Monday, March 8, 2010

Thirsty, Hungry, Needy: We Come

This is where my meanderings took me in the sermon I preached yesterday:

Lent calls us to reflect—to reflect upon our lives, on Christ, on our relationships with God and neighbor. We may be satisfied with our lives as they are…or we may find that something is missing, that we are thirsty, hungry, and needy.

This was the case for the people of Israel. They had been in exile in Babylon, far from home, feeling far from God—thirsty, hungry, and needy. That is the setting of this morning’s passage from Isaiah. God calls out, “everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isa 55:1 NRS). This theme introduces our first lesson.

Is God talking about physical or spiritual food here? The answer is a resounding, “Yes!” That is for everyone—for God’s ancient people and for us.

As I was finishing this sermon yesterday, a song came on the radio that speaks, as did Isaiah, of God’s love and care. We sometimes need such reminders. Listen to these lines from John Michael Talbot’s song, “Be Not Afraid.”

You shall cross the barren desert, but you shall not die of thirst.
You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way.
You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand.
You shall see the face of God and live.

Be not afraid.
I go before you always.
Come follow me, and
I will give you rest.

In our hunger, thirst, exhaustion, God invites us for some refreshment and renewal. We will find God responding to us, going before us -- giving us the food and rest we need. We are invited to a banquet!

God’s invitation is certainly tempting. It says, come…buy …eat…drink (but I don’t have any money), it’s ok, it’s FREE. God’s invitation is all about what God will do for us. It’s about our relationship with him.

Some hunger and thirst can be good for us. What should we be hungry and thirsty for? Should we be seeking material things, power, self-gratification, or should we be seeking spiritual things or things that will last for an eternity? Commentator, Timothy Shapiro suggests, "Hope is preceded by longing," reassuring us that "[s]eeking God does not require skill, status, security, smarts, steadfastness, or any number of other positive attributes. Only one thing is required: thirst.” (

What would our lives and churches look like if we take God up on this offer? What if we allow God to refresh and renew us as only God is able? Something that happened earlier this school year gave me a glimpse of what that may look like.

You folks here took up a collection for the food pantry at our seminary. Your generosity was so overwhelming that it took Denise several trips to bring all that you gave. The students were overwhelmed by all you had done. You have shown that you do not have to be a large church for God to use you mightily.

Who knows what else God may have in mind? God assures us, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

We may find ourselves on fixed incomes with increasing prices, greater needs with no relief in sight! We are overwhelmed, barely able to keep our own heads above water, let alone think of neighbors near or far. This can be frightening.

I think we have all had such times of fear. How will we make ends meet, what will happen to our small church, where is God in all of this? God is here among us, God reassures us, and again quoting John Michael Talbot, God says to us,

“Be not afraid.
I go before you always.
Come follow me, and
I will give you rest.”

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