As I watched the whole Chick-Fil-A debacle over the past month, as I saw people put more worth on a chicken sandwich than on their neighbor’s right to live a complete life, as I listened to people proclaim that it was their religious duty to support Chick-Fil-A, I couldn’t help but see these 2 passages from Exodus and the Gospel of John. The scenes are strangely identical. The mistaken claims of faith that Mike Huckabee made in declaring Chick-Fil-A appreciation day is the same mistake people have been making for thousands of years. Let me explain.
Here’s what happened in Exodus 16:
The crowds came out in droves. They traveled for miles. They lined up around the corner and back again. They lined up by the thousands, waiting for hours. They said they were so hungry, they would rather be enslaved back in Egypt than die out in the wilderness. That’s a bold statement. They were putting more worth on perishable food than on their own eternal freedoms and they’re neighbors’ freedoms. And do you know what they demanded from God? They could have asked for countless miracles, do you know what the ancient Israelites lined up to order from God?
Alright, not exactly. But here’s what they got: quail and bread. God sent them quail and bread.
Even though God sent them what they asked for, even though God provided them with food, with sustenance, they had completely missed the point of this miracle: “Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.” That’s what God says in Exodus. Almost anytime God performs a miracle God says, “Then you shall know that Ia m the Lord your God.” But the people were so focused on the food that they forgot about God. Instead, like the Chick-Fil-A Appreciators, the ancient Israelites were certain that chicken sandwiches would be their salvation.
Here’s what happened in the Gospel According to John:
The crowds again came out in droves from miles around. They lined up around the corner and back again.
They lined up by the thousands, waiting for hours. They finally got to see him, Jesus, the Messiah that had been promised for centuries, the miracle worker who healed the blind and lame, who walked on water, who turned water into wine, and do you know what they demanded from this Jesus? They could have asked for countless miracles, but do you know what they lined up to order from the Son of God?
They said to Jesus, “give us a sign, like when Moses gave the Israelites food from heaven in the desert.” But again they had completely missed the point: “Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.” Instead, they were certain that chicken sandwiches would be their salvation.
But Jesus rebuked them for their misplaced certainty, because certainty can be a dangerous thing. Amen?
Jesus said: “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.” Do not have faith in such superficial, passing things, have faith in things that last.
Jesus said: “The bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” The bread of God gives life to the world. Miracles that are truly, authentically, certainly God, are the ones that are live-giving.
And now I look back at the Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day crowd, and all I can see are these two scripture passages. All I can see is Jesus standing over the Chick-Fil-A appreciators, like he stood over the crowds in Capernaum, rebuking them for their misplaced certainty.
I imagine Jesus saying to them, “Do not put such faith in food that perishes.”
I imagine Jesus saying to them, “The bread of God is that which gives life to the world. And yet you put faith in food that limits life.”
I imagine Jesus saying to them, “You are just like the Israelites in the wilderness when they lost faith in God. You are willing to trade freedom for food. Instead of moving forward towards a more just kingdom, you would rather return to a time and place where your neighbor wasn’t free to live fully or love fully. Instead of loving your LGBTQ neighbor, you’d rather buy chicken sandwiches. But what is a chicken sandwich for you, represents an assault of the right to live for others. The faith you are putting in fast food, is faith you should instead be putting in God.”
Friends, as Christians, it’s not our job to be certain about the judgements of God; it’s our job to be certain about the love of God. It’s not our job to take away people’s freedom; it’s our job to feed their spirits as they travel towards freedom. It’s not our job to put our faith in superficial chicken sandwich miracles; it’s our job to be miracles ourselves, Old School, God-revealing, thirst-quenching, life-giving, blow-your-mind Miracles. Then we will know that God is our God.
Image: via the Flickr photostream of cdharrison.
Jack Davidson is Associate Minister at the First Church of Christ, Congregational UCC in Redding, CT. He recently completed a MDiv from Harvard Divinity School, and also earned a teaching license through Harvard's Program in Religious Studies and Education. You can often catch him in a canoe, barefoot and bearded with a musical instrument in hand. Yep, he's totally that guy.