An Invitation – Sept. 6, 2020
A Communion Meditation by Rev. Karen A. Mendes
September 6, 2020
Main Idea: God provides what we need.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
I’d like you to think about your favorite comfort food. Think about its flavor; is it sweet, or salty? Think about its texture; it is smooth or crunchy? Is it hot or cold? How does it make you feel? Happy? Relaxed? Slightly sick to your stomach if you eat too much? Today, as we look toward celebrating the Lord’s supper together, let’s explore how we feed ourselves and how God feeds us. God provides us with what we need.
For the past month we have been exploring the world and the words of Second Isaiah. In this sermon series we have affirmed that God cares for us with a fierce and tender love (Is. 40:1-11), that God has power and empowers us, (Is. 40:21-31), that God is our rock, there is no other (Is. 44:1-8), and that God calls our attention and guides us to comfort, purpose, and peace. Today’s text, Chap 55, is last chapter of 2nd Isaiah. It is a glorious conclusion of Isaiah’s vision of hope and restoration. It grounds people in the provision of God and looks to the future with optimism and joy.
The prophet we know as 2nd Isaiah was speaking to a people in need of hope and encouragement. He lived during the time of the Babylonian exile when Jerusalem had been destroyed and the people taken almost 1000 miles away to the capital of their oppressors, where they lived for more than 50 years. Some of them assimilated to Babylonian culture and lived relatively well, but most toiled as servants and longed to return to their homeland. Today, wars push people out of their homes causing them to become refugees and migrants. Back then, wars took people captive and forced them to work in the cities of their conquerors. In both cases, people are displaced and discouraged.
2nd Isaiah speaks to everyone who feels displaced and discouraged, everyone who is living in exile, everyone who wonders about life’s meaning and purpose. With poetry both powerful and sublime, 2nd Isaiah proclaims that God provides. God provides all that we need.
Like the grill master at a picnic, the prophet calls out “Hey everybody! Come and get it!” “Come and eat, ‘cause everything is ready!” “Ho, 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.” (55:1). We are invited to an abundant and all inclusive banquet to assuage our hunger and to quench our thirst. And what the Lord provides is free! We cannot purchase it from our own resources. We can only receive it as a gift. And what an amazing gift it is. The only requirement is that we be hungry.
But it may be that we don’t recognize our hunger at the moment. We’ve got other things on our mind; the pandemic, economic uncertainties, natural disasters, protests and counter protests. We are so embedded in our secular culture that while we can see these big issues, we often don’t recognize the daily burdens and perceptions which keep us from flourishing as a child of God. We have internalized society’s measures of success, of happiness, of beauty, of value, and we know that we cannot stop trying to achieve more. We will never be smart enough, or attractive enough, or rich enough, or safe enough, no matter how hard we try (and we try!). The prophet asks us, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” (55:2a) “Why are you wasting your time and your resources on that which will not satisfy or save you in the end?” This question brings us up short because it reveals the intrinsic lie at the center of our materialistic, consumer culture. Stuff will not make us happy! Accolades will not feed us! Contentment and security cannot be purchased! Let’s consider an extreme example of this; Do you ever daydream about winning the lottery? The things you would buy, the places you would go, the debts you would pay off? Did you know that nearly 1/3 of all lottery winners end up declaring bankruptcy? And that they “frequently become estranged from family and friends, and incur a greater incidence of depression, drug and alcohol abuse, divorce, and suicide than the average American.” (http://fortune.com/2016/01/15/powerball-lottery-winners/) Why do we spend our money for that which is not bread, and our labor for that which does not satisfy, when God provides what we need? Another example: remember back to a tomato you bought at a grocery store in January. It looked beautiful, it was bright red, it was heavy, and perfectly shaped. But in your mouth it was slightly hard, its taste was bland, with a faint hint of chemicals. Now remember a tomato purchased from a farm stand in August. It looked funny. It was weirdly shaped but its flavor burst in your mouth, juicy and sweet and tasting of summer sun and earth.
God says “Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. (55:2b-3a) We may not realize that we are hungry, or we know we are hungry but we are not sure for what, and so we fill our days with the equivalent of junk food; potato chips which taste good in the moment so that we eat the whole bag and then feel sick afterwards, social media and self-help programs which only increase our anxiety and decrease our sense of self. God provides what we really need; love and grace and beauty and strength. These provisions are riches of extraordinary taste and nourishment. They are provided to us in abundance, we just need to recognize them and accept them.
So, how do we do that? In this text we are called to come to God 4 times; we are called to listen 3 times. We are called to eat what is good and to delight ourselves in rich food. We are called to seek the Lord, and call upon the Lord, and return to the Lord. Not sometime in the future, when we might have some extra time, but right now! God doesn’t want us to procrastinate. God is excited to share these gifts with us right now! God is waiting for us to shake off our inertia, our fear, our apathy, and despair so that we may be nourished and strengthened by the provisions of God.
What does this look like for our community of First Baptist, especially in this extraordinary time? We gather virtually together for worship with commitment and purpose. We find new and creative ways to minister together in service to our wider communities. We share our lives together; our griefs, our joys, and our challenges. We put aside political parties to recognize all as children of God. We don’t get hung up on appearances or petty disputes, or nostalgia for the good ol’ days. We recognize our blessings and we are grateful that God provides all that we need.
Now these provisions are not just for our own personal benefit or the benefit of First Baptist. God tells us “I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. 4See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. 5See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you. (55:3b-5). We are to share God’s provisions with the world. We are to invite others to God’s feast. Too much of our world suffers from physical hunger to say nothing of spiritual hunger. Did you know that Americans waste $165 billion worth of food in a year? That is 4 times the amount of food the continent of Africa imports in a year. (www.one.org/us/blog/14-surprising-stats-about-global-food-consumption/) There actually is plenty of food in our world for all to have what they need, if those in power would share it equitably. People are hungry and God provides what we need.
When we invite others to God’s feast, we participate with God’s provision. Our only task is to share, all the power comes from God who says “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (55:10-11). God’s purposes move forward abundantly and we are invited to come along.
As we continue to move through this extraordinary season and as we prepare to share the Lord’s supper, may we be fed by the bounteous provision of God. May we recognize the difference between the junk food of the world and God’s nourishing gifts of love, grace, beauty, and strength. May our spiritual hunger lead us to closer communion with God and may the physical hunger of so many in this world become a relic of the past. May all have what they need to flourish and live in peace.
Let us pray,
Bounteous God, we thank you for loving us and caring for us and feeding us. Help us to recognize your blessings. Empower us for your service. Amen.
Our hymn of preparation is As We Gather At your Table.