Based on: Isaiah 55:1-5
Are you looking forward to the pot-luck? I know it is still early in the morning, but have you started thinking about the food that’s down in the kitchen? Maybe Lutherans enjoy food more than others, I don’t know, but sharing a meal together is a great way to come together as a group of believers. And a pot luck is a great way to do it. Just think, you have all that food in front of you and you can try a little of this and little of that. Then when you go back for seconds, you know exactly what you want. There is usually more than enough for everyone to have their fill.
Perhaps all this talk about food makes you start to feel a little hungry. Perhaps you are starting to feel that little rumble in your stomach, telling you that you would like to eat soon. That is really what this sermon is about this morning, hunger.
I’m sure all of you know what it’s like to feel a little hungry. Perhaps you even have felt very hungry if you’ve been working hard and you skip a meal or two. But I don’t think any of you know what it is like to go without nourishment for a week. Yet, you know that it happens in our world. You know that there are people throughout the world who are literally starving to death.
The problem of starvation is actually bigger than you think. There are many people even right here in Sleepy Eye whose souls are literally starving to death because they have not heard or do not want to hear that Jesus Christ is their Savior from sin. In fact, before God created faith in our hearts, we were all spiritually starving. This is a far greater problem than not getting enough food into the stomach. Every single human being has an emptiness in their soul that they try to fill. The question is what they’re going to fill that emptiness with. What kind of spiritual food will they take into their soul? What kind of spiritual food do you take into your soul?
As we look in the world around us we see people spending their money, their time, and their energy trying to satisfy their spiritual longings in ways that leave them malnourished and dying. There are plenty of religions in this world, and it doesn’t matter whether you follow Buddha, Allah, or Shintoism or if you are Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness. Every other religion out there is based on what I must do to be saved. If that is what your religion is based on, it is like eating wood chips instead of bread and drinking sand instead of water. It is not the food your soul needs.
People will try other ways to find fulfillment. The will indulge themselves in all the sinful pleasures of this world to try to fill the emptiness inside. They will work long hours or work to accumulate material possessions. None of it satisfies our real hunger.
Even among those who claim to be within the realm of Christianity, there are some who provide no real nourishment for our souls, but only food that might at first taste good. There are people like Benny Hinn, a self-proclaimed Christian faith healer. Stay away from them. They use sensationalism and claim that they can heal people of their sicknesses, and yet you will not hear in their message the clear gospel of Jesus as your Savior from sin. Very often they are deceiving people for their own advantage. They offer poison instead of food.
There also people like Max Lucado who is a very popular author in Christian circles They may not intentionally be trying to deceive you, but they don’t give you the food your soul needs either. Please correct me if you know differently. The things I have read by Max Lucado are all pleasant to read, they seem nice, but he never seems to get around to sharing the gospel. He may get close, but I never read in his words the basic message of the Bible, that you have sinned against God and that God sent Jesus to rescued you from that sin. If he never gets around to that message, then he is not feeding our souls.
There was one man who tried to find fulfillment in just about every way possible, King Solomon. With his wealth and with the trading routes he had throughout the then-known world, he could have just about anything he wanted. He tried other religions. He tried accumulating wealth. He tried the pleasures of this life and indulged himself. He tried accumulating knowledge. He tried all those things to find out what would satisfy his soul, and in the end what did he find out? It was all meaningless. None of it satisfied. None of it was food for his soul. None of it filled that emptiness he felt inside.
It is when God leads you to that point where you realize that nothing you try is going to keep you from spiritual starvation that Jesus comes to you and says, "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. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live."
This is the gracious invitation of the gospel that God gives to all people. Did you hear how many times God tells you for your own good to come, come to the waters, come buy and eat. He has a banquet prepared for you, not just good healthy food, but the richest of fare. He offers you the best that there is. Through Jesus Christ he gives you rest and peace, joy and salvation. It is exactly the nourishment your soul needs, not merely to survive, but to thrive.
And all this is without cost. There is nothing you have to do to earn that this kind of food. The things that are going to fill that emptiness in your soul, God does that for free. That doesn’t mean that this feast that God gives us is cheap. No, it cost God’s son dearly. It cost him his life on the cross. So eat your fill and drink until your thirst goes away. With this food, the more you eat, the more you want. You will never get enough, and yet the more you eat, the more there is there for you to eat.
What is this food and this drink that God offers to us? It is the living water. It is bread from heaven and the bread of Life. It is Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.” Whenever we study God’s Word or hear the gospel proclaimed to us, we are taking into our souls the nourishment we so desperately need. When we hear about our own sin and the judgment we deserve, and we also hear about Jesus who rescued us from that judgment, that is the food that gives us the eternal life.
How does God bring us this food? Well we already mentioned that God brings it to us in his Word. This spiritual food also comes to us in Baptism. When a child or a new Christian and is baptized, they receive the spiritual food and are brought to spiritual life. When you come to the Lord’s Supper, you are fed with this gospel. Right there at the altar not only do you receive physical food and drink, but you are also receiving Christ’s body and blood and with that the promise of his forgiveness. You receive spiritual food as well.
God also brings people into our lives to share that Gospel with us. It may be a fellow Christian who encourages you in God’s word. It may be your Pastor as he preaches. Is also happens when we call a teacher to our day school. In just a few minutes we will install a new teacher for St. John’s Lutheran School and it will be her job and her privilege to feed our children with this magnificent banquet that God has prepared for us, the promise of God’s forgiveness and the promise of eternal life.
Today as we celebrate the installation of the new teacher here at St. John’s and as we enjoy the food that people have brought for this pot luck, remember that the food with which we feed our bodies is a gift from God. But also remember that God has given us even greater food to feed our souls. That food is the richest of fare, and God gives it to us without cost.