Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sermon for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost (July 31, 2011)

Wordle: Untitled

“This Is Living” (Isaiah 55:1-5)

What is living? Is it sitting on a deck overlooking the ocean on a sunny day with a glass of fine wine? Is it driving on a mountain highway in a convertible sports car with the stereo system blaring your favorite music? Is it curling up by a fire with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter Saturday morning in a secluded Bed and Breakfast? All your cares are out of sight. All your cares are out of mind. Is that “living” to you?

What things make you say, “This is the life” or “This is living”? What would it take for you to say, “It doesn’t get much better than this”? Fine dining, fancy cars, fashionable clothes, a fantastic stereo system, festive jewelry, a well-financed retirement plan … these are things that some folks would say are necessary for “the good life.”

Well, maybe that doesn’t describe you exactly. But when we think to ourselves, “This is living,” we often limit it to what we can see, what we can taste, where we can go.

In today’s OT lesson, God’s people were in exile in Babylon. Because of their sinful disobedience to the covenant He had made with them, God sent the Babylonians into Judah and Jerusalem to destroy the temple and the city and to carry many of them off into Babylon. They were there for 70 years. At first it was hard … living in a foreign land, mourning the loss of their homes and their land and the place of worship where God had promised to meet them. Later, things got a little better. In fact, many of the exiles had put down roots. They acquired property and commercial interests. They became prosperous and secure. They began making a comfortable life for themselves there in Babylon.

But almost a hundred years before all this happened, the Lord warns the people through the prophet Isaiah, saying, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” As they got comfortable in Babylon, they were spending their money on things that could not truly satisfy them … things that could not give them real life. They were in danger of forgetting about God. They were in danger of settling in among the Babylonians and letting the fine things they were acquiring to take their attention away from him. They were in danger of forgetting the promises God made to return them to the Promised Land, which he finally did under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Ezra and Nehemiah.

You and I are not much different than the exiles in Babylon? We strive day after day to make a comfortable life for ourselves. We work so we can have nice things. We work so we can go on vacation. We work so we can retire.

Now, of course, in and of itself, there’s nothing wrong with this picture. God is the giver of everything that we have … all the nice things we have, our leisure time, even the blessings of retirement in our “Golden Years.” But like God’s people of old, we are just as much in danger of striving for things that do not satisfy us … things that do not give us real life. We are just as much in danger of forgetting about God. We are just as much in danger of settling in here and letting the fine things we have acquired take our attention away from Him. You and I are just as much in danger of forgetting about the promises God made to bring us to the Promised Land of Heaven.

Our Lord could ask us the same things through the prophet: “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” The things of this life do not satisfy our deepest longings. The things of this life do not bring us real life.

Real life – real living – is a gift from God. Through Isaiah, the Lord invited His people in exile to receive from Him that which is spiritually satisfying. "Come,” he says. “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” At first hearing, it sounds like He is speaking of physical comforts. But we know He is speaking of spiritual comforts, because later in our text He says, “Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your SOUL may live.” This is soul-business, not stomach business. What’s more, the blessing of the Lord comes by inclining your ear, by listening carefully to what God has to say to you in his Word. You don’t have any money? No problem. It’s all free! “Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” The blessings of divine grace are obtained by God’s grace.

To emphasize this, God reminds them of His relationship with David. “I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.” The Lord had promised that they would ultimately be blessed through one of David’s descendants, who would be the Messiah.

Also, the Lord declared, “Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples.” Through the psalms and elsewhere, David testified to God’s gracious love and faithfulness. He proclaimed God’s presence and power in his life in the face of the enemies that constantly pursued him. And David was and is a witness to us through his life of repentance and faith. David wasn’t always squeaky clean. Remember the incident with Bathsheba. Lust led to adultery. Adultery led to murder. Some pretty heinous stuff. But the prophet Nathan confronted him with his sin. David acknowledged his sin and repented. The Lord forgave him, and David carried on in faith towards his gracious God.

Our Lord continues to hold out His promises of “real life, real living.” His invitation is for us today, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”

You see, real life … real living … is receiving God’s gifts of love in Christ, the Messiah promised through David, the Savior who is the fulfillment of all of God’s covenant promises.

God promised an eternal kingdom to David. David’s son Solomon was to carry on, but He was unfaithful, as were all the kings who followed him.

David’s greater Son Jesus was always faithful, and God’s faithful love remained with Him.

He has now become a witness to the peoples … a witness to us … a light to the nations. The last verse of our text is God the Father speaking to his Son, the Messiah: “You shall call a nation you did not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.” Christ’s perfect life and sacrificial death and victorious resurrection reveal to us God’s loving plan to save people from all nations from their sins and to give us real life now and real life in the life to come.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus showed his power to provide when he multiplied the fishes and loaves. 5,000 were fed. 12 baskets full were left over. There’s more than enough to go around when Jesus is involved. And there is surely more than enough forgiveness to go around. The price was paid with his own blood at the cross. Our debt to God for our sins has been taken away. Jesus paid the bill for the costly fare that we get to enjoy … not a stomach filled with fish and bread, but a soul overflowing with forgiveness and salvation.

So this is living, my friends. This is real life. Right here, gathered together around God’s Word.

“Come to the waters” … at the Font, and remember that you are God’s own beloved child, marked with the sign of the cross.

“Listen” … “Incline your ear” … “Hear” God’s Word of forgiveness to you in the absolution.

“Listen” … “Incline your ear” … “Hear” God’s Word of Law and Gospel to you from the pulpit.

“Come...and eat what is good” at the Lord’s Table, and “delight yourselves” in the “rich food” of Jesus’ true body and true blood.

All this … that “your soul may live.” It’s through these means that God saves his people. The glorified Christ gives himself to you in Word and Sacrament. Right here is the place where you find his glory, his blessings, his mercy, his love, his life.



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