081218 Call Waiting
The little red light on my phone is blinking. This is because, somehow, when we set up a bundle program with Verizon, they gave me voice mail. What they didn’t do was tell me how to retrieve my voice mail, so the little red light on my phone blinks. If I wanted to go to the trouble, I could call Verizon, spend an hour or so on hold (on and off) and find out how to retrieve it. But most of our messages manage to make it through to the answer machine, so I don’t worry about it much. Still, the little red light is nagging me. It will keep nagging me until I retrieve my messages.
Now call waiting, I understand. I love call waiting. My wife hates it. She refuses to use it. She just ignores that little beep that lets her know another call is coming in. It doesn’t matter to me, but I can understand how it might be frustrating to people trying to call. To them, the phone just rings and rings and rings, like phones used to do before the advent of answering machines. So the person calling not only cannot speak with us, but cannot leave a message either.
We bought new phones recently, and the call waiting signal changed. I was not aware of this, however for some time. Whenever I heard the signal, I thought the phone’s battery was low and needed recharging. I wasn’t aware that a call was coming in. Now I am. Now I know what the signal means when I hear it.
We get calls all the time, and not always on the phone. Sometimes there are things trying to get our attention and we don’t always notice them. Or if we do notice them, we don’t understand them. That funny little sound the car is making. The strange way our kids might be acting. The way the boss is talking to you. What they DON’T say on the news. Like my voice mail, sometimes we get the message. Sometimes we don’t.
The priests and temple officials didn’t get the message of Jesus. I guess they were far more concerned with the messenger than the message. That’s just as true today. Many people won’t listen to the message of Jesus because they link it to the evangelical movement or the organized church. In fact, I’m pretty sure a lot of people in the organized church is pretty dim when it comes to the message of Jesus in many ways.
The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said,
“I am the bread that came down from heaven, ” and they said,
“Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother?
Then how can he say,
‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered and said to them,
“Stop murmuring among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him,
and I will raise him on the last day.
It is written in the prophets:
They shall all be taught by God.
Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.
Not that anyone has seen the Father
except the one who is from God;
he has seen the Father.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life.
Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
this is the bread that comes down from heaven
so that one may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” (John, Chapter 6, 41-51)
Jesus said, “I am the bread.” In the original Greek language, the bread he was talking about is the “shewbread”. The shewbread was a sacrificial bread offered in the temple. Twelve loaves were placed on a table in the holy of holies and stayed there for a week, from Sabbath to Sabbath. At the end of that time, the bread was to be distributed to the priests and eaten. The bread was to be broken, not cut. This was a ritual, not lunch. Those who ate the bread needed to be “clean”, in the Jewish sense of the word. So this was a holy meal and the roots of the modern Christian practice of communion.
Now personally, I have no problem with the idea that this event actually happened. But even if it didn’t, it changes nothing of the story of Jesus. John was trying to make the argument that Jesus was divine. He was writing at least seventy years after Jesus was gone. Nobody reading John would have any personal memories of Jesus. But people would have understood the meaning of the shewbread. They would have understood that by saying he was the bread, Jesus was stating that he was an offering, a sacrifice to God for the people. In every way, throughout the gospel stories, Jesus becomes the personification of the Jewish rituals. Thus, he came to fulfill the law.
The ultimate understanding of the second century reader of the gospel would be that the debt was paid, that there was longer a wall between humankind and the all mighty. Whether there ever was a barrier between humanity and God can be argued, but the people of Judea in the first century certainly thought there was one. Knowing that God and man were reconciled would be good news to them. The truth we can take from the story is that there still is no barrier keeping us from God other than ourselves.
Jesus also said that no one can come to him unless the father draw him. The Greek word for “draw” implies something being dragged-off, or impelled to go. I know that once I felt a spiritual pull, back when I was a very young man, I had to go in search of that spiritual connection. There was no ignoring it. I was compelled to find that link to the divine. I suspect that quest is a life-long one. The point here is that if you feel that hunger to understand, you will find no rest until you begin your quest.
For tens of thousands of years, humans have tried to find that God connection. Certainly some of that was to try to explain the world around them. But if there is one thing we share we all those generations that have come before us, and all those that will come after, it is the desire to understand our own existence. There has to be a reason for that.
We know that trees do not think. Trees do not think because there is no reason for them to think. They cannot move. Even if they could see the lumberjacks walking toward them, there is nothing they could do about it. We think because we move. Researchers have pondered the “god gene”, the innate desire in humans to create religions. I know evolution is such that if such an instinct exists, it is because there is a reason for it.
Whatever you believe about Jesus, he taught his understanding of the godhead. So did Gautama. So did Krishna. So did Lao Tzu. So did Mohammed. We don’t have to accept their understanding as truth, but it is a good place to begin. Over the ages, humankind has developed some basic truths about God, or the Tao, or the Prajna, The Great Spirit, the Atman, Allah, The Great Spaghetti Monster, or whatever you want to call that power. We have learned the importance of love, compassion, and forgiveness. We have learned that the quest for material things will not lead to happiness.
Jesus says that God is calling us. For some reason I do not understand, the divine wants to be connected to me as much as I want to connect to the divine. Maybe it’s just like looking for your glasses when they’re on top of your head. Maybe God is just jumping up and down shouting, “Here I am! Over here!” And I know that as long as I keep looking, I will continue to hear that call. And if I quit looking, I will continue to hear that call. There is no way out of it. And perhaps it’s like the magical world of Narnia, you never go back the same way twice. I don’t know. And if I’m on another call when that call comes in, I hope I have the presence of mind to put the other call on hold and answer it. Like my voice mail, it will keep nagging me until I do.