March 7, 2010
Isaiah 55:1-9 and Psalm 63:1-8
St. Michael and All Angels
For many years now, I have carried a water bottle with me wherever I go. The truth is I carry my water bottle because I don’t trust that I will have access to water…at least water sufficient to satisfy my thirst. Often, I find little tiny cups next to a water source, but those little cups are just a disappointment to me. I want water all the time. It seems that nothing can quench the thirst I feel. Before I leave the house at 5:30 am to walk my dog, I have downed a big glass of water. By the time I leave for work, I have had two more. It is never enough.
I hear the Psalmist “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.”
It seems that I am not the only one who is thirsty. Have you noticed that everything has a cup holder now – golf carts, bicycles, strollers, backpacks, poker tables, and umbrellas to name a few.
In case we have yet to notice our thirst, there are signs in Grand Canyon National Park that say, "'Stop! Drink water. You are thirsty, whether you realize it or not.'"
Just how deep is our thirst? Does it have anything to do with vending machines everywhere? How well do the commercials know us? Billions of dollars are spent on advertisements like these:
Satisfy your hunger and thirst. Circle K has what you need
Hungry for life, thirsty for Naya
Sprite: Obey your thirst
Thirst for life? Drink Coca-Cola!
Diet Coke: You are what you drink
For All Thirsts – Pepsi
Perhaps when we reach for a cold drink, we are really searching for something more. Today we find ourselves at the midpoint in Lent, searching for something, yet not quite sure what that is. It is at this point, that Isaiah issues the invitation to us: “Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat!”
The invitation in Isaiah is extravagant -
“Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 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. 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.”
Kate Huey says, “Isaiah offers us in nine short verses what might be described as the heart of the biblical message: God loves us, no matter what, and reaches out to us even (or especially) in the worst of times, making promises that are not just pie-in-the-sky, not just theoretical. God promises the things that we most yearn for, deep down in our hearts, the very basics of life: homecoming when we're lost or far away, a rich feast when we're hungry, flowing fresh water to satisfy our thirst, and a community of hope when we long for meaning in our lives – something greater than ourselves, in which and through which we might be a blessing to the whole world. Oh, and another thing: there will be no cost affixed to this wonderful feast, no price of admission, and everyone (even people you would never expect) will be invited to the party. Underneath and through this message runs a deep and tender compassion for the human predicament, our habit of getting entangled, trapped, in ways and habits that cut us off from the source of what we need most, or worse, being taken captive against our will by forces beyond our control, like racism, sexism, and materialism, to name only a few.” (Kate Huey, http://www.ucc.org/worship/samuel/march-7-2010.html)
It is appealing to find our thirst quenched and our hunger sated, but are we courageous enough to go to the real source of our thirst? Isaiah’s simple words, “come to me” have a meaning that takes us into our depths where we finally sigh and say, “You, O God, are the source of all that I am”. Can we acknowledge that our hunger and thirst are about more than water bottles and fast food?
When I was growing up, I would come home from school ravenous. I’ve never understood how math and English could burn so many calories. I would stand in front of the refrigerator wondering what could possibly satisfy my hunger. I am not the only one to make a regular pilgrimage to the fridge.
Robert Fulghum described his late night trips to the refrigerator in his book Uh-Oh: “I don't go to the refrigerator just to eat. But to think. To sort it all out. And sometimes I think about the other people who must be at the same place in their kitchen at this very moment, doing exactly what I'm doing, hungering as I hunger, wondering as I wonder. We will never get together. There will never be an international convention of us. No kitchen is big enough. But we are bound together. We make up the secret society of the Fellowship of the Fridge. Somehow muddling through and getting by. And not really as alone as we often think we are, after all.” (Robert Fulghum, from "Uh-Oh: Some Observations from Both Sides of the Refrigerator Door p. 21")
How many times have we stared into the refrigerator wondering what will fill us? Humans are odd creatures in that we eat past full because being full isn’t the same as being fulfilled. We trick ourselves into believing that if we can satisfy our craving for _______ (you fill in the blank), all will be well. But only the One who issues the simple invitation, “Come to me” will finally satisfy us.
It is easy to believe that we are alone in our hunger and thirst. In this season of Lent, we are called to be deeply introspective and at the same time, highly communal – to recognize that hunger and thirst are part of the human condition. We are bound together in our vulnerability and longing.
In the same book, Robert Fulghum tells about a long flight from Melbourne to Athens where seated next to an Indian professor of hydrology, the subject of God came up. The professor said,
"Human beings drink water from many vessels--cups, glasses, jugs, skins, their own hands, whatever. To argue about which container is proper for the water is crazy. The container doesn't change the water.
"Some like it hot, some like it cold, some like it iced, some fizzy, some with stuff mixed in with it--alcohol, coffee, whatever. No matter. It does not change the nature of the water.
"Never mind the name or the cup or the mix. These are not important.
"What we have in common is thirst. Thirst!"
"Thirst for the water of Life!"
As it is with water, so is it with God.
"I don't know much about God," said the professor of hydrology. "All I know is water. And that we are momentary waves in some great everlasting ocean, and the waves and the water are one."
He poured us each a paper cup full of water and we drank.”
(Robert Fulghum, from "Uh-Oh: Some Observations from Both Sides of the Refrigerator Door, p. 139")
Thirst signals the absence of something vital to our life – it is urgent, insistent, welling up from the deepest levels of our being. Thirst is not a new phenomenon. There are references to our deep longing throughout the Bible:
“As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” Psalm 42:1-2
Jesus cried out, “let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.” John 7:37
Thirst binds us together and becomes an invitation to justice:
“If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat; if they are thirsty, give them water to drink.” Proverbs 25:21
“for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me” Matthew 25:35
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6
It is completely countercultural to admit that the unifying experience for us is our vulnerability, our longing rather than our strength. It is in this common hunger and thirst that we come to the table to receive the bread and the cup. It is here that we recognize our need for the One who satisfies us with a taste of divine mystery and the call to feed a hungry world.
We who thirst for God have a responsibility to hold up our thirst and the quest to fill it before a world that has deluded itself into thinking it only wants a better brand of soda.
Fulghum, Robert. Uh-Oh: Some Observations from Both Sides of the Refrigerator Door. Villard Books, 1991.
Huey, Kate. http://www.ucc.org/worship/samuel/march-7-2010.html