The Best Part

Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price.         Isaiah 55:1

Virginia Burke, a chaplain at the Good Samaritan Society assisted living facilities, once wrote in a devotion on this passage:

One Sunday morning, Karl invited several of us from church to come and visit him at work the next day. Karl has several developmental disabilities, and for the first time in his life he had a real job. The next day I went to the McDonald’s to see Karl at work. His job was to clean the floors and tables and to stock condiments and napkins. He sang to himself as he worked and it was obvious he loved his job. When Karl spotted me he ushered me to a table and told me to wait for him. A moment later, Karl reappeared carrying a tray of food. He grinned and said, “This is the best part: the food is free!”

A simple, free meal was enough to fill Karl with joy. His joy increased when he was given the chance to extend hospitality to another person and to invite me to share in the meal with him.

Often developmentally handicapped persons just aren’t caught up in all the little games people play.  They aren’t preoccupied with whether they have been offended, nor worried whether they have “gotten their share.”  Their idea of relationships is founded on simple child-like innocence, where the basics are not overlaid with maneuvering for advantage and settling of scores.  It is simply that they like you and hope that you like them in return.  And that is all.

Another thing about many developmental handicapped is their gratitude when their task is something they can do, and their great pleasure is in making a contribution to the common effort.  Both the gratitude and the pleasure are increased, as in Karl’s delight at his “free food,” when he was given something which he regarded as a special gift, even as a special honor, something which we often regard as merely a required perk.

And then to see how the gratitude and pleasure is increased yet again when he just naturally shared his good fortune, as when he felt privileged in being able to share his “free food” with Virginia.

Karl makes an interesting contrast to how we would likely react if some restaurant were to announce that at a certain time their buffet would be free.  What a very rare and unlikely offer!  We might at first be suspicious, trying to find the angle, the real reason for such generosity.  Some will take as much advantage as they can of the restaurant’s good will, stuffing themselves even to the point of getting sick.  Others may pick at their food, attempting to look refined.  Indeed, there are many potential reactions to this offer.

But how often will there be genuine gratitude, where people will actually go out of their way to express thankfulness and appreciation for what the restaurant owner has freely provided?  Too often our minds are on the next order of business:  Where are the plates, where’s the line, will there be enough, will what I want still be left or will I get stuck with what nobody else wants….  And so forth.

Perhaps the most perplexing reaction are those who, for whatever reason simply reject the offer.  That’s hard to even imagine, especially if people are truly hungry.  But it can happen.  In fact, St Paul in the Epistle lesson starts a three chapter lament in the middle of his Romans discussion on God’s free gift of redemption and salvation.  Up until chapter 9, he spreads before us a literal feast of grace and mercy – He shows that what God provides cannot possibly be because of some ability or standing we have.

He even addresses the “overeater,” the one who tries to get more grace by deliberately sinning more.  How interesting that Paul does not say that God will withdraw His grace – something we probably would do.  Instead he questions the reader why he would choose to get tangled up again in what reader already knows leads to misery, destruction and death.  Why waste the time when one can instead savor the goodness and delight of the daily bread of Jesus’ presence and leading?

Yet sadly in chapter 9, Paul pours out his heart in regard to the unthinkable: in the presence of such a wonderful banquet of the Lord’s love and grace: how could his fellow Israelites reject it??  They had everything in their favor: adopted by God, the Glory of being His specially chosen, the extraordinary relationships of the Covenants, the privilege of serving in God’s house, having God’s own “Owner’s Manual” to human life, and most of all, the promises, the promises of all the good blessings for this earth as well as for eternity.

They would despise all this, just to condemn themselves to be slaves under Satan’s rule??  There really is no logic, other than that the forces of pride and self-achievement have combined to cloud what is the powerfully right choice.

The drug (Sildenafil citrate) was firstly introduced in 1998 to an eager public. commander levitra Men using this medication become able to get most from your physical and mental health. They are just deceiving the people by harming their overall health and increasing their sales. Diabetes causes damage to the nerves, veins and arteries associated with the penile resgion, which controls occurrence of erections. However, Paul reminds us that God had already foreseen this and had already promised in the Old Testament that He will turn such obstinate hearts around, then finally they will discover how much has been waiting for them all along, how much they can finally receive from what they had long rejected.  That’s because the Giver of the banquet will not let His good things be discarded.

