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Food, Purpose, & Flow (John 4:1-45)



My wife and I decided to do something different for our wedding.  Instead of having a big catered meal, we wanted to have special snacks and treats available for a more simple casual experience.  We had board games out on all the tables and invited people to enjoy the company around them.  Jill had a tradition of hosting something she called a Chocolate Party and our wedding feast was based on the same idea.  The day before the wedding a bunch of people gathered in the church kitchen to bake up every chocolate treat you could imagine, and some you have never heard of.  It smelled like Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, and it looked amazing.  In my head I was making a list of all of the things I wanted to try the next day.  Before walking down the aisle I toured the dinning area to make sure everything was in order for after the service.  I added a few more items that I had not noticed before to my list of things to try after saying I do.  After the wedding and the pictures my new wife and I entered the room and started talking to people.  After several hours of talking we made our exit.  It was much later that both realized we had totally forgotten to eat.  All that planning, all those amazing treats...but we had been lost in the moment.  Something else had filled out belly.  

This week we are reading chapter 4 of the Book of John.  This chapter describes the encounter Jesus had with a woman at the well.  Jesus chose a castaway of society to be the first person to whom he revealed that he was the messiah.  He crossed racial and gender societal norms to reach her.  Then, after the woman left to tell her friends and family he basked in the glory of the moment.  His disciples tried to give him food because they knew he had not eaten, but he refused saying "My food is to do the work of the one who sent me."  Something else had filled his belly too.  

Have you ever been so absorbed in something that you forgot to eat?  Or even refused to eat when offered needed nourishment?  Psychologists have started calling this the "flow state".  When we go into flow state the part of our brain that gives us our sense of self, the dorsolateral frontal cortex, shuts down.  As we let go of our sense of self our brains speed up significantly, we become more creative, and we are capable of complete focus and absorption in whatever we are doing.  Many people pursue flow state for their work or creative outlets as a way to improve their performance.  I love that for Jesus, flow state was about loving and connecting with people.  Jesus was most in flow state when he was crossing boundaries and chasing after the lost and oppressed.  It is worth noting how much joy and pleasure the King of Creation gets in pursuing and being with us.  Anytime you struggle with self-worth remember that Jesus sees you as the most valuable thing in the whole of creation, and he is willing to set all of himself aside for you.

May we each learn to set aside self and pursue our neighbors in a state of flow, totally focused on them in that moment and forgetting about ourselves.  When we feel alone and isolated, may we feel the love and focus of Christ pointed our way.  Amen.   

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