"To those who hunger for something more than this world can give, God is inviting you to come and get our fill on the best that God has to offer. Choose anything you want from a menu that offers up mercy, grace, peace and forgiveness. Savor the true joy of life without worrying about the cost. Just come as you are and get your fill. Feast to your heart’s content."
At the beginning of 2020, I was invited to be a member of the Executive Board of the North Hollywood Interfaith Food Pantry, a local organization that works tirelessly to help those in our community who live with food insecurity.
Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to be a part of this incredible mission and did so not knowing what was about to unfold. As one might imagine, the harder the pandemic hit, the need for basic food supplies went up.
While reading this passage, I thought about the closeness of God and the many ways God delivers on this ancient promise. I pictured all the cars that line up for groceries, and imagined hearing God’s voice speak to those inside saying, “Come get what you need. It’s on me.”
For those who struggle to make ends meet, Isaiah 55 can seem like a cool drink of water on a hot summer day. They’re just as welcoming today as they were for those who had just returned after living the last 50 years in captivity.
When this oracle came it was not a prosperous time for God’s people. Jerusalem was still in ruins from its destruction by the Babylonians. The temple was gone. The social and economic structures were barely functioning. And there were conflicts over the land between those who were returning to their homes and those who were left behind to care for them. Food was scarce. Water was hard to come by. And the people were in dire need of relief.
While being offered something to eat and drink without paying might seem unfair or even unimaginable to many of us, such a generous and gracious gift was not unfathomable to God’s people.
They knew the promise God made to them through their ancestors – an everlasting covenant that they would be in God’s care forever. Knowing this would nourish their souls and strengthen their spirit. It gave them hope when all hope seemed lost.
What then do these words say to us? More importantly, how will we respond when we hear God’s invitation?
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In these 7 verses, the prophet paints a picture of hope for all of us. It’s a marvelous portrait of an active God who’s willing to renew and restore us back from the ashes, if that’s what we need. This is an open invitation for anyone who calls upon the Lord.
Through Christ, we have become part of the same covenant promise. Through the incarnation, God hand delivered this invitation to our hearts. The return envelope has been stamped. The price has already been paid. It’s ready to go to anyone willing to accept this generous and unmerited gift.
So why then, do we continue to labor for that which does not satisfy? Or chase after that stuff that does not give us what our hearts long for? Why do we continue to put our faith in the world that takes from us instead of putting it in the One who gives everything and more?
Today, another nation is being reduced to rubble by another evil empire. Innocent people are being murdered in the name of politics. Children are being starved to death because of human greed. When I see what’s happening in our world, I can understand why many people question the existence of God.
It’s a miracle that these ancient Jews didn’t give up on their faith during their hardships. (And trust me, these are a people who know hardship.) Instead, they put their faith in God knowing God is faithful to a fault. For the promises God makes, God keeps. Because of their faith, they had hope.
As the world stares into the face of another senseless war. As the economy teeters on a delicate thin string. As Covid gains new steam around the globe yet again, God comes into our space and gives us this exhortation: Come. See. Listen. Return. God is inviting us into a life of abundance, and peace, and joy.
It’s here, in the space between this invite and party we must decide how we will reply. Will we join the feast, and flourish freely in God’s steadfast love? Or give over to the world which promises our hearts desire, but only to those who can afford it?
When my father worked in the White House, I would visit and have lunch with him at the White House Mess, a small dining facility that is located in the basement of the West Wing. But don’t let its name or location fool you.
The place is an elegant restaurant flanked with rich, wood paneled walls. The tables are adorned with linens, fresh flowers, and official White House china. The servers wear starched white uniforms, complete with white gloves. And a team of chefs prepare each plate as if it’s being served to the President himself. Although the menu was small, the portions were not. And if you wanted more, no problem. You could have as much as you wanted…free of charge.
To those who hunger for something more than this world can give, God is inviting you to come and get our fill on the best that God has to offer. Choose anything you want from a menu that offers up mercy, grace, peace and forgiveness. Savor the true joy of life without worrying about the cost. Just come as you are and get your fill. Feast to your heart’s content.
To quote Eugene Peterson, “Why spend your money on junk food; your hard-earned cash on cotton candy?” Here, in Anamesa, God is saying to you, “Come. Eat what is good so that you might live.”
How will you respond?
I know how hard it can be to trust that God really does love you as you are. It’s hard for me at times to believe that God actually wants to be with me and spoil me with all the goodness of life.
I often think that I have to earn this privileged; telling myself that maybe if I do something noteworthy, God will be pleased and give me something in return.
At the pantry, we don’t ask people to prove their poverty or subscribe to a faith. If you are hungry, come and get what you need. That’s all.
While God wants us to do good in the world, God isn’t telling us what to do to get this free meal. God is simply inviting us to come and take it, no strings attached. This might seem ridiculous or too good to be true. But that’s the way God works.
As long as we think that we have to earn what we need, we will never get what our heart desires the most - unconditional love that is freely given. All we have to do is empty ourselves of such thoughts and accept God’s graciousness so we can live more and more into our true identity as beloved children of God.
It’s like Supermarket Sweep. The game show where contestants race around a supermarket, collecting the most expensive items in their grocery carts within a specified time limit. Now how good would this be if you started the race with a cart that is already full of stuff?
One needs to look no further than the space you’re in to see how we fill our lives with useless junk. Same is true about what we hold onto internally. God is inviting you to fill your heart with the very best that God has to offer. This requires us to empty our hearts before our Lord if we are to receive the fullness of God’s faithfulness.
Like Isaiah said, “Let the wicket forsake their ways, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord that he may have mercy on them.”
The choice is ours to make.
Will we choose the way of the world? Or the way of God?
The way of war? Or the way of peace?
The way of prejudice? Or the way of tolerance?
The way of selfish greed? Or the way of self-giving love?
We know the way Christ chose. To follow him means to go the same way.
Lent is a time to stand in Anamesa and fast from the things that pull us away from God. But it is also a time to feast on the goodness of God’s faithfulness?
It’s in our sitting and eating and drinking with God that we are refreshed, renewed, and reborn.
Through Christ, God gives an open invitation to anyone who hungers for more than this world can offer. No thirsty soul will be turned away.
Everyone who comes will get their fill. And all who accept it will be able let out a very satisfying...Amen.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”