Many preachers took up the Isaiah 55 passage yesterday, proclaiming the abundant provision of God for all that sustains life. The invitation is almost too good to be true! Not only does the prophet speak of the basic physical nourishment we require, but also speaks of listening to God “that your soul may live” (55:3b). Our deepest longings go beyond what we eat and drink; hunger and thirst for the Holy One are inscribed into every human being.
This portion of Isaiah announces that the time of desolation is over and that God may be sought—and found (v.6). God promises abundance, and renewal will come to a place covered with briers and thorns. Myrtle and cypress trees will flourish, and they will signal God’s goodness and restorative power. The landscape will mirror the renewing work God will do with the covenant people.
Weariness with life stalks many in our time, and rather than turning to the source of renewal, we often simply numb ourselves with “food that does not satisfy” or distracting entertainment. God’s invitation is nothing less than a beckoning to receive what God alone can provide: grace. Grace receives us as we are and renews the human spirit. Grace reminds us of who we are created to be and supplies the enervating work of the Spirit.
I have just enjoyed the extravagance of two weeks away in the mountains of northern New Mexico. The Idlewild Community, near Eagle Nest, provides a “preacher cabin” for visiting ministers. If you preach at the worship service, you have the privilege of staying in this rustic setting for the better part of a week. Since I preached two Sundays, I got to stay a bit longer. I am grateful that Central’s board and seminary colleagues encourage this investment of time, and I trust my soul will live with a greater sense of abundance.
The first word of the Rule of St. Benedict is “listen,” and this is what I have attempted to do in this time. I have listened to rushing streams flowing over creek stones; I have listened to wind ruffling wild flowers; I have listened to mule deer stirring in the brush; I have listened to rain on a tin roof; I have listened to Scripture; and, I have listened to the sound of a “fine silence,” as Elijah testified. God has spoken through these media, and it has been good.
Soon the rhythms of summer will be behind us, and the regularity of academic and ecclesial schedules will order our days and weeks. The memory of this time of renewal will linger, I trust, and remind me to return to the source of provision. God’s invitation is ever present, and abundant grace is offered.
Molly T. Marshall
Central prepares women and men for seeking God, shaping church, and serving humanity.