A Homily for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who invites us to dine at the abundant feast. Amen.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Thus saith the Lord through the prophet Isaiah.
Some of our kindred in the Church use this verse as a proof-text to explain God’s wrath. We simply cannot understand, they say, how a loving God despises his creation because God is so much loftier than us. It doesn’t matter how good you may be, how many people you fed, how little wrong you did, God still despises your every action unless you’ve prayed a certain way and been baptized by immersion as an adult and attend a specific type of Church. Why? Because God’s ways are higher than our ways, and we simply cannot understand the righteousness of the divine temper tantrum. So stop asking questions.
Today, though, we read the context of that verse from Isaiah: Hear, everyone! Step right up! If you’re thirsty, come and drink! If you’re hungry, come and eat! With no money, come and buy! Creamy milk, fine wine, richest foods! Eat to your heart’s content! For the marketplace is well-stocked, and these basic necessities and luxury goods are yours at an unbeatably low price: absolutely free.
This is the radical economy of the coming Kingdom: that the Lord’s thoughts are so much higher than our thoughts, the divine way so much loftier than our human ways, that we cannot fathom the abundance of God’s immeasurable grace.
The text is saying the exact opposite of how some of our fundamentalist siblings interpret it: it’s not that God despises you no matter how much good you do, but that God has taken notice of us in our lowly, sinful state – without regard to prior bad acts, to economic status, to nationality. The coming Kingdom is a table set with a sumptuous feast and a seat for all: it’s not merit-based or means-tested but rooted in abundant grace.
And this economy – where the poor are well-fed and the sinners are welcomed to the banquet – is not simply a pie-in-the-sky fantasy. No, we see in the Gospel that it is already erupting here and now. Throughout Christ’s life, we see him turn water into wine and dine with the religious elite and the outcast alike. Today, the miraculous displays of this new economy continue: With a crowd of thousands pressing in around him, and only a few loaves and a couple of fish, Jesus fed everyone until they were satisfied – and the disciples still had baskets full of leftovers.
But this is not only the economy of the coming Kingdom: this is also the economy of the Church, of the Kingdom erupting into our broken world in our present day. Hear our Lord’s command to the disciples: “You give them something to eat.”
This new marketplace is still breaking into the world. Yes, even here and even now, in this time of once-in-a-century crisis. It’s erupting – imperfectly, through imperfect members of an imperfect Church – but even through our imperfect love, we have been given the divine grace to live into this new economy.
We talk of freedom – but from what have we been set free? From sin and death, certainly, but also those lesser demons. We have been set free from the pursuit of wealth, free from chasing after power, free from slinging to privilege derived from skin color, gender, or social standing, and free from an economics of scarcity. We have been set free from our fears if only we heed the call to come into the marketplace, to take what is freely given, and to go out back into the world as our Lord commanded to feed those who are hungry.
Dear ones, we have been set free to use our money and privilege – for we do not belong to it but it belongs to God – to use these powers and principalities for the least of these, our siblings, and to live into the economy of God’s abundance.