- Date: December 12, 2021
- Bible Reading: Isaiah 55:1-13
- Free Resource: Satisfaction Guaranteed (Youth, NL)
- Advent Theme (November 28—December 19): God’s Presence Brings Life
- The Point: God offers us a gracious, loving relationship.
Often, when we think of food in the Bible, we think of feeding those facing food insecurity. However, this Scripture reminds us that a shared meal can lead to more than nourishment, it can lead to a faithful relationship.
A Meal after Church
At first, Isaiah 55:1-13 sounds like God (speaking through the prophet Isaiah) is talking about food. It sounds like it’s about making sure people have enough to eat and buying food without money. This is a fine first reading. However, if we keep reading, we see that God is talking about more than just food, just like my church got together for more than just eating.
One of my favorite traditions in the church I grew up in was the potluck meal after worship. My mom or dad would get up early on Sunday and cook a main course, several side dishes, and a dessert. My parents were raised to prepare enough for their family and the pastor. They did this not so that the pastor did not have to cook, but so that someone who arrived not knowing there was a meal wouldn’t feel left out or feel guilty.
More Than a Meal
My childhood church looked for any reason to have a meal. Whether we had a homecoming service, a Christmas pageant, or a Valentine’s Day supper, we liked to eat a lot. But more importantly, we liked to be together, and we didn’t want people to feel left out or as if they couldn’t join in the fellowship and community because they didn’t bring anything.
Sometimes, Scripture reminds us that our role as followers of Christ is to aid those in need of basic necessities. Jesus indicates that this is an expectation of his followers in Matthew 25. Other times, Scripture is reminding us that there is more than food at play in gathering for a meal.
Gathering for a meal is about more than just getting enough to eat. It is about fellowship and relationships. As the Scripture suggests, coming to the table is not about what you can pay or what you can offer, but about finding a life-giving relationship with God and community.
Nourishment Beyond the Meal
As we look beyond food, this Scripture is a reminder that we often spend our money (and time) on things that do not satisfy (vv. 2-3), and things that do not bring glory to God. It is also an expansion of God’s promise (vv. 4-7) through a reminder that David and his descendants are a witness to the works of God. This section of Scripture also calls on God’s followers to proclaim God’s love to those who may not know God.
This text from Isaiah reminds us that God’s ways are greater than we can understand and that God will restore relationships, right wrongs, and offer new life to all of creation. This Scripture is also a reminder that God is not just concerned with human life, but with all of creation (vv. 12 -13). As relationships are restored and renewed, creation will flourish and even celebrate this new life.
Gathering Together for Food and Fellowship
The relationships we nurture over these meals, the new friendships we create when we share a meal with someone, and the good that comes from these relationships offer us a hope in the simple things of life. As we teach and preach this Scripture in our community, I want to challenge us to move beyond food drives and think about the relationships that can help glorify God.
Planning a Dream Meal
There is a game people often play at parties or for icebreakers in meetings. Each person is asked, if you could have dinner with anyone alive or dead, who would it be and what would you serve. Answers range from Jesus or Mother Theresa to Elvis or even Kermit the Frog.
During worship or educational time, have people play this game, but with a twist. Ask people to share who they would invite to dinner that could help them grow in their faith. You might also encourage them to move beyond biblical or historic figures and think about the people in their lives.
The Holy Meal
In many Christian traditions, we believe God works through a sacred meal. Whether we call it Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper, Mass, or the Eucharist, this meal is an acknowledgment of God’s work of renewal, restoration, and hope for all creation. If your tradition allows, celebrate this meal together. As part of it, encourage people to respond to the meal by sharing how God is working through them to fulfill the message of Isaiah 55.
Acting for Creation
This Scripture ends with a reminder that God’s actions are not just for God’s people but for all of humanity and all of creation. Have those gathered work together to name ways that those present (or the whole group) can work to offer hope to creation. These may be through lifestyle changes, spending time in nature, or social action.
Then encourage them to publicly encourage others to do so in their lives by both word and action. This may require practicing conversation, researching resources, or finding accountability partners.
A Season of Meals
This Scripture comes to us in December. This season of Advent is often a busy one for so many people. We spend December gathering to eat, drink, and celebrate the joy and beauty of the season. However, the Scripture reminds us that these meals and gatherings, while likely full of amazing food may hold something more. Whether these are church-related gatherings, office holiday parties, or a gathering of a diverse group of friends, they hold the potential for relationships and deeper connections. May this season offer you the chance to share the love of God wherever you find yourself.
Jonathan LeMaster-Smith lives with his wife, Shannon, in Hildebran, North Carolina (District 12 of The Hunger Games movies). He holds a Ph.D. in Christian Education and Congregational Studies from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary with a focus on Rural Ministry and Methodist Studies. His work includes presentations on Dolly Parton, articles on ditch lilies, and musings about the genius of mayonnaise.
During the main Narrative Lectionary year (this year: Sept 12 to June 5), we provide a free resource download from one of our products to help you in your faith formation ministry. This week, download a free activity “Satisfaction Guaranteed” from our youth curriculum Living the Word: Youth (NL) designed to be used in middle or high school faith formation!