Listen to the sermon here:
Scripture – Isaiah 55:1-5; Psalm 145:8-9; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:13-21
God said through Isaiah, “If you are thirsty, come and drink water! If you don’t have any money, come, eat what you want! Drink wine and milk without paying a cent. Why waste your money on what really isn’t food? Why work hard for something that doesn’t satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and you will enjoy the very best food. Pay close attention! Come to me and live. I will promise you the eternal love and loyalty that I promised David. I made him the leader and ruler of the nations; he was my witness to them. You will call out to nations you have never known. And they have never known you, but they will come running because I am the Lord, the holy God of Israel, and I have honored you.” (Isaiah 55:1-5 CEV)
What is the “very best food?” What do you consider to be the best food? What food do you ask to have for your birthday? Of course, the earthly food that we crave, such as steak or lobster, or exotic food with names I cannot even say, is good for as long as it takes us to eat it. It is soon gone and is only a memory. But God is offering his blessed people, the Israelites, food that does not disappear. It is something to which we can cling. It is something which becomes more real as we claim this food – the Word of God.
Not only are we given this worthy Word, but God tells these Israelites through Isaiah that they must tell the nations. About which nations is God speaking? God sounds quite positive that the people from the nations – or does God mean the nations themselves – will come running. That would be a funny sight, don’t you agree? No weapons, no machinery – just eagerness to get to the food, the Word of the Lord.
What can we expect will be pleasurable about this food, this Word? Will it taste like ice cream or whipped cream or honey? Or will the pleasure be the loss of fear? Will the pleasure be contentment or the setting-in of self-control? Maybe this substance will be an aid to lose weight. Whatever this food, the Word, is, we need to be calling the nations to come share with us.
Keeping with this food/Word motif, the Psalmist of Psalm 145 writes to God, “You open wide your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.” What is in those hands? “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” So we will find
compassion. What else? Maybe some assistance in rising when we have fallen in despair. We will receive his watchfulness and faithfulness, care and comfort. Maybe there will be a pleasant pile of covenants that are gifts of God. Maybe there will be the law and – yes – there beside God is the Messiah – the Word – which will be sent to earth at just the right time.
Jumping through time, we find Jesus exhausted. To get away from the crowds, Jesus withdrew from them into the wilderness on a boat. But the crowds followed on foot to the place where he went ashore. Instead of trying to hide again, Jesus had compassion on them and spoke to the crowd and cured the sick. It got to be evening. The disciples asked Jesus to dismiss the crowd so that they could go into town and buy food. Hear what Jesus said to the disciples: “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”
So we find ourselves in a version of the “five loaves and two fish” story. This one is in Matthew 14. Jesus had the crowd sit on the grass. Holding the five loaves and the two fish, Jesus looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the bread. All ate and were filled. And there were leftovers! “Oh, ye of little faith,” I say. “Oh, ye of little faith,” God says to us. The Psalmist in Psalm 145 says, “The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, and you give them their food in due season. Lord, you are good to all, and your compassion is over all your works.”
Back and forth in the holy scripture we go. From Isaiah to the Psalms to Jesus in Matthew. It is intricately woven just as are our bodies as we each were woven in our mother’s womb. Paul, the apostle, was also woven carefully in his mother’s womb. At first glance it would seem that Paul, the baby in the mother’s womb, was woven with bits and pieces of evil intertwined. But Jesus did not let Satan get away with that. Paul was rescued from sin. Paul was also tortured even as he delivered the word of God to whomever was in hearing distance.
Jesus as Son person of God was always with Paul. That is fairly obvious. How else, would Paul and his jailed friends be able to sing songs about God while they were chained in prison cells? Surely, they were not fed adequately in the various prisons. Yet, they were filled with the bread of the Spirit person of God. When the crowd was fed, there were leftovers. When Paul and his friends were fed with the Spirit of God, the leftover Spirit jumped into the hearts of the other prisoners.
Hear Paul’s words in Romans 9:1-5 as he spoke to the Christians in Rome by letter. “I am speaking the truth in Christ – I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit – I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen”
Jesus had said before Paul said, “You are near to all who call upon you, to all who call upon you faithfully. You fulfill the desire of those who fear you; you hear their cry and save them, You watch over all those who love you, but all the wicked you shall destroy. My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord; let all flesh bless God’s holy name forever and ever.” These words again from the Psalmist of Psalm 145.
The word builds on itself: word upon word. “In the beginning was the one who is called the Word. The Word was truly God. From the very beginning, the Word was with God. (John 1:1 CEV) Then later, much later, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Listen. “The Word became a human being and lived here with us. We saw his true glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father. From him all the kindness and all the truth of God have come down to us.” (John 1:14)
When have you seen the glory of Jesus, the Word? Well, if I am asking myself where last I had a face-to-face conversation or sign of Jesus being close and having compassion because Jesus is the Son person of God. When have I seen the glory of God up close?
My ordination service is probably the most awesome experience I have ever had. I knew Jesus the Son person and the Holy Spirit person were in that place in abundant measure. The singing, the praying, the laying on of hands – all big! Yet in the quiet of the heart, Jesus lived and the Spirit lived. We were all stirred, not just myself. I kept thinking that I would wake to discover that this all was one big dream.
When else have I felt the presence of God in all three persons? When people become reconciled after even the mildest separation. Sometimes, it was simply a matter of time and space separation. Sometimes forgetting that the other person existed. Sometimes regrets a mile high keep us at bay a mile wide from each other. What can we do about regrets? There may be time to chip away at these gnawing regrets. Sometimes it is a big “let’s get this over with” action. Then there are tears galore as relationship is restored.
Is it only relationship that oozes with compassion after separation? How about a restored home after a fire? How about a full running brook after a drought? Oh, I can hear and feel that joyous water bouncing along for its very life. “We are here!” the water sings as it bounces and flows with sparkle. A celebration to be sure!
So it is with those of us who are hungry and thirsty. Physically, this happens when it has no business happening. Certain people gain control over situations as in war, as in unfaithfulness to God or to another human being. Then large numbers of humans suffer from physical abuse and mental abuse, and emotional abuse. Literally, there is no food and no water and no love! No respect for the God-made body. Soon the hunger and thirst become a soul thing. We begin to wonder why God even made us. We wonder why we just can’t die. Hunger and thirst is an awful condition as we long for the water and bread of life; as we long for the joy that we can’t even remember.
What is life without joy? What is life without compassion for each other? Can compassion and joy exist if the person himself or herself feels that the whole world is sitting on his or her chest. “Get that off of me!” we say! Help me! And the tears are squeezed out of our inner being. But wait, we are not forgotten! Jesus says to a friend, “Feed her! Feed him! You feed her! Does that mean that we, in our deep need for water and bread, are supposed to sit with someone in despair? Yes it does. It is a deep blessing to minister and share the water and bread of our own souls, planted there by the Son person, this one who says, “You feed them. You give them something to eat!” Can we? Is it in us?”
Glorious God, your generosity waters the world with goodness, and you cover creation with abundance. Awaken in us a hunger for the food that satisfies both body and spirit, and with this food, fill all the starving world; through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen