9th Sunday After Pentecost, August 2nd, 2020
– Isaiah 55:1-5, Matthew 14:13-21
– The Reverend Dr. Arnold Isidore Thomas –
Not long ago, I was invited to the home of two former parishioners of a church I served. They are retired and spend half of the year in Florida and the other half at their home with a beautiful view overlooking Lake Champlain. I consider them dear friends who, throughout their lives, have directed their energies and resources toward fighting injustice. So, naturally they were distressed about the racial, economic, and social upheaval presently affecting our nation and world and asked my opinion about it.
I said that it was unfortunate but expected, and until every citizen of this nation and world is afforded the dignity to a means of prosperity including affordable housing, subsidized healthcare, education, and a basic living income, this social unrest would continue, especially in a nation such as ours, where the political, legal and economic systems were built to protect and preserve the wealthy against the rest who, in some form or fashion, serve them.
I think they were as much surprised by my opinion as I was by my candor in expressing it. They felt I was proposing a brand of socialism that seemed impractical and unrealistic to them.
I suggested that they might see it more as a brand of cooperative capitalism in which everyone contributed from a basis of greater economic security than what they presently endured. It is also a Biblically based opinion.
Still, I often wonder about the seemingly impractical and unrealistic nature of the realm of God in worldly dimensions. The Prophet Isaiah imagines the Lord as a street vendor calling to a starving world to freely eat and drink.
Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy and eat 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? (55:1-2)
Are any of you fortunate enough to recall the fragrance of your favorite meal as it is being prepared – the captivating aroma of bread and pies and stews, or even pizza wafting through the air; and you salivating at the anticipation of indulging in this feast until finally you drop everything upon hearing the long-waited call: “Dinner!”
This is the very call of God to a malnourished world, “Ho, everyone who hungers and thirst for righteousness, dinner!”
It is the same call by which Jesus fed thousands following the death of John the Baptist. I wonder if the death of this controversial prophet who baptized Jesus incited the kind of response among Israelites that Americans felt following the death if Lincoln, or Roosevelt, or King or even, most recently, Congressman Lewis; the response of a people who had lost the one who knew how to feed them.
Like the response of my friends to my suggestion for healing our world, the disciples felt that Jesus’ desire to feed the thousands who flocked to him was impractical and beyond their abilities. But Jesus would show them that all who hunger and thirst for the Lord will eat, drink and be filled.
This church is called with every faith community and child of God to move this nation and world to a greater awareness of the practical dimensions of God’s realm on earth fashioned not by financial power and military might, but by the priority of divine compassion that favors the most vulnerable and victimized and offers them the most reserved seat at the Lord’s banquet.
“Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” Ho, says the Lord, to all who hunger and thirst for righteousness, it’s dinner time! Amen.