Maybe it’s just my greedy, foody nature, but I love the language here.
“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. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.”
Isaiah sings to my soul in this passage. This is a prophet for me. I hear this call to an attitude of abundance away from the perspective of poverty. Instead of being bound by want, and worried about cost, we’re called here to enjoy and see that there is plenty. Promise and peace, calling and comfort – all these things are spread out on the table where we are to sit and eat.
Maybe it’s a strange song to sing, sitting as we are in these Lenten days. How does all this correspond with our days of discipline and restraint? But of course, the metaphor isn’t about indulgence or extravagance – it’s about relationship and nourishment.
Just as we don’t hand over a bill when our children sit down at the dinner table, God offers us milk without money and without price. God provides all that we need. We are built for that relationship. This passage in Isaiah sings of that convenant – the relationship between us that is imagined here as rich food. This is love that delights and nourishes, and overflows so that the nations gather. This passage is full of Biblical images of banquets and feasts, of wedding joy and welcome. This passage also stands with the John stories of too much wine, too much water, and too much bread. In God, there is plenty. Leftovers for all!
I’ve been doing some work lately about leftovers. Our church is involved with the IF campaign which is seeking answers to the question: “If there is enough food in the world for everyone, then why are people hungry?” The hope to is involve enough people to influence politicians to put hunger issues on the table at this summer’s G8 summit. Issues of food, tax, land and transparency are key in this discussion, and organizations and individuals are lobbying leaders to tackle global hunger in practical ways. It is a British movement, but like many movements in this age of social media, it has growing appeal in other places, too. You can read more about it here: http://enoughfoodif.org/home
Last Thursday night at our Dinner Church, the IF campaign was a topic for discussion. We wondering our way through questions of rights vs sacrifice, and plenty, policy and waste. It was striking to share a potluck meal while considering issues of enough food for all. Some of the food on our plates was cooked in our own homes, like my soda bread, other portions picked up pre-cooked from the grocery stores on the way to the church hall. All was blessed and all was nourishing. And all of it connected us to far wider circles of people – those who work in shops and in shipping, those who grew and prepared the food. Farmers and cheesemakers and factory workers. We will never see these people, but at the table we were aware that they are part of our circle.
We also sang together the words of Micah 6:8.
“What does the Lord require of you? To see justice and love kindness and walk humbly with your God.”
To love kindness is the active description of what is often translated in Scripture as “loving kindness”. It is the Hebrew hesed – love that is the foundation of community. Covenant love. This is the love that enables us to live justly and to walk humbly with God. It is the glue that holds our actions and identity together. When we hesed (if you will excuse my overly clumsy bilingual verbiage there), we remember the wide circles around the table, and we remember that God is the centre. We aren’t striving for solitary sustenance, labouring for what does not satisfy; we are seated at the family feast. Just as God has included us in this wide and nourishing covenant, so God includes all people. We are all nourished with this rich food.
As Lent continues, this will be a conversation around our family table, too. it is a good season to wonder together about food. Already, there are potatoes on our bathroom window sill pushing out sprouts and waiting for the soil. We’ve started talking about how things grown – plants and people. At breakfast this morning, the kids called me clever for growing a baby. I had to explain that, though there was certainly effort involved, it was mainly patience and eating rather than cleverness. The cleverness is God’s. As is the faithfulness. The covenant begins with God, much to our joy.
“For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”