A common phrase used by Christians is that Jesus will meet our needs. And it is understood in all kinds of ways. Sometimes this is couched as spiritual needs. Sometimes just needs. Some people differentiate between wants and needs. Which leads to us not being very clear about what needs will be met.
In our reading from 2 Samuel 11: 26- 12:13 we hear the ongoing story of David’s need for Bathsheba. Or maybe that was a want. But that “want” distracted David from what was important, and before he knew it, the one who had been rescued from Saul’s murder plot was involved in his own murder plot. That giving in led to all sorts of broken relationships, deaths and betrayals. Nathan tells a story that invokes David’s outrage, and then his utter despair. The trappings of being king had blinded David to his need for God, his need to live in the presence of God.
It is easy for us to look down on David, but I suspect we too often forget about what is important, what our real needs are, and follow our wants instead. In the Franciscan way that is one of the things poverty is about – letting go of everything that might distract us from our need to live in the presence of God.
One of the reasons we get distracted is that sometimes we are not very sure about what our needs really are. We struggle because as individuals and as communities we are unclear about what it is that we should long for. The writer to the Ephesians, which may or may not be Paul, clearly thinks that unity in the church is important, something to be longed for. He longs for that even though powerful people within the early church opposed him. But unity at what price?
In our gospel reading, John 6: 24-35, the people following Jesus are clear about what they long for: and end to Roman rule, an end to Herod, an end to the corruption of the High Priests; and a return of their land, their honour and sustainable incomes. In short, they longed for the Kingdom of God as they understood it. Last week Jesus avoided being made the means by which these deep needs might be met. And so the crowd catch up, on the other side, and they are a little unhappy and inpatient. Who does this Jesus think he is and what exactly is he offering. Healings are all very good, and the bread and fish thing was impressive. But bigger change was needed. What Jesus was talking about was not what they were looking for. They wanted the world as it was with them nearer the top. Jesus offered a new way of seeing the world, and new way of being community, based on God’s ongoing unbounded generosity and unlimited love. They struggled to get it.
We struggle to get it. We are in the end no different from David, from those people following around Jesus from one side to the other, from the disciples. We too often long for more of the same. We give our souls to a vision that is too small.
So what is it we long for? What is our hearts desire? What is it we give our soul to? And what is it God longs for us, for this place, for this world?