A humorous, editorial note: What I wrote was not what I preached, namely because I left the last third of my sermon on the printer! The sermon as presented is on Facebook… but here’s what I had prayerfully written. May both be a source of reflection and encouragement.
What are we thirsty for?
a sermon for the people of God
At Greenbelt Community Church, United Church of Christ
August 2, 2020
As happy as I am to be back to share in a time of worship with you, it is with mixed feelings. It is no small thing to step in when a church begins the transition to an interim pastor, as a former pastor is called to new things… It is also exciting to be present and watch as God’s Spirit challenges you to new opportunities!
When I started praying, reading Scripture, and thinking about our time together, I was drawn to the Lectionary readings for the month of August, which just happened to have a series in the book of Isaiah.
The prophet Isaiah lived during the tumultuous time of the Babylon invasion and captivity. He preached to both Israel and Judah, known as the “Divided Kingdom”: the Northern Kingdom with ten of the tribes and the Southern Kingdom of Judah and Benjamin. As all of you Hebrew Bible scholars know, the split occurred after Solomon’s death. It was due to infighting over who would succeed Solomon.
The bottom line? There was discord, infighting, and political unrest.
- A nation that had been able to defeat almost any enemy found itself split and taken into captivity.
- And in captivity, they waited and waited, longing to be safe, and whole, and experience the loving protection of their God, YHWH, again.
So just as they waited, a divided Nation, for peace and unity to be restored… Just as they struggled to understand those who were opposed to their political stance… Just as they split from their former allies and co-laborers… Isaiah came to preach peace, repentance, and hope.
As we read through these passages in Isaiah the next five weeks, I will pose a question I have found within the text for us to prayerfully reflect on together. These are the QUESTIONS WHILE YOU WAIT…
This week, we ask… “What are we thirsty for?”
Isaiah talks about a banquet that is full of good food and drink – but can’t be bought. A banquet that satisfies the desires of every living thing… if they will just accept God’s invitation to be fed, cared for, and loved!
- So what is it that drives us?
- What motivates us to serve, to love, to work?
- and conversely, what do we try to do to satisfy our deepest desires?
- As a congregation, how do we quench the “thirst” of a hurting world?
Hear God’s word to us today…
Isaiah 55:1-5 (NRSV)
1 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.
2 Why 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.
3 Incline your ear, and come to me;
listen, so that you may live.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
4 See, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
5 See, you shall call nations that you do not know,
and nations that do not know you shall run to you,
because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.
This is the Word of God for the People of God. Thanks be to God.
Please pray with me…
Holy One, You know us well. Take these Words and transform them by your Spirit into the Living Water that will quench any thirst. Because of Christ, the Giver of Living Water, we pray– Amen.
This is the season of the year when we are most aware of our thirst, Highs in the 90s. High humidity. The asphalt and concrete reflect a heat that smacks us in the face when we dare to slip out of our air-conditioned pods.
We are reminded to drink, stay in the shade, use common sense. Our bodies are programmed to trigger a thirst for something – anything! It’s a natural response to prevent dehydration and keep us alive.
Ah, but what do we thirst for? Sometimes we want more than water… a tall glass of iced tea – or a favorite soft drink. Gatorade. A tall brew. An iced coffee. My drink of choice is mint tea brewed from my herb garden with just a smidge of honey.
We seek refreshment… but can get sidetracked by meeting our thirsts with…
- Bodily cravings for a specific kind of food, even caffeine!
- That sugar/fat/salt craving
- Distraction from what we should be doing/thinking about
What we WANT vs what we NEED
Yes, we have these physiological thirsts and our bodies will remind us… But thirsts, longings, can take on other forms, can’t they? We thirst for…
- Meaning – knowing that we matter
- Peace and quiet
- Things being predictable – “the way it used to be”
Our emotional needs may drive us to do, say, or act in ways that aren’t really how we want to represent ourselves. We get stuck in a loop.
- – drives our response
- – reinforces the wants
- – uses the same response
- – which makes the wants still unfulfilled…
- …Even if there is a better alternative…
It is easier to go with what you know will satisfy, if only for a moment. If we are honest, we frequently just respond in the moment, and leave God out of the picture. It’s all about me, anyway, isn’t it?
Perhaps it’s good to know we are not alone in this struggle. Humanity, since our moment of sentience, has been very, very good at self-self-self… me-me-me…
In our Scripture this morning, Isaiah asked God’s people: Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? (Isaiah 55:2)
We are so… human…
But we are… people of God.
We are… beloved.
We are… followers of Christ the Healer, Redeemer, the Way Maker
We are… vessels of the Holy Spirit, with the capacity to change, grow, learn… and try again!
God reaches out to us in so many ways. The Divine’s capacity for forgiveness and restoration is endless. Yes, God speaks a word of correction. We get a little put out. We don’t like to be reminded!!!!
Like Israel and Judah, we forget God. We long for things that do not satisfy. We try to bail out our boats with a leaky pot. We dig a well that has brackish water. Nothing that we DO satisfies. Hard as we try and try and try again… what WE choose to do does not meet our needs. That goes for us personally, professionally, and… as a church.
Why is that?
Is our sense of security at “being in charge” so important? Do we dare to trust, deep down, that God knows what we need? Do we dare to believe that God has already made the way forward, we only need watch and pray and listen together?
It is hard to relinquish the reins… to wait… to not get ahead of God and push our own agendas. I know this all too well.
We don’t fully embrace Christ, the source of Living Water. As Jesus told the woman at the well: “Everyone who drinks of this water [the well water] will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” (John 4:13b-14)
The source of Living Water offers all that you need – all that this congregation needs…
And Christ invites us to get out of our own water holes and bring others in. Because a church that does not constantly, consistently, daily, seek to push out the boundaries and offer others what they have found… is a church that will dry up from the inside out.
And the world needs you, Church.
What are we thirsty for? May it be Christ, and Christ alone.
Amen. Thanks be to God!
God, you alone are our strength, our comfort in the dry and weary places that we live in. We thirst for you, the living God. You have invited us in, Holy One. May we hear and respond. Amen.