Waiting for hope…in the water, in the feast

I was in a store the other night and saw a woman with a shirt on that said “I Listen.”  It took all of my power to not snap a picture of her. And I was so curious about her shirt – why she wore it, who she was and is.  I truly regret not talking to her. It was a simple statement and a powerful one.

Listening is always the topic of conversation at each Vision Table meeting. Each time the vision table meets, we begin by talking about what we’re reading in scripture.  From the weird to the violent to the gross to the comforting – the Bible is our story and God has things to say to us through our reading.  We’ve also begun answering another question together in addition to the scripture question: what is God saying to you in your prayers?

To listen for God in scripture and in prayer is why we do those things, isn’t it? It’s why we pray and why we read.  It’s the furthering of a relationship. Yet, often, I think the way we approach reading the Bible and praying is for answers that we are often too busy filling in the blanks for our own selves. Sometimes we treat prayer as a one-way report to God, or as a time for asking God to do something already without taking the time to actually listen.  The same can be true of scripture.  Often, I think, we are scared that we’re supposed to know just what scripture is telling us – that it’s supposed to be obvious or nice, with a “moral of the story” underlined.  But of course, prayer and scripture are both 2-way streets. They both are relational activities. They both need give and take; noise and silence; faith and doubt. You and God.

We know that God listens.  Do we listen for God?

This is where the rubber meets the road.  This is where we can get Hollywood mixed up with our prayer lives.  We think, “well, God has never spoken to me.  Because, doesn’t God sound like Morgan Freeman?  Isn’t there supposed to be trumpet sounds or lightening or clouds parting and angels?”

Now, I’m not one to try and limit God, but I think if you’re expecting an other-worldly voice along with a Hollywood soundtrack, then yah, you probably think God hasn’t spoken into your life at all.

In today’s scripture, God clearly says, Incline your ear and come to me; listen, so that you may live.  The scripture we heard and read today is pure poetry because the exile has ended. The grandchildren of those who had been forced out of their homes are hearing this good news in lives that had been lived away from their family’s homeland.  Now Babylon, their captor, had been toppled by the Persians and King Cyrus was allowing the people to return home.

The activity of God, God speaking to them, came through King Cyrus. Listen. It was the sweetest news they’d heard. It was evidence of God alive and well, speaking into their lives. God was saying, return.  Come home. Your exile is over.

Listen to what God is saying to us today in scripture. Listen to what God is saying to you today:  if you’re thirsty, come to the waters. If you’re broke, come and buy wine and food without money. Eat. Drink.  My ways are not your ways.

The prophet lays out images of eating and drinking without worry. Without having to pay for it.

To our ears, it doesn’t make sense. That’s not how the economy works.

We are right on the cusp, right on the edge of the birth of Jesus. The ultimate anticipation of God coming to us in Jesus. And it can be hard to hear God’s good news in the tumult of our lives. It can be hard to hear God over the racket of your own inner monologue: you’re not smart enough or rich enough or you should have made that relationship work or you should have gotten a better grade or a better job or a better station in life. It can be hard to hear this good news when you’re rushing to prepare for this season.

It can be hard to hear God when you are so certain about how things should be or go that anything else is not an option.

It can be hard to hear God when you don’t think God can or will speak to you.

It is hard to hear what God has to say to us because it doesn’t sound like anything we’re told every day.  What do you mean, buy food and drink without money?

This is God’s economy, not ours.

This is an economy of grace, not debt, not accumulation.

This is an economy of enough for all, not just too much for some.

Listen. Do you hear the good news?  Can you hear God speaking into your life?  Through scripture and prayer? Through neighbors and strangers and friends?

Today, we gather around the promise God makes to us in water.  We gather around water with Asa and Gabel and Mona and we are reminded of the power of God’s word at work in this water.  It is God saying, “come home.” It is God saying, “come to the waters, buy food without money.”

It is a gathering around a sacrament that doesn’t make sense.  But it is not our way, it is God’s way of claiming us. Reminding us we are raised up from death to new life; reminding us we are always home, always listened to, always loved.