Mar20SunA sermon on Isaiah 55 March 20, 2022 by Sebastian Meadows-Helmer
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- Pr. Sebastian
Last Thursday was a gorgeous sunny day,
with temperatures in the high teens.
In the afternoon I was feeling out of sorts and anxious
about our puppy who we were going to pick up on Saturday.
So I went for a walk,
which usually helps calm my nerves and focus my thoughts,
and I went down to sit by our local Stormwater management pond.
The ice had melted on the edges and was flowing down through an outlet to a small stream, and making those wonderful Spring-like water sounds of gurgling and gushing.
Meanwhile the birds were singing on the branches,
the sun was warm on my face,
and the smell of mud and rotting plants near the water’s edge was wafting up; altogether it was a beautiful day to be outside,
a hopeful day,
after a long winter, Spring was around the corner.
I felt beckoned, called that day,
To that pond, to be refreshed.
And I was refreshed.
“Come to the waters”, we hear from our Isaiah reading.
1Ho, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Perhaps you can imagine a salesman at St. Jacob’s Market crying out
“fresh strawberries, get your fresh picked local strawberries here!”
Or in pre-COVID times at Costco
at mealtimes, it seems like every aisle had a server willing to give out free samples, and people were eager to try them out.
“Come and try this new delicious food”!
They say the word “Free” is the best advertising.
Nothing beats the word free, esp. when the item is at least a little enticing.
Free snacks. Free beer!
That will drive the crowds!
Although as they also say, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
And the business model wouldn’t work if it was actually, really free with absolutely no catch.
There’s always a catch, whether it’s a discount for 6 months,
or the free app that uses your personal information
Or the invariable fine print of pending satisfactory credit checks or so on.
Or the item is a so-called loss leader, where it’s heavily discounted or free just to get you in the store so you spend money on other,
perhaps more expensive stuff so it makes up for the loss on the first product.
God is like an outgoing, energetic salesman. He cries out:
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
3Incline your ear, and come to me;
listen, so that you may live.
While human businesses will never have an actually free product,
God’s gift is truly free.
No ifs, ands or buts.
God’s grace runs down like a refreshing stream over our souls,
sometimes when we least expect it, sometimes when we most need it.
Because oftentimes when we most need it,
we are the most receptive and willing to embrace it and perceive it.
We might be able to be quiet enough to feel the tap on your shoulder,
that inner stirring,
or maybe that word spoken by a friend that unexpectedly touches you in ways you might not have thought possible.
Or the words of a hymn or song that prods you or reminds you of something you forgot.
Come to me, you pilgrims, you travellers,
Amidst this time of change,
Going from deep COVID lockdown in January
to loosening restrictions into late Spring, God calls us.
We are in a thirsty, Lenten time.
Many of us are parched and weary,
Tired, burnt out, our empathy for others has decreased,
We’re concentrating on just getting by ourselves,
All these COVID pivots, rule changes, and distancing, masking, and loneliness have robbed ourselves of our social supports.
Many of us are distressed, or needy.
When you’re feeling trapped with no way out,
When you’re feeling alone and afraid,
When you’re feeling sick and tired of this pandemic,
which has worn you down to the bone,
When the war in Europe seems frightening,
Where do you turn to?
How can you find some relief?
When all you want to do is shout angrily at the sky?
I think we’ve all felt helpless and thirsty for relief at various times of our lives,
Times when we just want to give up.
Somehow, if you’re listening to this service and sermon,
you’re hoping for a glimpse of something beyond the here and now,
something that elevates and inspires beyond the humdrum of life’s existence.
2Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Many things don’t really satisfy, they rely on false promises:
Smartphones and smartwatches,
Thing-a-lings and goo-gas,
Cheap goods from China,
disposable and convenient (but with a large ecological cost),
Distractions and cheap thrills,
They’re easy but deceptive.
Ultimately, they do not satisfy,
They are a waste!
Or the meaningless channel surfing or mindless scrolling down social media feeds,
The addictions that deliver a deceptive high,
that always gets harder to reach,
Substances to numb the pain,
Self-destructive habits to ground oneself in reality.
God sees the pain, God sees your pain.
God notices your thirst.
So choose well.
Don’t waste, don’t settle for something less than the real deal.
Why eat chips and candy bars when you could have a full meal,
a feast with starch, vegetables and protein, multiple courses.
It takes more time, but remember, it is free!
So what is this divine water that God promises?
What is this offer from Jesus, the ever-flowing fountain?
God promises divine compassion,
A gift of love and life.
God promises to refresh us, to provide an Oasis, a Sanctuary for our souls.
God pledges us rest and he will remove our burdens.
We can let it go, release our load into the tender, merciful arms of our God.
God calls us by our name, and calls us God’s child.
We are granted a glimpse of hope,
Of Everlasting life, an assurance that death is not the end,
That trauma is not the end,
that exhaustion is not the end.
This image of a banquet prepared for us for free
with a bounty of spiritual richness for the taking;
We get a glimpse of it at worship, and that is perhaps a reason we come to church: Handbells, Violin, Organ and Song,
A Meal at the Table,
flowing, cleansing water at the font.
We also demonstrate it in some of our normal-time free meals:
Our Shrove Tuesday banquet, our Fall BBQ,
and of course our Out of the Cold Meal.
What are these spiritual waters that God promises?
In my Thursday walk a few days ago, it all came together.
The waters of nature of Springtime helped lift my spirits,
but even more so, I finally took some time to pray at the water’s edge.
And then when I did…
I was able to see beyond the nature, beyond the birds and the water and the up-springing life,
to notice the Ground of all Being,
To sense that there is a beyond, a purpose,
Life and nature is not just a random collection of events,
but there is meaning and a divine presence undergirding it all.
Since my childhood, I’ve had some Bible verses that have helped me get through difficult times.
One of the ones that came to me was Psalm 91:1-2:
You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,[a]
will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.”
Which I then prayed over and over until I was ready to continue on.
When you are out of sorts, feeling lonely, depressed, anxious,
or have the COVID blues,
where is a location, or spot, where you feel spiritually and emotionally refreshed when you’re there?
Maybe it’s here in the Sanctuary.
Maybe it’s by a pond or lake.
Maybe it’s with a friend.
Imagine that is where Jesus is calling you to right now.
Maybe there’s a snippet of a prayer, however simple it may be,
or maybe a Bible verse that has given you strength and comfort to get you through hard times.
Imagine Jesus calling you: “Hey you: you who thirst, come to the waters and live!”Perhaps this week, go to this special place in person, or maybe in your imagination,
and take a moment of prayer and a brief piece of Scripture,
to feel God’s presence, to accept the nourishing waters of eternal life that flow, full of grace.
Accept this invitation God extends to you
to come to the waters.