If it sounds too good to be true… Pentecost 8a

Text: Isaiah 55: 1-5

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!”

More than once, I’ve bought into things that seemed too good to be true. It takes a little bit of desperation to take a chance on something offering such incredible promise. I walk down the aisles at Rite Aid and see all the diet pills and muscle bulking products… such incredible promises offered –shed 10 pounds in 1 week! Just pay $39.95 for our bottle of magic! There isn’t just 1 product, but thousands, all promising a trimmer waistline and more energy, all promising that that trimmer waistline will indeed buy happiness and success in life. I’ll confess, in my younger years I’d buy a bottle here and there. If it sounds too good to be true….

Late night infomercials offer one empty promise after another.… striving to make us all think “How could I possibly have lived without this product all my life?!” From the SlapChop to the ShakeWeight, Sauna pants to the Ahhh Bra, from Pajama jeans to the Sham Wow (most of which you can also buy at Rite Aid)… Our world is FULL of empty promises, and we happily pay for the chance to see if this new product or lifestyle will offer an easy road to the satisfaction we crave.

I’ll confess, I DID buy a Sticky Buddy once. I have a white cat and a mostly black wardrobe… It was supposed to solve my cat hair crisis, but did nothing but disappoint. Broken promises, I should have known better. If it sounds too good to be true…

“Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread and your labor for that which does not satisfy.”

Broken promises seem to be the status quo in our world today. Culturally, we’ve always been told that if you get a job, work hard, and live a moral life, then you’ll eventually “make it”. You’ll own your own home, you’ll save enough to retire one day, you’ll eventually climb the corporate ladder. These promises at one time may have been true for most, but are no longer certainties. Right here in Gettysburg, people work full time and yet are homeless, living in their cars with their children. Every shelter in town has a waiting list. Right here in Gettysburg, people search for employment for years or give up altogether on what seems like a hopeless endeavor.  They wonder what they did wrong, why they just can’t seem to get ahead. Many feel betrayed by the seemingly broken promise of the American Dream.

In such desperate times, it’s easy to see how so many are quick to cling to and waste resources on products and schemes that are too good to be true. We are a desperate people.  Nothing seems certain anymore. We hunger and we thirst, sometimes literally for food and drink, but often for a place to belong, for acceptance, for love that we can trust and rely upon. We hunger and thirst for the dignity of putting in an honest day’s work.  We hunger and thirst for an end to broken promises and for God’s justice, God’s kingdom, to break into and rule this world.

 

Ho, Everyone who thirsts… Come to the waters!

You that have no money, come, buy, and eat!  Come buy wine and milk without money and without price!

After 47 years in Babylon, the people of Israel have resigned themselves to life in exile. They have accepted the status quo, they are starting to forget about God and to assimilate into the Babylonian culture. They are so thirsty, they can’t even remember what they’re thirsting for. In this section of Isaiah, God offers them a promise that sounds WAY too good to be true!

Through Isaiah, God calls God’s people out of exile reality and into Covenant living! God calls them home to the “old country” of Jerusalem, home to the place where David built a house for God to dwell on Earth. God offers hope to people who were so desperate they didn’t even realized they needed hope. They’d adopted the status quo as the only possible reality. It seemed that God had broken God’s promise and left them in Babylon to rot. For Forty Seven years.  But God reminds the people that they have never been forgotten.  God sets before them an invitation to Covenant living, where all the hungers of the heart are satisfied completely. God fulfills the desperate and satisfies those who hunger and thirst. God grants peace to the distraught and hope to the hopeless. Exile living, desperate living, is NOT the truth of life with God. God invites the people into a forgotten way of living which is the truer than true reality of covenant life.

God tells God’s people “Listen, so that you might live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.”

Instead of broken promises, God offers a renewal and expansion of the promise that was made to David!  God expands the boundaries of the original covenant to include all the people of Israel, and eventually all the nations of the world. Instead of breaking the promise, God breaks the boundaries that had been used to exclude some from life with God. Isaiah says “Nations that do not know you shall run to you because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.”

God’s love and faithfulness, God’s invitation to covenant living, is extended to all the peoples of the Earth, even to us. God’s covenant says that God is with us, that God loves us, and that God will be with us always, even in the midst of our darkest hour. We humans have broken covenant with God time and again. We have broken our promises. But our God has always been faithful, always loyal to the covenant of love.

God is not finished offering hope to the hopeless. God is not finished satisfying the desperate heart. God is not finished inviting us into a covenant reality that is truer than the exile circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters….

The last time I heard this reading in worship was the Easter Vigil, when we recall together the history of God’s salvation from Creation to Resurrection. I read this passage from Isaiah to an assembly gathered by candlelight in the seminary’s dining hall.  It was a special night as we recalled not only God’s salvation of the entire creation, but we also prepared to celebrate God’s particular promise of salvation to our daughter, Evangeline.

Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters.

It was dark in the chapel aside from the candles to light our way, but the waters were prepared. At the front of the chapel stood a large galvanized tub of warm water. We stripped our precious baby down, and she was gently plunged into the live-giving water of God’s promise in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That night, God made a covenant with my daughter and sealed her with the cross of Christ, the sign of that covenant. Because of God’s covenant loyalty and steadfast love, God’s grace is free and always prevails. God promised her forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Incredible promises, totally priceless and without a single hidden fee!

Luther said that when nothing else in this life seems certain, when we are assailed by all kinds of depression and anxiety, when we begin to fear and despair, we can surely cling to the promises made to us in Baptism. God’s promise is not too good to be true, but sometimes seems to be the only thing in this life that is trustworthy and true… God loves you and God seals that love in Covenant through Baptism, a covenant which nothing can ever break.

In spite of what the world may offer, in spite of the frustrations all around, God invites you each week here to be fed and strengthened, to receive hope  and a reminder of the promise God made to you.

You that have no money, come, buy, and eat! You don’t need to pay a penny. There isn’t a $39.95 activation fee for God’s grace. There is no shipping and processing needed for you to come to the banquet table of Christ. There are no hidden gimmicks, no tricks to beware of, all God wants is for you to come to the table and to eat until your heart is satisfied.  You are freely invited to the sumptuous feast of God’s grace where the weary find rest, the lonely find a community of love, the hungry find a feast, and the thirsty find the cup of the new covenant in Christ’s blood that never, ever runs dry. God is faithful to that everlasting covenant. Every hunger of the heart is satisfied through this feast of God’s own presence with us now and forever. Amen.

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