Friday, 11 March 2016

Lent 3

Isaiah 55.1-9, Psalm 63.1-8, 1st Corinthians 10.1-13, Luke 13.1-9

Today’s reading from Isaiah contains a couple of contrasting thoughts to ponder in Lent. One sounds quite familiar: ‘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.’

The other seems a little out of place: ‘Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.’ It’s part of a prophecy about the way in which people work like mad but remain unsatisfied by what they have to live on. The suggestion is that a satisfying, enjoyable diet is far less effort than we might think. I can’t imagine that the prophet was talking only about good cooking, but I’m sure he meant to include it.

So what’s the connection between the good life that the prophecy offers, and the forsaking of wicked ways that leads to it? Simply that it’s all to easy to set our sights too low: God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours, and our thoughts and ways can easily obscure them.

St. Paul, characteristically, comes up with a list of sins to forswear or avoid. If he’s not the patron saint of Victorian morality, he should be. He’s easy to criticise, and we should criticise him, but here, as so often, there’s something  vital we mustn’t miss: a common theme, perhaps, in the sins that Paul mentions: a persistent refusal to relate honestly to God and to other people, and to accept the sheer given-ness of life.

Isaiah 55 begins with a celebration of the gift: ‘You that have no money, come, buy and eat! As a Lenten discipline, we might practice noticing and accepting life’s gifts.

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