Rev. Steven Blair was unavoidably detained away from his computer on Sunday evening. He asked me to pinch-hit for him on the “Insights” blog.
Today’s passage in Isaiah 55 always amazes me. The prophet starts, on God’s behalf, by offering the finest food and drink to those who are thirsty, those who have no money–free! It’s an image of the grace God offered to his people Israel (and offers to you and me as God’s people, too). Picture it–you’re hungry, thirsty, and broke. You’re gazing longingly at a McDonald’s, wondering if you could somehow talk them out of an item on the dollar menu. And then the owner of a really outstanding restaurant–I’m fond of Kokopelli, at 95th and Nall, but you can picture The Bristol, The Melting Pot or whatever your favorite is–steps out and says, “Come in! Choose anything you want from the menu. It’s all on me–it’s my gift to you.” That, says Isaiah, is the way God treats us, if we’re willing to accept it.
But sometimes we struggle with that. The prophet takes on an almost pleading tone: “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” It’s as though I’m on the sidewalk, hungry and penniless, saying to the restaurant owner, “I can’t accept your food–I don’t know how I’m going to pay for it.” And he says, “It’s free. It’s my gift to you. You don’t have to pay for it. Please–come in and eat. I can see how hungry you are.” And I stand there, shifting from one foot to the other, saying, “I don’t know. I’m ashamed of being hungry. Even if you want to feed me, I’m not sure I can feel right taking food from you.”
Here’s the thing I keep needing to open my heart to: when I refuse to accept God’s forgiveness, really accept it, and live as though it’s real, I’m basically saying that my standards are higher than God’s. “Sure, God can forgive me, because God’s easy–but I’m virtuous, and I can’t forgive myself.” Isn’t that a weird thing to say? But think about it. I don’t know about you, but I know that’s what I’ve said to myself, more than once. That’s my human, proud, “I want to be God” way of thinking sometimes.
Which, I think, is why the prophet ended this way: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'” It’s as though the Lord of the universe reads my wary thoughts, and with a patient, loving smile says, “Trust me–my ways are much higher than your ways. My thoughts are almost infinitely higher than your thoughts. And I long to forgive you. Truly I do.” Let’s feast at God’s table today.
Darrell Holtz serves as Program Director, Adult Curriculum and Writing at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.