It’s great to see all of you here on this Super Bowl Sunday. Kind of a national holiday – one of three along with the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving. National holiday.
Now I know this isn’t true of everybody here today – but how many of you became instant fans of the Philadelphia Eagles two weeks ago? Yeah. Me too. And for you diehard fans of – well – that other team – we respect your choice. We really do. But just remember – this is Bills country – and most of us here in Bills country are fans of two teams. Number one – the Bills. And number two – whichever team is playing the Patriots! Right?
And we all have an opportunity to make our choice felt today with our own Souper Bowl – that’s souper with a “u” in it – by making a cash gift – or if you brought a can of soup, it all goes to feed some folks in need.
But since it is Souper Bowl [weekend] Sunday, let me tell you about, “…one young guy who is really in a difficult situation. He bought two tickets for today’s Super Bowl far in advance. He just happened to forget that he and his fiancé had scheduled their wedding for the same day and time. Not too smart, I know. But now, he realizes he can’t go. It’s just out of the question. So, I understand if anyone is interested, and you want to go instead of him, here’s what you need to know: it’s at St. Peter’s Church in New York City at 5 p.m. Her name’s Louise. She’ll be the one wearing a white dress.”
I learned long ago, that you never – never – schedule anything on the first Sunday of February. I once scheduled a confirmation class on the Super Bowl Sunday, and when I complained to the NFL – they were not willing to change their schedule, so I had to change mine.
Well, anyway. In today’s Gospel reading, we find that Jesus gets overwhelmed by people in Capernaum. If you remember from last week, Jesus has just healed a man who storms into the synagogue where Jesus was teaching. The man had been possessed by an unclean spirit – or demon – and Jesus healed the man by casting out the demon.
So if you had been a witness to what Jesus did, what do you think you would have done? [Wait for answer]. Yeah! You probably would have gone out of there to tell somebody what had just happened!
“Hey, Fred! Ethel! You won’t believe what just happened in the synagogue. Some rabbi just cast a demon out of crazy old Mordecai. His name is Jesus! He’s staying at Simon the fisherman’s house.”
Well – news travels fast. Even without Facebook! And when people hear the news – they drop what they’re doing and they all run over to Simon Peter’s house. The whole town crowds around Simon’s door – much like most of us will be crowded around our TV sets [tomorrow night] [tonight]. Anyway, that evening, the people of the area brought to Jesus all their sick and demon-possessed.
Think of that, “The whole town was gathered at the door . . .” It seems that everyone was looking for something. What they wanted was to see Jesus. They wanted Jesus to do for them and their loved ones what he had done for the man who had the unclean spirit. And that’s what Jesus does.
Now, the next morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place where he prayed. Simon and his friends go to look for him, and when they find him, they tell him, “Jesus! Where have you been? Don’t you know? Everyone is looking for you!”
Everyone is looking for you.
Listen! We’re all looking for something, aren’t we! What we’re looking for is meaning. Purpose. Happiness. Inner peace. Something or someone to believe in. Something or someone to live for. It’s like there’s this big hole inside us that we’re trying to fill – with meaning and purpose.
And people try all kinds of things. You have, I have, we all have. And whether its money or power or fame, drugs or alcohol, sex, well, you name it, none of these things fill that hole that all of us have and want to have filled. Something that will make us feel good, if even just for a little while.
Some have called this need a God-shaped hole. You know what a God-shaped hole is? It’s a hole that only God can fill. And yet – when we try to fill it with these other things – these other things just won’t fit. They just don’t fit. They aren’t made to fit. They aren’t designed to fit. And still, we try to make them fit.
May I suggest to you today that the only thing that can fill that God-shaped hole – what people are really looking for – is Jesus Christ. Everybody’s looking for something. But what some people haven’t yet discovered – is that deep down what they’re looking for – is Jesus Christ.
To me, this is the only thing that makes sense.
Back to our Gospel reading. After the disciples find Jesus, and tell him that everyone is looking for him, he says, “Yeah, I know. And that’s why we need to be moving on – to the next town – the next village. So that I can proclaim the message of God’s love and forgiveness in those places too. After all, that’s my purpose. That’s what I was sent to do.”
Folks, listen! The message of God’s love and forgiveness is for you! This message is for everyone. This is the good news that Jesus brings to a world that is hurting. I don’t know about you – well – okay – maybe I do – so let me tell you. This is what I need to hear. And you do too!
Michio Kaku, an outstanding physicist and thinker about our future, in his book Physics of the Future tells about when he was eight years old. He remembers all the teachers at his school buzzing with the latest news that a great scientist had just died.
That night, the newspapers printed a picture of this deceased scientist’s office. On his desk was an unfinished manuscript. The caption read that the greatest scientist of our era could not finish his greatest masterpiece.
“What,” thought young Kaku, “what could be so difficult that such a great scientist could not finish it? What could possibly be that complicated and that important?”
To Kaku, this became more fascinating than any murder mystery, more intriguing than any adventure story. He had to know what was in that unfinished manuscript.
Later, of course, he found out that the name of this scientist was Albert Einstein, and the unfinished manuscript was to be his crowning achievement. This was to be Einstein’s attempt to create a “theory of everything,” an equation that would unlock the secrets of the universe and perhaps allow him to “read the mind of God.” But Einstein never finished his search. He was never able to read the mind of God.
Einstein never dismissed the possibility of the existence of God. Einstein believed a divine mind had conceived the universe, and he spent his life trying to understand. He would tell his colleagues who believed that the universe came into being by random chance, “God does not play dice with the universe.”
I don’t know if Albert Einstein ever found what he was looking for. But I’m here to tell you that WE can know – we CAN find the meaning of what it is we’re looking for. Because we’re all looking for something. Something to believe in and to live for. Someone we can live for. Whether it’s ourselves – and if so how’s that working for you – or someone else – or Jesus Christ.
Like St. Augustine – a man who lived some sixteen hundred years ago – discovered. One of Augustine’s most famous quotes goes like this: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
Our hearts are restless until they rest in you!
Restless hearts. You know what a restless heart is, don’t you? A restless heart will try to find whatever it is it’s looking for – sometimes wandering off after other things in other places.
I understand there is a sign as you walk down the stairs toward the baggage claim area of the Memphis, Tennessee Airport. Memphis, of course, was the place singer Elvis Presley called home. On the sign in the Memphis airport is the motto of Graceland, the former home of the king of rock and roll. The sign reads: “Discover Your Inner Elvis.”
Any Elvis fans here today? He was a great singer – and I enjoy his music. Any DJ knows that all he or she needs to do to get couples out onto the dance floor at a wedding reception is to play “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” But let me tell you – I don’t think trying to find our inner Elvis is the answer. What we need to find is not our inner Elvis. What we need is to find our inner Jesus.
He is the way, and the truth, and the life.
He is the light that shines in the darkness.
He is the hope that never fails.
He is the life that never ends.
He is the key to the secret of life.
He is our only hope for making sense out of life and giving us a sense of meaning and purpose.
And the formula he gave us for living a life that has meaning and purpose is really rather simple. And you already know what it is. It’s, “Love God; love your neighbor. Because nothing else matters.” A simple formula for living a life of purpose and meaning from the only one who can fill our God-shaped hole.
Well, no matter which team wins this tonight – there is a team where everyone is a winner. It’s team Jesus. He is our owner. He is our captain. He is our coach. He is the filler of empty holes – in our hearts – in our lives – and in our souls.