If you are thirsty, come to the waters. If you have no money, come, buy and eat.
Imagine, if you will, that every day, you walk past a particular house in your neighborhood. Sometimes, at dusk, you walk by, on your way home. Through the clear glass windows, you can see into the dining room. What can you see? A huge dining room table that stretches from one end to the other. Beautifully polished silver candelabras, their candles lit, flickering with a warm glow. All kinds of delicious food waits on this table—roast beef, turkey, ham. Brightly colored sweet potatoes and green vegetables. Homemade pasta dishes. Fish, crabmeat, shrimp. Loaves of hot, homemade bread. Someone has poured good red wine into the wine glasses to decant. Folded napkins rest neatly at each place. The banquet awaits.
And you, who have stopped for a moment in the cold winter dusk to gaze upon this scene, are hungry. Really hungry. Just when you are ready to keep walking, someone opens the front door and calls out to you.
“Hi! Dinner’s ready and on the table. Why don’t you come in and eat with us? Oh don’t worry. There’s no charge for dinner. We have freshly baked bread and a good roast from the meat market. If you want milk or water instead of wine, we have plenty of that too. Come in, and eat. We’ve been waiting for you, my dear. But you shake your head.
“No, thank you, I already have plans.” Now those plans include going home to eat a grilled cheese sandwich while you check your e-mail—another evening that leaves you vaguely unfulfilled. So that person who stands in the open doorway, backlit by the glow of candles, slowly and reluctantly closes that front door. You have refused her invitation. You stand there on the sidewalk for a moment, shivering and hungry. Then you turn and walk down the dark street. Alone. Hungry. Behind you, the feast has beckoned, and you said no.
What if. . .what if the One who bade you welcome from that open door was God? What if God is the one who has polished the good silverware, set the table, folded the napkins, cooked the food and poured the good, red wine? What if God has set this banquet for you and for me, invited us to come in from the cold, to eat and drink all we want, and we have said no?
Back in the sixth century, God reminded God’s people—through the prophet Isaiah—that God has done just this. Yes, God’s people are living far from home, in exile. The Babylonians overran Jerusalem, destroyed their sacred space—the Temple—and took everyone except the old, the feeble, and the sick off to a foreign land. The Jewish people were living in a country that was not theirs. Hearing a language that they did not understand. Surrounded by a pagan culture that was totally foreign to their own. How could they sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?
Yet over the years, some of them forgot. The mother tongue of their grandmothers and grandfathers only came to them in restless dreams. They forgot the words of the Psalms that they once knew. They found other things to do instead of praying to God several times a day. They were busy people in this brave, new world. They stopped singing the old hymns, and began to sing Babylonian songs. These new songs weren’t so bad, were they? More catchy. More upbeat. That old stuff? Please. . .
Yet some of these exiles in a foreign land did not forget the home country. They talked in their mother tongue—if only at home or in small groups. They found comfort in the scriptures and songs they had recited and sung in the holy city of Jerusalem. And some of these folks worried.
They were God’s people. Had God forsaken them? What had they done that was so wrong that God would allow a foreign nation to capture their people, take them away from the comforts and habits of home? They had been in this God-forsaken country for generations. Had God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Sarah and Hagar, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah—had this God closed the door for good on them? No. The prophet Isaiah reminded his people that they still belonged to God. God had a banquet table still set and waiting for them. “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.”
Yet perhaps there was a cost of sorts. People had to DO something in order for God to feed them. They had to begin to listen for God’s voice, to pay attention to God’s word. They had to remember that “YHWH, the Holy One of Israel, [was] the source of all good things to come.” They had to seek the Lord. They had to call upon God when God was near. They had to remember that they did not belong to the customs and culture of this world. They were God’s children. They needed to remember who they were and Whose they were. To repent from wandering down wrong paths. To come back into relationship with the God who loved them. To say yes to the open door, walk in, sit down and eat. Through Isaiah, God promised that God’s people could be restored. Healed. Renewed. Forgiven. Fed at God’s table.
But too often, God’s people have not remembered or listened. They have believed in the wrong god—the god that pushes them to buy more, to pile up stuff and fill their houses instead of themselves. The god that pushes them to pile on more academic credentials or to work longer hours or to produce more and more, so that everyone around them can see how they deserve a raise or a promotion. We—God’s people—have drunk the Kool-ade of the culture. We have a new religion—what one writer has termed “the religion of the market. This new religion is a juggernaut, a never-ending mass media, a Madison Avenue-driven machine that insists that we demand and are provided more and more, with no thought to the notion ‘enough’.”
Yet the irony is that as much as we work or buy stuff or fill our lives with frantic activity, we are hungry and thirsty for something more. Sometimes we don’t even stop long enough to ask ourselves “what am I really hungry for?” “What is missing in my life?” “In the last moment of my life—assuming I have the time to reflect on it— will I regret not having spent more time in the office, or will I regret not spending more time with the people I love?”
God has enough. In God’s world, there is enough spiritual food to feed us. Enough spiritual water to quench our thirst. And often, less is more. With less, our lives are cleared out, a space made for us to go to the true Source of Life. God invites you and me to the banquet table. God invites, then waits for you and me to come to God’s table and to eat things that really nourish our souls. It is not anything you can put on a credit card. It is not having good academic credentials. It is not anything on a time card. What feeds us is God and God’s word. What feeds us is learning, even in a stumbling and hesitant way, to talk to God—otherwise known as prayer. What feeds us is coming together in community for strength and nourishment—then going out these doors to invite others to be part of this rich, diverse, amazing community so that they, too, can be fed.
Last weekend, your Vestry went on retreat. At that retreat, we asked ourselves if there are ways we in this parish can focus more on what truly feeds us. One thing that we have been doing, and will continue to do, is to look at our mission. To ask how much of what we are doing focuses inward, rather than to reach outward and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to this community. In Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s language, are we part of the Jesus movement who invites others to join us on that journey?
We also agreed that the core leaders of this parish need to feed ourselves more spiritually, and to invite you—our parish family members, some of whom are leaders who are not currently on Vestry—to join us on that journey. In particular, if you are leading a ministry, I challenge you to join us. For the remainder of Lent, Vestry members and I have made a covenant with each other. Every day, we are all praying the Daily Office in The Book of Common Prayer. [Note: If you do not know what the Daily Office is, it is Morning or Evening Prayer. Please get a hand-out on your way out the door this morning!] Some of us are doing that with apps on our Smartphones. Some are using I-Pads or computers. Some are doing the old fashioned thing: using a real Book of Common Prayer and a Bible. All good.
We want to nourish ourselves spiritually. We want to ask good questions of ourselves and our parish—so that what we are about is not just being caretakers of a historical tradition, but moving forward as Jesus’ followers in a twenty-first century world.
If you are thirsty, come to the waters. If you have no money, come, buy and eat.
Today, I invite you to be really honest with yourself. Is your soul hungry? Is your soul thirsty? If the answer to either is yes, then know that the door of the house is wide open. The candles are lit. The banquet table is full of good food and drink that will fill you, delight you, satisfy you.
In the seventeenth century, an Anglican priest and poet, George Herbert, wrote the following poem. I would like to close by reading it.
Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lacked any thing.
A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?
Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.
 Psalm 137:4
 Richard A. Puckett, Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C, Vol. 2, David L. Bartlett & Barbara Brown Taylor, Editors, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 79.
 Darryl M. Trimiew, Ibid., 74.
Picture of Cross on book by McJilton
Picture of open door from Lightstock
Picture of Chalice & Bread from Google images
 George Herbert, 1593–1632.