Highworth United Reformed Church

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Generosity and abundance

By The Revd Robert Jordan M.A.

Bible Reading:  Isaiah 55:1-13

In this day and age, who gives things away for free?   You'd be surprised because this does happen,  think about the Foodbanks for one,  think of so many volunteers in so many organisations who give of their time and their knowledge, such as Samaritans, CAB, Harbour project, people taking food over to refugees in Calais, etc. etc.   So yes there are people who do this.   Thank God for that!   At the same time, there are things that we assume are free, and are becoming less and less free - take water for example.   So much so.  the World Council of Churches Lent suggestion comes from the Ecumenical Water Network, which reminds us of the difficult access to water for many people in the world, and the World Water Day (22/03).  http://water.oikoumene.org/en/whatwedo/seven-weeks-for-water/2016/

When this happens it is really a sign of deep need around.   Because, why would one need to do this?   Why does the reading today deal with this reality?   This is a reading about God's grace, expressed in generosity and abundance, and as all grace it is accessible and free.    And this is what often irritates people.   It creates dependency is often the critique... does it?   And is it wrong?   Don't we depend on the grace of God for our life?   We do!

The people of God, in the reading today, are exiles in Babylon,  far from everything they know and love,  and God speaks to them of hope in the midst of the pain and suffering they are in - come everyone - there is water,  there is wine,  there is milk.   Don't worry, come even if you don't have money,  there is no price.   Why would you spend the little you have on things such as these?   God says - I offer this to you.   As the people of today's reading we have millions of refugees,  asylum seekers,  displaced people, and those who have nowhere to go except their broken places.

Jesus will replicate this invitation of God through the prophet when he says  "Come to me all you who are weary and carry heavy burdens and I will give you rest"    (Matthew 11:28) words that are often the invitation to communion,  where we share the grace of God in the bread and the cup....God's love shared.   These words of Jesus and the prophet resound crucially and critically in the world today.

The whole chapter 55 of Isaiah is one invitation after another:   come to me and you will live,  see the Lord,  return to God.   There is mercy,  there is love,  there is hope.   God is present in generosity and abundance even though we may feel that God is distant.   God is a caring God.   The prophet promises the people they will be led from exile, they will travel roads of joy, where even nature celebrates the fullness of life.   And this is the promise we live by.   This inspires us on this travel time of Lent.

The reality we live in both in our country and the world makes this reading all the more relevant.   There are many who need this to come true, and we can be part of this changing of the world.   There is an urgency in life today,  there is an urgency in the words of the prophet.   There are needs to be attended to that have to do with life, and this is what Lent is really about.   And this is how we are involved, and how we respond....we become agents of God in the world as it is so that it can become the world God designed it to be - the Kingdom proclaimed by Jesus for all:   Generous,  abundant, in grace accessible.   Amen.