February 27, 2013

An appetite for God

By Michael Sherer, information technology services director
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 63:1-8 (NRSV)

As human beings, we are designed by God with appetites. Our creaturely drives for food, water, sleep and sex keep us alive and sustain the species, but we are obviously far more complex than that. George Otis, Jr.’s “Life Appetites Test” lists 35 possible appetites, and I think he missed a few! Who of us can claim that our own appetites are always in balance and healthy? They compete with and even replace one another. Any dieter knows that eating is often not about hunger. Teens have sex for a raft of reasons that are not sexual. Drugs and alcohol are dangerous in part because their addictive powers can overwhelm other important and socially redeeming appetites.

The season of Lent is an annual reminder that we are by nature not in balance, and that by giving something up we can better focus our attention on God. North American culture has little room for asceticism, and I would argue, little room for God either. We have 35+ appetites ready to take the place of our need for God and a 24/7/365 consumer culture ready to sate them.

In today’s passage, Psalm 63, David speaks to us across time, space and culture about his relationship with God. And he does it in terms of appetites. David thirsts for God. God’s love satisfies him as much as the richest food. He thinks about God all night long in bed (instead of sleeping? while sleeping?). In the process, David frames his relationship with God as a powerful appetite. God’s love is better than life! It’s no accident that this Psalm was written in the desert, a barren place barely able to support life, but with a long tradition of stimulating spiritual reflection. In that place, where hunger and thirst are never far away, David stimulated his appetite for relationship with God. His writing conveys a spiritual capacity that far outstrips my own, and I admire it. I want it. Lent provides me with the opportunity to work at it.

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 63:1-8 (NRSV)
A Psalm of David, when he was in the Wilderness of Judah.
O God, you are my God, I seek you,
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands and call on your name.
My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,
and my mouth praises you with joyful lips
when I think of you on my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.



Comments (9)

  1. Be STILL and know that I AM GOD. How often do we forget that in the many things we think we need to be involved in daily?? Thank you so much for the reminder to “thirst” for God.

    betty February 27, 2013 |
  2. Thank you, Michael, for your significant, yes, and challenging reflection for this season.

    Wilma Shank February 27, 2013 |
  3. Today’s reflection is, for me, one of the best yet! Michael, liked your comments on our many appetites, and how the one most satisfying and life-giving is often the one we ignore the most.

    Martha Helmuth February 27, 2013 |
  4. How simple and how profound. Thank you, Michael, for your astute observation of our flawed culture, and your wise words for us to heed, reminding us of the “rich feast” of life awaiting us when we are in right relationship with God.

    Lola Burgtorf February 27, 2013 |
  5. I appreciated this. Thank you.

    Diana Thomas February 27, 2013 |
  6. Thank you, Michael, for this very thoughtful and helpful reflection.

    Rachel Nafziger Hartzler February 27, 2013 |
  7. Your thoughtful and provocative thoughts on this Psalm resonate with me in a variety of ways. Thank you.

    Irene February 27, 2013 |
  8. Love the re-framing of one of my favorite psalms through the lens of appetite. Works for me.

    Joan February 27, 2013 |
  9. What a great message! So well written and insightful. I haven’t thought about appetites in quite that way – that they replace and compete with each other – and you put it so well to point out that these appetites also compete with our appetite for God. Too true. Thank you for this reminder. It feels as if I’m looking at lent with new eyes. It’s so accurate that putting it together like that shouldn’t be as profound as it feels!

    Elisabeth February 28, 2013 |