However, as Paul would identify, what Israel’s rejection has done is to fling wide the doors to us Gentiles.  Imagine every good thing which God stored up and has now prepared because of Jesus’ death and resurrection is now also laid out for us to explore.  There is just too much – there is no way, even if by having only little tastes, we could sample everything before reaching overflow.  There are just so many promises for this life, and even then this won’t touch the bulk which will take eternity to discover.  One need only to look through Ephesians 1 and 2 to realize that God has had something fantastic planned – well, from before the universe was created, He tells us.

Jesus said, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” [Matthew 5:6] – who could they be?  What does spiritual hunger and thirst look like?  Would they be the ones with tortured consciences, confused and distressed hearts?  What does not merely an emptiness of the stomach, but an emptiness of the soul look like?  Would it speak to the meaninglessness and purposeless of existence many feel?  What about those that when they look at life, expect only, merely plodding along in the vague hope that it will make sense in the end?

For many people, there comes a time when what they are, what they do, how they do it, all develops a hollow ring to it.  The busy-ness isn’t enough, the money isn’t enough, the drugs aren’t enough, the sex isn’t enough, the selfies aren’t enough, the internet fame isn’t enough, the exaggerated indignation isn’t enough, the pompous opinions aren’t enough, the power, the threats, and any and everything else are just not enough.  One sermon writer put it this way:

This is not only for those who have been forced to fast, but for those who are tired of digging their graves with their teeth – for those on three square meals a day and are still hungry, who have drunk their fill and found it has not killed their thirst.  Isaiah insists that the food being served will hit the spot.  And this menu is not going to be the death of us, but an appetizer to God’s main course.

What is God’s “Main Course”?  The answer is to be found in the bread where Jesus declares “This is My Body,” and the wine where He declares “This is My Blood.”  Here we find on display the effects of His life, especially of His death and resurrection, and of His return to heaven’s throne all for the sake of His People, the Church.  Here Jesus leads you and me to each of the delicacies which make up the feast intended for those “who hunger and thirst after righteousness.”  In fact, no one can partake of this special meal without Jesus as our guide.

The first item our Lord wants us to try is forgiveness.  But what’s this? We are confused: the forgiveness at first seems flat and lifeless, that is, until we are shown how to properly season it.  It requires adding humility, repentance, and gratefulness.  Not only does this now make God’s gift meaningful, the repentance makes room in our hearts to so that the forgiveness can be applied.  Then the more we savor this gift, more and more repentance comes to light, and more tasty is this food for the soul, as even the secret places of the heart are unlocked and the burden of sin’s effect on us becomes increasing lightened.

There is a side dish to this, it is called forgiving one another.  So often we put aside this delicacy, but what frequently happens is that the bitterness tends to, as the saying goes, eat our hearts out.  When the hurt and dislike remain, since the heart is the starting point of what we are and do, the poison taints many other places in our lives.  Therefore it also needs the same seasoning of humility, repentance, and gratefulness to bring out its pleasant taste.

It too has a side dish called rebuilding a relationship.  Now that is a joint project where the other person may not want to cooperate.  But with the same seasoning, doors just might open, allowing restoration of the relationship.  Sometimes, though, the other rejects it, yet even then, at least we have been freed from it spoiling our hearts.

This is only the beginning of the banquet, and yet we have already come across so many elegant tidbits that we become eager to see what else has been laid in store for our feast.  It dawns on us that we have the chance to explore what it means, now that the Holy Spirit dwells within us, as He leads us to ever more of the realities of God being with us throughout our days, of discovering His hand of care and leading in all circumstances.

The text is insistent, urgent: repeated three times is the call “come!”  Jesus calls for us to “come to Me” all who hunger and thirst, for there are good things to be had: forgiveness of sins, life, salvation, the blessings of His Kingdom,

And as Karl put it, “This is the best part: the food is free!”


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