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Sunday, 3 March 2013

Come to the feast of life

'The Lord says,
“Come, everyone who is thirsty —
    here is water!
Come, you that have no money —
    buy grain and eat!
Come! Buy wine and milk —
    it will cost you nothing!
Why spend money on what does not satisfy?
    Why spend your wages and still be hungry?
Listen to me and do what I say,                                                                                                        and you will enjoy the best food of all.

“Listen now, my people, and come to me;
    come to me, and you will have life!

(Isaiah 55. 1 - 9)

The Lord says, "Come." No strings attached. No pre-conditions. Just simply, come. Love bids 
us welcome, as the great Anglican poet George Herbert, whose feast day was this past week, 

We see this in the parables Jesus told about banquets. In these stories, invitations to the party 
are sent to all and sundry, including those who never get invited out, those from the wrong side 
of the tracks, the homeless and poor; all are invited and those who don’t come are those who 
choose to exclude themselves by making excuses because the one condition is that you don’t 
everything to come there and then.

George Herbert included some of the excuses we commonly make in his third poem about 
love. We draw back, he suggests, because of our sense of guilt, our sense that we are 
unworthy, unkind and ungrateful, that we have made mistakes with the gifts we have been given, 
and only deserve to serve not to be served.

I identify strongly with this poem because it expresses how I felt as a teenager having come to 
faith but then being very aware of my faults and failings and so feeling like a hypocrite who did 
not deserve God’s love. I had to come to a point of realizing that God loved me regardless of 
whether I was good enough or not and whether I felt good enough or not. The moment of 
realization came for me when a youth leader took the time to listen to me and then showed me 
Romans 5. 6 – 8 which says this:  

"For when we were still helpless, Christ died for the wicked at the time that God chose. It is a 
difficult thing for someone to die for a righteous person. It may even be that someone might 
dare to die for a good person. But God has shown us how much he loves us — it was while we 
were still sinners that Christ died for us!"

As the old hymn says, "I love Him because He first loved me." He didn’t wait for me to become 
deserving of his love, instead he showed his love for me while I was still far away from him. So, 
there is nothing I have to do to earn or deserve his love.

That’s what he was saying when he spoke about the Galileans that Pilate had killed and the 
people in Siloam who were killed when the tower fell on them. Don’t look at other people and 
think they are worse sinners than you. Instead, look at yourself and acknowledge your failings 
but then recognize that God always gives us a second chance, just like the gardener does with 
the fig tree.

So, Jesus simply says, "come" and all I have to do to enter into his love is simply come. That is 
what George Herbert’s wonderful poem is all about: 

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
                                                            Guilty of dust and sin.
                        But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
                                                            From my first entrance in,
                        Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
                                                            If I lacked anything.

                        A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
                                                            Love said, You shall be he.
                        I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
                                                            I cannot look on thee.
                        Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
                                                            Who made the eyes but I?

                        Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
                                                            Go where it doth deserve.
                        And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
                                                            My dear, then I will serve.
                        You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
                                                            So I did sit and eat.

Whoever comes simply, like a child, accepting God’s invitation as it is, are those who sit and 
eat, who become saints and priests, who become Christ. For "little Christ" is all that ‘Christian’ 
means. The meal, the feast, the banquet, the party to which we are invited is communion; 
sharing in the body and blood of Christ as a precursor to the coming in full of the kingdom of 
God on earth as in heaven. 

This table, the table of Jesus is our place of gathering: here you are welcomed, wanted, loved, 
here there is a place set for you; come, come to the feast of life. This is the table, not of the 
Church, but of the Lord. It is made ready for those who love him and who want to love him more. 
So come, you who have much faith and you who have a little, you who have been here often and 
you who have not been for a long time, you who have tried to follow and you who have failed. 
Come, not because I invite you: it is our Lord, it is his will that those who want him should meet 
him here.

Come. Come to the feast of life that the Lord Almighty prepares for all peoples. A feast of rich 
food, the best of meats, the finest of aged wines, and water from the spring of life itself. A 
banquet at which tears are wiped away, disgrace removed, where death, grief, crying and pain 
are no more as God himself sits down to eat with his people.

Come, all you who thirst;
come, all you who are weary;
come, all you who are poor;
come, all you who are bitter;
come, all you who grieve;
come, all you who are sinners;
come, all you who are oppressed;
come, all you who are traitors;
come, all you who are sick;
come, all you who are lost.

Why spend money on what does not satisfy? Why spend your wages and still be hungry? Listen 
to me and do what I say, and you will enjoy the best food of all. Listen now, my people, and 
come to me; come to me, and you will have life!

Come to be saints;
come to be priests;
come to be Christians;
to be "little Christs."
Come to sit and eat
at the feast of life.


The Staple Singers - If You're Ready (Come Go With Me).

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