Come, everyone who thirsts! This is an extraordinary invitation from the Creator of the Universe, an invitation specifically given to the beloved children of God who are most desperately in need of having their thirst quenched. Centuries before Jesus would meet the woman at the well, this bold statement gives us a foretaste of what the Son of God will one day come to provide – and shows us that God has already been for centuries the life-giving Source of all our needs.
This is what God has for you who are thirsty. This is what God has for you who have no money to spare, no, not even enough to meet your own basic needs. This is what God has for you whose soul, whose psyche, is shriveled and underperforming because so little in your daily living “sparks joy,” as Marie Kondo might say.
What’s the catch? How far beyond my budget is this astonishing offer? Free. Well … free, as in, paid in full. Just a little earlier, in Isaiah chapter fifty-three, we are reminded of the Man of Sorrows, who is acquainted with grief. Isaiah is a prophet, you will remember, speaking here to Israelites in exile who remember the stories of when, as God’s Chosen People in the Promised Land, they had all the milk and wine and water they could possibly need. Before they lost their way and forgot to live with God as the core, the life-giver, on their lips and in their hearts.
This portion of Isaiah reminds us what Abram needed reminding of only last week in Genesis 15: that because we are human, you and I will inevitably wander all over the map in our relationship with God. That we will get so turned around that the GPS gets tired of saying, “Recalculating” and just turns itself off. And yet.
God will continue to recalculate and reset and ponder the map and figure out how to get us back on the path. Because that’s what God does. That’s how God lives God’s covenant. That’s why Moses told the Israelites to bring first fruits to the altar and then to go out and gather up the people who had nothing and make sure they got a good seat at the table and plenty of food on their plates. That’s why God came back to Abram and made his dramatic ritual gesture by cutting a covenant with him, walking between the pieces and saying, If I don’t keep my promise you can cut me in two.
Here in today’s portion, God through the prophet Isaiah, speaking to God’s “broken and blessed beloved of God,” is calling us back to the right road. 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!
Listen to me and eat what is good.
Listen to me, and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me. Listen! Listen, so that you may live.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant – again.
I will show you the right road – again.
Listen, please listen. Hear me.
Last week, God went backward and forward in time with Abram. God echoed the covenant promise of years before, then bade him look up to the night sky and number the stars – a humanly impossible calculus. My covenant is good for time and all eternity.
Two weeks ago, in the portion from Deuteronomy, God went backward and forward in time with Moses. God echoed the covenant promises God had made to Abram and to Moses – my father was a wandering Aramean – and promised them a future in the Promised Land, a future in which they had only to worship God and care for one another, especially the vulnerable.
Here, God once again goes backward and forward in time.
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.
David has long since returned to dust at the time of this writing. But God says, My covenant with you has been in force for many centuries. Remember. I love you as completely and eternally as I loved David.
And the mention of that name, a name that means “beloved,” the name that reaches back across the centuries, contains a prophetic promise as well. The promise of Palm Sunday, when we all will cry out: Hosanna to the Son of David. Hosanna to the descendant of the Beloved.
Listen to me!
Hear my invitation!
Come to the waters!
Come to baptism, come to new life, come to the water that sustains and restores. Listen to me!
This astonishing invitation, breathtaking in its limitlessness, is poignantly threaded with God pleading with you and me to remember the covenant promise and heed the invitation. And both the covenant and the invitation shout from the page in all our readings for today:
In the Psalm: 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. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.
In Paul’s letter: Our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.
And back to Isaiah: Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Listen! Let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
Throughout the years, the centuries, the millennia, across the billions of stars and backward and forward through all eternity, God promises an everlasting covenant and invites us to draw near.
To the font. To the table. To the water and to the wine. And to each other most of all.