Sirkka found the cutest holiday necklace: mini colored light bulbs, strung on a thread.
They caught the light and looked just like a lit Christmas tree hanging around your neck.
Sirkka got so many compliments on them that she went out and bought some for her friends.
Then she thought, why not have a few extra in case someone new admires it?
Sirkka started giving the necklace to complete strangers-
the cashier at the grocery store, the woman at the bank
whenever anyone said, I like your necklace, Sirkka gave them one.
She said it was worth it just for the look on people’s faces when she gave them the necklace—
at first surprise, and then joy.
Isaiah presents an even more dramatic offer in our OT lesson:
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.
The invitation came at a time when the people were starved for God’s benevolence
The people of Israel had gone into exile because they had forgotten about hunger and thirst.
God had given them specific ways to care for each other:
taking in widows and orphans
letting foreigners pick produce from the edges of your fields
being honest in their business dealings
and giving alms to the poor
But instead of caring for one another, people took more than they needed;
they did not care for most vulnerable among them.
And so they were conquered by enemies, and lived for 50 years in exile.
They longed for God’s face to smile on them again.
Into this starved condition, Isaiah proclaims a feast.
Isaiah portrays God as a street vendor, hawking his wares.
God invites the hungry and thirsty to a great banquet,
a celebration in which everyone feeds on God’s mercy and forgiveness.
It is the richest food, good for the body and a delight to the senses.
But unlike the food truck gourmand, God’s dishes come without a price tag.
At God’s party, the drinks are on the house.
I wonder how the people reacted to such unbelievable generosity.
Were they surprised, overjoyed, like Sirkka’s recipients?
Or did they have trouble believing it was true?
I guess when we hear Isaiah’s words, we take them as metaphor.
The economy in this passage is in stark contrast to the world in which we live.
In our economy, we live by the mottos
“There is no such thing as a free lunch”
“You get what you pay for”
“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
Our economy is based on supply and demand;
everything is quantified and priced according to its desirability and availability.
There is always a cost hidden somewhere, and nothing is free.
But this passage describes a different economy: God’s economy.
In God’s economy, supply is limitless.
Human need drives production instead of demand.
On top of that, God has assumed the total cost of this feast of forgiveness;
this meal of mercy is given out for free.
In doing so, everyone gets what they need, everyone is truly satisfied.
What if we were to pause for a moment, however, and consider what it would be like
if we stopped looking at this passage as a metaphor only
and instead took God’s economy as the goal for our lives?
Can you imagine a world where everyone’s basic human needs for food and clean water were met?
In the year 2000, the United Nations did.
The launched an initiative called the Millenium Development Goals,
in which countries around the world committed to goals to reduce extreme poverty over 15 years.
With this concerted effort, the proportion of undernourished people in developing regions
dropped by half
the number of out of school elementary aged children was cut by half
and the mortality rate of infants was cut in half.
While there are still 836 million people living in extreme poverty, our world leaders were able
to bring a glimpse of that vision of a world where everyone’s needs are met.
Reflecting on Isaiah’s message and the MDG, I wonder:
Can we cultivate a similar agenda on a local scale?
Can we develop ways of living that take into account the needs of the most vulnerable?
Can we accept that we are all connected, and that we are responsible for the welfare of others?
If Isaiah’s words are more than just metaphor, then they are an invitation to live in God’s economy
to remember that our needs are met by a generous and loving God
so we can also be generous with others.
Perhaps you have seen the bumper sticker:
“Live simply so that others may simply live.”
I think this captures a piece of what it means for us to live in God’s economy.
We can choose to prioritize giving to others in need rather than ourselves.
We can grow in our generosity by living with a little less.
Perhaps this all seems a very Lenten deprivation, fasting and foregoing the joys of life.
But consider the looks on the faces when Sirkka gave without expecting anything in return.
Remember how you felt when you saw a homeless person wearing the scarf you knitted
or how you felt when you laughed with a guest at the Grace Friday Night Gathering?
Was your sacrifice of time or your donation of funds a dreary thing?
Or did you, like Sirkka, feel really good inside
because all along you yourself had a need to give?
Isaiah proclaims these words of the Lord:
2Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.
Growing in generosity is really not self sacrifice.
Living with less and giving more is actually it is what our heart truly desires;
in a world of insatiable appetites, giving is what satisfies us.
Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters!
It is a beautiful invitation, an invitation to live according to God’s ecomony.
whether it’s food or the companionship or the need to give
with God, all of us get what we need.
(set table with fancy dishes, table cloth, candle sticks, etc)
What fancy food do you think would go on this table? (Write answers on big cards)
When would you have a meal like this? Where would you eat it?
Which do you think is the most expensive food? Vote for your choice.
(kids use play money to place on their choice)
Imagine this meal FREE!
That’s what the prophet Isaiah imagines. He says:
“Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters,
And you that have no money, come, buy and eat!”
That’s what it was like when there was a new king.
The king would forgive any debts the people owed and host a banquet for the entire kingdom.
Isaiah says God is about to do the same thing:
Forgive the people their sins and throw a big party to celebrate.
But how are they going to buy and eat without money?
Our way to get food is to use money.
Some people have enough money to buy food, but others don’t.
Some children in the world only get this much to eat every day (1/4 c rice).
It isn’t enough, and they don’t grow right.
In our country, some people only have enough money to get unhealthy, cheap food.
They don’t grow right either—they become fat and get diseases.
But God’s way is that food is a gift for all.
Isaiah says that everyone is invited to God’s feast, and everyone shares so there is enough for all.
How can we live God’s way so there is food for all?
Coin box for world hunger—fill this Lent and bring back on Palm Sunday.