Irony lurks in this week’s texts. It’s the third Sunday of Lent and some people have given up certain foods or are fasting to a greater extent. And here we have two passages (Isaiah 55:1-9 and Psalm 63:1-8) that speak of hunger and thirst. The Isaiah pericope opens with an invitation to a feast: 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. Sign me up!
The bigger irony is that Americans are kind of obsessed with food. Fast food, junk food, healthy food, dessert food, breakfast food, all kinds of food 24 hours a day. It’s amazing, really. We use food to comfort ourselves (chocolate or mac and cheese anyone?), to celebrate (birthday cake), to ease boredom (ice cream in front of the tv), and sometimes when we are actually hungry. Beverages are similar. When did America start running on coffee? When did everyone start carrying water bottles everywhere? When did coffee mugs or soda bottles begin to accompany us to every meeting? We are a hungry, thirsty nation.
But there is something really off with all this, right? The obesity rate is climbing. Eating disorders afflict many. Food allergies plague more and more people. We’re eating, but we are at the wrong table. Then I read about a petition to the FDA to be able to add aspartame to dairy products and not have label it that way. Why? I’ve also read too much about Monsanto and genetically modified grains and vegetables. Then there is how animals are “raised” in horrid circumstances and fed hormones just to get the kind of meat that is pleasing to the consumer. We ingest ridiculous amounts of chemicals daily, even when we try to eat healthy foods. And, with a few exceptions, the healthier you try to eat, the more it costs you. So we remain hungry, thirsty, and obsessed.
Isaiah raises a timely question! Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Why do we spend our money and our time on those things which do not nourish us? We’re really good at it and incredibly creative. Aspartame in milk! Who would have ever thought? It’s not just corporations and lobbyists wasting time and money and walking away dissatisfied. This lack of nourishment seems to be a real problem nearly everywhere. Look at Congress and the endless debates over budget, gun control, and immigration. Look at New Hampshire where the governor wants to pay for mental health care and education with a casino. Look at your own life and ask yourself how many times you walk away from something shaking your head and wishing you’d done something else instead.
Lent provides us a perfect time to ask ourselves where we are nourished. Whose table are we dining at? And do we walk away satisfied or do we remain malnourished?
Isaiah issues a call to a banquet, a promise to feed all who are hungry and thirsty. No one will walk away without being nourished and satisfied. Our obsession with food and drink in this country belies a much deeper yearning. The psalmist names it: 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.
Lent is the perfect time to seek a better sustenance, to reclaim our faith which we know can make us whole. Stop doing the things that waste our time, and begin doing the things that fill us, satisfy us, and make us better people. It’s the right time to find our way back to the banquet table. Isaiah’s invitation is still open. We don’t have to keep thinking we are eating and feeling we are starving. We don’t have to be super-sized. It takes an honesty with ourselves. It takes time to sit and be still and realize how hungry we really are, and how empty we can let our lives become. There are weeks still in this Lenten season. Life without God is empty, and we will never be satisfied.
Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
RCL -Third Sunday of Lent – March 3, 2013