Today’s Lectionary Old Testament Text: Isaiah 55: 1-3, 6
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. 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…Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near…(NRSV)
None of us like to thirst. In fact, much of our life is about chasing something that will quench our thirsts–our thirst for knowledge, our thirst for acceptance, our thirst for recognition, our thirst for security, our thirst for gratification. Thirst is an interesting thing. It is a powerful and undeniable signal to us of what we need, a reminder of those things that sustain us. And yet, the point seems to be to rid ourselves of it, to live perfectly-quenched lives so to speak.
And yet God is not really calling us to “perfectly-quenched” lives. God has never said to us, “Get yourselves together, people, so that you can come to me.”; never, “Hurry, people, I don’t have time to wait for you anymore.” That’s not what it’s about. That’s not who God is. Instead, God is inviting everyone who thirsts to come. Timothy Shapiro claims that “hope is preceded by longing”. God’s desire is not that we perfect our lives but that we desire so deeply to be with God, long for that relationship as the very source of our being, that we can do nothing other than to come to God. God is inviting all who thirst to come. It is our thirst that draws us closer to God. It is that thirsting for God at the very core of who we are that is the journey to God itself. As we long for God, our thirst is quenched by the very thirst for God itself.
Alexander Stuart Baillie says that this age needs to become more realistic. It needs to listen again to the words of Jesus, who said, ‘I thirst.” He who is the Son of Man, the Son of God, is our example. He is the great pioneer in every realm of life. Surely if he thirsted, how much more do we? Humanity needs to get away from the world of “things as they are” into the world of “things as they ought to be.” This means that men and women must learn to live for others. It is only when we can live a life of self-forgetfulness that we get our truest joy out of life. One needs to keep on thirsting because life grows and enlarges. It has no end; it goes on and on; it becomes more beautiful. When one has done his best there is, he finds, still more to learn and so much more to do. [One] cannot be satisfied until [one]attains unto the stature of Jesus, unto a perfect [human], and ever thirsts for God. (Alexander Stuart Baillie, “Thirsting”, in Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2003), 242-243.)
It is only through our thirsting for God that we will find God. It is only when we thirst that we will truly drink from the cup.
Grace and Peace,
Picture: The Dead Sea, Israel, 2010