An Abundant Life

HO!  The prophet Isaiah is really trying to get our attention.  Lacking a microphone… he cries out “HO!” He’s got a message, an invitation to an abundant life. This message was first spoken to the exiles in Babylon. They were living in tough times, worried that they could not pay their bills and feed their children. They didn’t know if their God was with them or against them. They weren’t sure what kind of a future they had.

But into this uncertainty, fear and anxiety, the prophet speaks  - sometimes as God and sometimes as the Lord’s prophet. He speaks a word of hope, a word of invitation and a word of promise. He spoke this word first to the Babylonian exiles – and now God speaks this word to you .

“HO! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters!”

Have you ever been thirsty?  I have. Hiking in a mountain valley and discovering all the riverbeds on the map were dry, I started to get thirsty. We weren’t really in any danger but I felt myself getting thirsty just knowing that I couldn’t refill my water bottle. At that moment, thoughts of scarcity filled my mind.

Scarcity…We often live with this mindset of scarcity. Too often, we become obsessed with questions of: What if there is not enough? What if we run out? People begin to stockpile… and then… because some people are hoarding… there isn’t enough.

But it is into this very anxiety that the prophet calls out, “HO!” And then invites everyone who thirsts to “come to the water.” He even invites those who have no money, to “Come buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”

It’s hard to believe. I grew up hearing, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” And…that “if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.”

That is what makes God’s gift of grace so radical. Because it sounds too good to be true and yet… it is true. God pours out blessings upon us; invites us to come and eat… no strings attached.

It is in the spirit of God’s gift of grace that you are invited to a free lunch -- the Almstead’s chicken dinner after worship. It’s true that it’s free and it’s for you.

But, you may argue, someone paid for it. And that’s true too. The Victory Memorial committee is so eager for congregations like ours to reach out into the community and share God’s good news that they gave us a grant for our outreach. The price – of the chicken - has been paid and you have both the gift of the food and the gift of being asked for your input, your prayers and your hopes and dreams for God’s mission in our neighborhood. So you are invited.

But God has more than a free lunch in store for you. God invites the people of Israel – and now you – into relationship and into an abundant life.

What do you think of when you hear the word abundance? I imagine a whole cornucopia of food overflowing. I imagine baskets that are full. But they are not just full of junk. They are full of the best because what God wants for you is not only plenty but – the best. Through the prophet, God asks, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread and your labor for what does not satisfy?” Even in the midst of Lent we hears these gracious words: “Eat what is good and delight your selves in rich foods.” God wants the best for you – but not only for you.

I was so surprised when I learned that Robbinsdale/ Crystal was considered a food dessert. This is why Loaves and Fishes decided to host meals just down the street at Brunswick Avenue Methodist. And this is why we and the other Wildfire churches deliver food to children’s lockers on Fridays -- so they and their families can eat a healthy meal over the weekend. And this is why we are collecting food and money for NEAR food shelf.

There are many needs in our community. It is not surprising that people start to get anxious and fearful and uncertain of the future. Like the Israelites, we too live in a world in which it is easy to focus on scarcity rather than abundance.

So again, like for the Israelites, it is into our fear, our anxiety and our uncertainty that God says, “Listen…Incline your ear...Listen so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant.”

God first made a covenant with Noah not to destroy the world. Then God extends that covenant – to Abraham and Sarah and then to David and all the people of Israel. And now, God is extending the covenant even more, opening it wide to include you and me – even though we have done nothing to “deserve” it or “earn” it.

What does God want from us in return? God wants relationship. God wants relationship with you – not as a payment for what God has done. God simply wants a relationship with you because God loves you.

Isaiah encourages the Israelites and us to “Seek the Lord…[and] call upon him” and to “return to the Lord.” If there are things that we have done or are doing that goes against the way that God would have us treat our neighbor – we are invited to repent, to change our ways. This season of Lent gives us time to reflect on what we have done – and not done; time to focus on our faith and seek ways to live our lives honestly and authentically.

So what does it mean to live abundantly?

It is not about me taking care of my own and you taking care of your own. Living abundantly is about caring for GOD’s World…including the people that are living in food insecurity, the people who are hungry, poor and in need. Living abundantly is about sharing God’s love for the whole community.

The Synod’s mission statement is a great summary of God’s mission in our neighborhood: “The Minneapolis Area Synod works together so that all experience gracious invitation into life-giving Christian community and live in just and healthy neighborhoods.”

As part of the Synod, that’s our mission too. So I’d like you to repeat it after me, except, I’m going to insert our name into it too.

“As part of the Minneapolis area Synod, (Repeat)

we the people of Faith-Lilac Way work together (Repeat)

so that all experience gracious invitation (Repeat)

 into life-giving Christian community (Repeat)

 and live in just and healthy neighborhoods.” (Repeat)

That's what it means to live abundantly. You are God’s beloved child and God invites you and wants you to invite your neighbor into a life-giving Christian community.  And God wants us to live in just and healthy neighborhoods. Because that’s an abundant life. And God wants that for you – and your neighbor. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Pastor Pam Stalheim Lane

Faith-Lilac Way Lutheran

March 22, 2019