Sunday, March 7, 2010

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.

Isaiah 55:1

Last Sunday, our pastor reminded us of this, God’s invitation to invest ourselves in His ways and His kingdom. Our Lord calls us forward, in our hunger, to a banquet table filled with peace, joy, and all other fruits of the spirit. He calls us to leave behind the things that the world values – acquiring material wealth, social status, etc. – to seek the things that will finally satisfy.
Our Sunday School lesson also told the story of Jesus’ friend Mary, who invested herself in her worship, anointing Him with costly perfume. The disciples chided her for wasting money. Jesus chided them, saying she had her priorities straight.

The day before, I’d been selling food at a tournament held by the martial arts academy we attend. We volunteers chose to be accountable to each other, asking each other to witness when we took money to the cashbox to buy food for ourselves and our families. It was all bought cheaply -- a dollar here, a quarter there, at our half-price volunteer discount. Because of our teacher’s generosity and appreciation, we had all eaten for very little.
We also had fun with our friends from the school and with the families in attendance. I tried to hand out the food with care and consideration, and the folks on the other side of the concession table more than returned it. One martial arts teacher, who outranked most of the people in attendance, took time to joke with the kids standing nearby, and lavished compliments for the cheeseburgers grilled just outside the door. And later, I sent my son after another customer who forgot his change; but my son returned with the change, explaining that the customer decided to donate it to the cashbox.
It was an event well worth the investment of our time.

The next day, we visited the bookstore, and then tried to decide where to eat. I got voted down; the steakhouse was the husband’s option. But I really enjoyed all of us just sitting down at the restaurant talking together. There was time for jokes, for stories, for reminders on table etiquette.
During dinner, our waitress showed up with her hands outstretched, ready to personally take away the trash from our table – torn sugar wrappers and the paper napkins damp from the glasses – so we could better enjoy our meal. I didn’t really want to deal with any of that at that time; I wasn’t so eager to hand all that to her while I was still eating. But I was humbled by the fact that she was willing to put her hands on it right then and there.
The food was also very delicious, worth choosing to pack lunches for a while afterward to maintain balance in our budget. At the restaurant, we spent a great deal, but because of my husband’s generosity in taking us out and because of our family fellowship, as well as good food and service, we were glad for the meal. Just like the day before, it was worth our investment.

So it is with our God. Generosity, service and fellowship, part of both the tournament and the restaurant meal, are found in God’s invitation to us. He invites us to His well-stocked banquet table and calls the spiritually poor to fill themselves, to change a life that does not satisfy. But this is no redemption drive-through, or a blessings buffet. He invites us to sit and eat.
He’s tending needs beyond our stomach. Like the tournament host and customers, He teaches us by His example the importance of kindnesses extended to the least of us – being generous with time, with money, and with praise. Like a patient parent, He teaches us good table manners: how to be considerate of others in the things we do. Like the waitress at the restaurant, He refills our glasses with living water that refreshes and revives. He also sees the things that we’ve just shoved to one side, that really don’t belong there anymore, and clears the way, personally and hands-on. In all he does, He is showing us by His example how to serve.
The most important thing on the table is that He’s talking with us. He’s teaching us how to spend time with him. When we give Him our time, we give Him ourselves. When we anoint Him with that, there are stories to be told and joys to share.
Generosity, service, fellowship. These are priceless things that ultimately satisfy – the very meat of our lives.