If it weren’t for Isaiah, I’m not sure what I would do with this week’s texts. The readings from 1 Corinthians and Luke are challenging and problematic. In the northern US February is an unpleasant month. It’s cold, gray and carries with it a heaviness that makes it feel longer than any other month. Add in the fact that we are in the midst of Lent and preaching on the epistle or gospel texts seem unfair.
If we’ve committed to the Lenten journey, then we are examining our lives and the lives of our churches with an eye toward repentance. As the days add up, we can feel the burdens of our sins weigh us down along with the dreary gray days of February. We don’t necessarily need to hear Paul’s view of the consequences of straying too far or testing God’s love too much. Nor do we need to feel pressure to produce good and pleasing fruit lest we be cut down. However, the words of the Psalmist ring true:
O God, you are my God,
I seek you,
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
This is where Isaiah comes in with the wonderful invitation to the fullness of life.
Personally, I take this banquet image very seriously. I have celiac disease which prevents me from eating any grains including corn and rice as well as anything containing casein which is the protein in dairy. So when Isaiah bids us come and eat and be satisfied, I’m ready. More than ready, actually. I imagine sitting at the Lord’s table where all my dietary restrictions fall away and take with them any concerns I have for calories and cholesterol. This is a table of true freedom where that deep thirst for God is satisfied and the gnawing hunger is satiated with God’s steadfast love.
Isaiah speaks of a table without limits and a God filled with mercy and pardon for all who come seeking. This is the perfect antidote to the February doldrums. And what is most needed for the arduous journey to Jerusalem. In a world that teaches us to labor for that which is not bread and eat what does not satisfy, these words are a welcome balm.
Perhaps the connection to the other readings is just that. When we are lost in our wilderness wanderings, pushing the limits of our faith, God’s response might not be as Paul suggests. God’s response may be an open invitation to a feast beyond our imagining. Or when we are caught up in a drive to be fruitful and productive to the point that we achieve only a kind of wheel spinning, God does not threaten to cut us down so much as to nourish our souls.
I don’t know about you, but I want to linger at this table for a bit. I need to drink deeply of the waters of grace and feed on the bread of life. The wilderness of human habitation can be trying and exhausting when we forget that we do not go it alone. This week I am grateful for the reminder of God’s unfailing mercies and the invitation to a table that is always set with holy abundance and has my name on a place holder.
Wherever you are on this Lenten journey and whatever you may be hearing in these texts, please join in the conversation so we can share grace and peace with one another.
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