through on the big promises he makes, the satisfaction of those temporal desires will be fleeting.
“Delight thyself also in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” We are drawn into the delight of Jesus – of all he has done and said, of all he has shown us is possible through the power of love. May we choose to accept what we most deeply desire, life abundant, now and always.
To God be all glory forever and ever. Amen.