Isaiah 55:1-3a, 6-13
Reading scripture can be a humbling experience.
We like to think that we are unique, after all, that we live in a time that presents both challenges and capacities never before seen in human history. That our circumstances are somehow different from those of generations past, our challenges somehow more challenging.
Longer life expectancies and delayed childbearing, for example, have created the so-called sandwich generation: adults who are raising children at the same time they’re caring for aging parents. That’s a heavy lift, for sure.
The combination of the mighty Internet, an almost infinite number of cable channels, and a 24/7 cycle of shouting heads can leave us feeling both bombarded with information and woefully ignorant about what really matters.
In our prosperous and commodity-driven nation, even going to the grocery store can overload our brain circuits. Somehow we are supposed to choose among 20 different brands of toothpaste, 10 kinds of toilet paper, fruits and vegetables that are organic or not, locally grown or not, fresh or frozen, not to mention fish or beef or chicken or pork or tofu, paper or plastic or the reusable bags we may or may not have remembered to bring in from the car.
So many choices is enough to make your head hurt—until we remember what a privilege it is to have money enough to buy food, until we consider our neighbors who can’t even accept free food because they have no home in which to store it or cook it.
And did I mention climate change? We used to think we were taking action to prevent it, but now we see its effects everywhere and all the time. We worry about the world our children and grandchildren will inherit. And that makes us think of the children on the border, the ones taken from their parents, the ones our government put in cages, the ones who died in detention. We think, too, of the children killed at school, the unarmed black children killed by police.
Where do we start? We’re trying to make the world a better place—truly, we are.
But then there’s time, or the lack of it. So much to do, so many children’s activities, so many doctors’ appointments, so many people we love having a hard time, so many causes that need our help. So much running around. So little sleep. So much stress. So little peace of mind.
And then, as if all that’s not enough, we beat ourselves up about it.
And so we resolve to fix things. To get back to what’s really important. To simplify. To take care of ourselves. Or we try buying things: the dream house, the flashy car, the latest everything. We try working hard and being successful. We try yoga and exercise and diet. Desperate to make a difference, we try activism and volunteering. We throw ourselves into important causes. We may try to ignore our sorrows with drink or drugs, or to fill our empty hearts with food. We cast about for a politician who will save us. We read books on how to be happy. We wonder where the joy is.
And then we hear the prophet Isaiah speaking for God, saying, Why do you spend your money on what doesn’t feed you? Why do you wear yourself out doing things that have no meaning? Why do you spend your time and energy on things that don’t last? Why are you so stressed out?
If we listen, if we truly let the voice of God reach us, after we get over the shame of recognition, the sense that—whoa, someone’s got my number!—we might discover that such holy insight can help us feel seen. Someone understands our hunger. Someone sees our longing. And, apparently, we are not the first people to feel that they are living in a constant state of overwhelm, we are not the first to spend ourselves looking for life and love in so many unsatisfying places.
Yes, reading scripture can be a humbling experience.
But notice that there is no judgment in God’s questioning—only tenderness and a similar longing—for us. There is no condemnation in the prophet’s words—only a loving invitation to mercy and the fullness of life. There is no penalty to be paid, no series of tests to pass, no secret password to learn, no creed to memorize, not even certain things we must believe—only providence and promise, grace and freedom, forgiveness and peace and joy.
All who are thirsty, come to the water!
Everyone who has no money, come and enjoy the greatest of feasts. There’s wine and water and milk and more than enough rich food for everyone.
Listen, and come to me. Come dwell in my heart and let me dwell in yours. Come and rest your weary head. Come and know peace. Come home and know wholeness. Listen to me. Stop all your frantic searching and seek me first. Seek and you will find. Follow me, and you will live.
It turns out that what is humbling can also be comforting. It turns out that we’re not supposed to be in control. Turns out we’re not failing at this life thing, after all. We’re just children—creatures, really. We’re just restless because we’ve been separated from our Creator. Turns out that we just need to stop struggling and let God be in control. Turns out we just need to trust that the Holy One is in control and follow the way of Jesus. Turns out we just need to let God be God, to let Love be Love, to stop searching for our dream house, our dream relationship, our dream of being made whole by something outside ourselves and let ourselves be at home in the heart of God, to make ourselves at home in the house of the heart.
This is the holy work of our lives; this is the purpose for which we were created; this is the invitation of Lent: to return to God’s heart, to seek and find the steadfast love that is better than life, to let that love find us, to stop pretending that we’re not thirsty and hungry and, instead, to let ourselves be fed with the only food that will satisfy us: the love for us that is far greater than we can imagine, a love that heals us and restores us and transforms us when we fully receive it, a love that grows when we share it.
This is not about spirituality versus activism, or faith versus doubt. It is about understanding that are deepest longings are spiritual, and that only a relationship with the Divine will satisfy them. This is about realizing that all we need is here. It is about letting ourselves be found, about coming home and grounding ourselves in the source of our being. It is about letting ourselves be loved and healed so that we can work with God in loving and healing the world; it is about resting in God’s love even as we are doing God’s work. It is about taking shelter in the shadow of God’s wings and finding joy there.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” Jesus tells his disciples. “In my father-mother’s house there are many rooms.”
There is room enough for us all in the house of God’s heart, and the door is wide open. There is food enough for us all. There is love and mercy for all. There is welcome and rest. In this place of seeking and being found, in this act of returning to our strength and source, even the mountains and hills burst into song when they see us coming. The trees clap their hands in joy when they see that we are well, when they see that we are eating our fill, when they see that we are becoming who we are meant to be.
Listen, beloveds, and come home. Listen, and live.