Lent 3 C: Ho! Hey!

Readings

Sermon

I got an invitation in the mail this past week. The announcement is for a very important date, which I have been anticipating for about two years. It’s a simple thing: black and grey text on white card stock – arranged just so, and presented in a particular way. But it is an invitation to something that is so full of a hope-filled future. A couple of very dear friends are getting married. And I am to stand up with them as they make their promises in front of the abundance of wonderful friends and family who support and love this union. That’s a lot of joy and love and hope in one smallish envelope, and on one seemingly simple, yet oh so special invitation.

Have you ever received an invitation that just led your heart soaring through joy filled skies? It doesn’t have to even be an invitation on a piece of paper. Have you ever received an invitation that just made you happy?!

HEY!

All you who thirst…
Everyone!
Come to the waters!

And you!
You that have no money…
come!
Buy and eat!
Come!
Buy wine and milk, without money.
It’s free!
Hey!

Why do you spend your money for what isn’t food?
And your wages for that which does not satisfy?

Listen carefully to me:
Eat what is good,
Delight yourselves in rich food.

Listen to me: come to me!
Listen, so that you may live.

I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
just like the loving and merciful promises I gave David.

See?!
I made him a witness to the peoples: a leader and a lawgiver.
See?!
You will summon nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you.
Because of Adonai, the Holy One of Israel, who will glorify you.

Listen:
Seek the Lord while God may be found.
Call upon God while God is near.

Let the wicked person abandon their way, and the evil person, their thoughts.

But.

Let them return to the Lord, and God will have mercy on them.
Let them return to our God, and God will freely forgive them.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,” says the Lord, “Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

I just love this passage from Isaiah.

Everything just sounds so hope-filled and abundant. Instead of being tethered to my perpetual worries about food, finances, and how to stretch the meals I prepare as far as they can go, I’m transported to a place of incredible hospitality and abundant love and generosity and promise.

God has this for everyone.

It makes me think of this incredible feasting table where the table is heaving under the weight of all the goodness and everyone has a place. Everyone.

Or maybe, a Lutheran potluck, where there is enough food left over to feed those extra 50 people that never came – but they just might have!

The text is strange when juxtaposed against our traditional Lenten discipline of restraint and muted excitement.

But.

Isaiah isn’t talking about indulgence and edible extravagance.

Did you catch it?

Listen: come to me.

This is about God’s abundance. This is about the richness of relationship and eternal nourishment. Just like that time Jesus talked to the woman at the well about life-giving waters. This is about that.

God has this for everyone.

I think the people who are truly thirsting and truly hungry for God in their lives get this. Maybe it’s why this reading speaks to me every time I hear it. It’s a breath of fresh air. It’s a glass of cool water on a parched throat.

God has all this love for everyone.

And we don’t really get it.

Isaiah’s fifty-fifth chapter is written to a people who had been forced to Babylon when Jerusalem was conquered. “The message of Isaiah is that he wants his Jewish listeners to heed his call to re-embrace their distinctive identity, and to retreat from commitment to the empire.”[1] The point of this second book of Isaiah was to help the people prepare for a return to Jerusalem and to a clear identity as God’s people. “For a people who had drunk deeply from the waters of deportation, exile, and estrangement, this invitation to return to the waters of Zion signaled a new day.”[2]

Not just a new day with promise of the stuff of easy living and rich food stuffs. This is about something bigger.

God has all this love for everyone and is calling the exiles and each of us into something really great: a relationship that provides us with the stuff of life. Everything that we could possibly need in order to live lives that are full of that love.

But this invitation to all is more than a simple invitation to drink of the water that is provided for us. We are asked to stop wasting our time and money on the things that cannot do that very thing. The temporary stuff of life that cannot possible satisfy those who truly hunger and thirst. We are asked to Listen!

We are invited to participate in the work of God. We are to seek God out. We are to call on God.

God extends this incredibly open invitation to all.

Come.

God has all this love for everyone.

Everyone.

Even the ones we know are wicked and evil and horrible people. If they turn to God and seek God, and call on God’s name – God will forgive them.

That’s pretty powerful stuff.

And really, really, hard stuff.

We, the collective humanity, have this really hard time understanding God, and God’s actions. Sometimes…. maybe most times, God makes no sense. We have a hard time imagining that God can make all things new. We have a hard time imagining that God’s will goes beyond what we can possibly comprehend. We have a hard time accepting that God’s peace passes all understanding.

And here we encounter that struggle again.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,” says the Lord, “Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Here’s the thing:

God is calling each and every one of us to a place of higher being and thinking that we can only reach with God’s help. I think that’s why it’s important to see this as an invitation.

It’s an invitation to participate in something that God is already doing. And that’s when we get it.

Micah 6:8 says this about our participation:

He has told you, human one,
what is good
and what the Lord requires from you:
to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.

“To embrace faithful love.” “To love mercy.”

The Hebrew word here is חֶסֶד “hesed“. It means kindness. Sort of. I have learned, with time, that in Hebrew, it’s almost always more than a simple English word. It is to love as God loves. As Katie Munnik says, it is “Covenant love. This is the love that enables us to live justly and to walk humbly with God. It is the glue that holds our actions and identity together. When we hesed (if you will excuse my overly clumsy bilingual verbiage there), we remember the wide circles around the table, and we remember that God is the centre. We aren’t striving for solitary sustenance, labouring for what does not satisfy; we are seated at the family feast. Just as God has included us in this wide and nourishing covenant, so God includes all people.”[3]

Something so simple, and yet so abundantly joyful and hopeful.

That’s a lot of joy and love and hope in one smallish reading, and in one seemingly simple, yet oh so special invitation. And that is the gospel. The good news of God. With this water-giving, abundant God, all things are possible.

Let us pray:

Holy Trinity,
Thank you for offering us the life giving waters so freely and so abundantly. Help us to answer your call to come and live! Empower us to seek your way and to call on you in all that we do. Guide us to accept your invitation and to trust that through you , everything will be possible – even when we can’t understand how that could possibly be. Teach us always about your love for everyone, so that, one day, we might finally understand. Amen.


Sermon Inspirations

  1. Walter Bruggemann. “A Covenant of Neighborly Justice: Break the Chains of Quid Pro Quo” On Scripture of the Week
  2. John C. Holbert. “The Gospel According to Isaiah: Reflections on Isaiah 55:1-9” Opening the Old Testament, Patheos.
  3. Katie Munnik. “Rich Food for Lent.” In the Messy Table, The Presbyterian Record.
  4. Brent A. Strawn. “Commentary on Isaiah 55:1-5” Preach This Week, Working Preacher.org.
  5. Dennis Tucker, Jr. “Commentary on Isaiah 55:1-9.” Preach This Week, Working Preacher.org

 

[1] Walter Bruggemann. “A Covenant of Neighborly Justice: Break the Chains of Quid Pro Quo.” On Scripture of the Week

[2] W. Dennis Tucker, Jr. “Commentary on Isaiah 55:1-9.” Preach This Week, Working Preacher.org

[3] Katie Munnik. “Rich Food for Lent.” In the Messy Table, The Presbyterian Record.

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