March 2, 2010

March 2: Within our grasp but beyond our grip


By Paul Keim, professor of Bible and religion
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 55: 1-9 (NRSV)
Scroll down for complete Scripture.

Ho, ho, ho. It’s a wonderful life! What we most need for nourishment and delight is free of charge. There’s a banquet set before us and we’re invited to the table. Smacznego!

Yet the cult of cornucopia has convinced us that our happiness and the health of the economy depend on what we feverishly buy and voraciously consume. So we charge around buying bread that is not bread, and selling labor without love. Bloated and hollow we are desperate for things that numb instead of nourish.

The wine and milk that quench our deepest thirst may indeed be free, but are not without cost. The rich food that truly satisfies is priceless, but not beyond all medium of exchange. If we want to live, we must listen. Carefully listen. Ears attuned, eyes peeled, tongue-nose-and-fingers tingly with attentiveness. The LORD can be found. But we must look in order to see. We must see in order to find. The LORD is near and may be called upon. Now is the time. This is the season.

At their best, conservatives admonish us to hold on to that which stills the deepest hunger and satisfies the longings of the heart. Liberals inspire us to let go of the ways and the thoughts that clutter and cling and occlude. With reckless conviction we equate our ways with God’s ways, our thoughts with God’s thoughts. The wisdom of the prophet invites us to taste and see that the thoughtful ways of God are within our grasp but beyond our grip.


SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 55: 1-9 (NRSV)
Ho, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
listen, so that you may live.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
See, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
See, you shall call nations that you do not know,
and nations that do not know you shall run to you,
because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.

Seek the Lord while he may be found,
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake their way,
and the unrighteous their thoughts;
let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
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.



Comments (24)

  1. Meditating on this verse, the conclusions may seem obvious, “Hunger, thirst, yadda, yadda, i get it…”. But it si because these concepts are so basic and primal that they are so powerful, and primal. ti waas my longing (hungering, thirsting) for “something more” in life that brought me back to church and to God. With this verse I am reminded to not lose touch with that basic drive, the desire for union with God.

    Beth March 2, 2010 |
  2. Smacznego! Wow, Paul touched all those tender places in my soul. Words worth printing out and nailing on the door. Will at least share with those I love if not shout it from the rooftops. Thanks for such inspiration.

    judith page March 2, 2010 |
  3. Your thoughts give me pause to know better how it comes to be that you are a positive influencing factor in our AJ’s & Becca’s lives at GC.
    Thanks You.

    Mom Johnson of Arienne March 2, 2010 |
  4. Excellent thoughts. Thanks for today’s meditation.

    Jep Hostetler March 2, 2010 |
  5. Love this! Just what I needed to hear this morning. Thank you!

    Maureen Nalezny March 2, 2010 |
  6. Thanks Paul. how true these words ring.

    Randy Springer March 2, 2010 |
  7. Thank you, Paul! Your way with words and thoughts are a delight for this day in this wonderful season of the Church. Things, “that numb instead of nourish” is so well said!

    John M. Lederach March 2, 2010 |
  8. Inspiring! I remember you as a small boy and now you are a man who teaches us. I’m thankful the you are at G.C. as a teacher & Mentor for our students.

    Mary K. Mishler March 2, 2010 |
  9. How easily we forget that when we seek, we will find and be secure in God’s provision and abundance so we do not need to grab and hold onto the consumerish habbits of the world. We do not need to fear scarcity for ourselves if we but pass along God’s abundance to all.

    Cathy Wismer March 2, 2010 |
  10. And poets, at their best, get past all our distractions and help us hear. Dziekuje!

    Judy March 2, 2010 |
  11. Paul, thanks for such a richly expressed meditation, which spoke to me this morning. Thanks for your many contributions to the Church and GC over the years, not least of which is your meaningful teaching of daughter Erin and so many other students.

    Bob Bontrager March 2, 2010 |
  12. Hmmm… conservatives admonish and liberals inspire. That is something we can all afford to get beyond. Don’t mind the jabs but come on…..

    Emily Jantzi March 2, 2010 |
  13. Liberals and Conservatives? How useful is this nomenclature in the present context? Needlessly divisive. Can we focus on the message and stop the name calling?

    Jane March 2, 2010 |
  14. Yikes! I sometimes think we don’t realize that when these devotions are being published, we are speaking to people from all walks of life, varied points of view and different levels of understanding. Didn’t mean to be devisive. I understand the danger. At the same time I want to feel free to question the terminology and how it fits into the context. I simply laid out a challenge. I also understand that the tone of voice cannot be heard through email, most of the time. Obviously mine was not heard. Paul is my brother-in-law, it was meant to be tongue in cheek.

    Emily Jantzi March 2, 2010 |
  15. Taste and see that the Lord is Good. Your insight that the ways of God are within our grasp, but beyond our grip is truly insightful. May you have a blessed lent reflecting on our reaching toward the God who came amoung us. Pax in Christi, Bill

    Fr. Bill Pounds March 2, 2010 |
  16. Thank you for yyour thougts todayl. I needed to hear them. Shalom….

    Suellen Stewart March 2, 2010 |
  17. Thanks, Emily, for your clarification. Actually your tongue-in-cheek prodding was helpful. It made me think about my choice of the word “admonish” (“encourage” would also have worked). I certainly didn’t intend for it to be prejudicial, though in juxtaposition with “inspire” I can see why it might be taken that way. I hope it is nonetheless clear that I consider both admonishment and inspiration crucial to the life of a faithful church, and that both are of course deeply embedded in the biblical tradition.

    I’m also thankful for Jane’s challenge to my use of the labels “conservative” and “liberal.” My intention was not to to be divisive – though labels are inherently prejudicial, even when self-designated or descriptive. Rather, I wanted to affirm the value of what each impulse brings to the life of the church (by whatever name): The need to hold on to the things that matter and to let go of the things that don’t. If only we were better at figuring out which are which.

    Paul Keim March 2, 2010 |
  18. Schamcznego! I really enjoyed this meditation and could hear your voice all the way across the Atlantic.

    Ann Hostetler March 2, 2010 |
  19. I read this devotion this morning at work in a bit of a rush. When I got to the end, I realized that I had just read something beautiful, and that I needed to go back and savor each convicting word. I will be passing this around! Thanks!

    Sarah March 2, 2010 |
  20. Wow! THis meditation really brought these verses alive for me. Thank you.

    daphne March 2, 2010 |
  21. Thanks for this, Paul. Very artfully spoken. I’m planning to quote you in my congregation’s time of preparation for communion this Sunday. Thanks for giving us fresh words for coming to the table!

    Chad Martin March 4, 2010 |
  22. Paul: You speak Polish? Or is that just a learned phrase like “Gesundheit”? Just curious. Helene

    Helene Hoover March 5, 2010 |
  23. Tak jest, prosze Pani! Studiowalem pare lat w Polsce (dawno temu), i z tego powodu umiem nawet troche po Polsku mowic. Bardzo mi podoba jezyk Polski, ale niestety nie mam duzo okazje porozmawiac. Wiec czytam regularnie, i od czasu do czasu uzywam slowo jak “smacznego.”

    Wszystkiego Najlepszego!

    Paul Keim March 5, 2010 |
  24. I got behind on reading these devotionals, and catching up felt kind of artificial and rushed until I got to this one. Danke, Herr Keim. Gracias, Señor Keim. You always manage to make me stop and think whilst tickling my funny bone at the same time — the best way to learn, I think!

    Lisa Guedea Carreno March 9, 2010 |