Call to worship and welcome
Let us seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake their ways, and the unrighteous their thoughts;
let all people return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
(Isaiah 55: 6-7)
We come together, wherever we are, to seek the Lord in word and prayer, to praise him in song and to pray for the world.
Prayers of adoration and confession
(based on Psalm 86)
Loving God, there is none like you, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours.
We bow down before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.
For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.
Teach us your way, O Lord, that we may walk in your truth;
give each one of us an undivided heart so that we may revere your name.
We give thanks and praise to you, O Lord our God and we will glorify your name forever.
For great is your steadfast love towards us all; you have delivered our souls
You, O Lord, are merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
You are gracious to us; and you give us strength to be your servants.
We have seen your love to all people revealed in Jesus Christ,
We have received the gift of your Holy Spirit to sustain us.
You have called us to be your people,
And we praise and glorify you,
Today, and always.
(Based on Psalm 51)
And we ask you to have mercy on us, O God, according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy, blot out our transgressions.
Wash us from our iniquities, and cleanse us all from all our sins.
For we know all our wrongdoings, and our guilt lays heavily on us.
Against you, we have sinned, and done evil in your sight,
But you desire that all should turn to you and live.
And by the grace of your Son, we shall be saved, wash us in his blood shed on the cross, and we shall be be whiter than snow.
Blot our all our iniquities and create in us clean hearts.
Restore us to the joy of your salvation, and sustain in us willing spirits.
Assurance of forgiveness
I will make a covenant of peace with you;
my dwelling place shall be with you,
and I will be your God.
Paul tells us:
God proves his love for us
in that while we still were sinners,
Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Hear then Christ’s word of grace to us: Your sins are forgiven.
Thanks be to God
Hymn: As the deer pants for the water
Invitation to the Thirsty
55 “Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
3 Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.
4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a ruler and commander of the peoples.
5 Surely you will summon nations you know not,
and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendor.”
Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
18 “Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Do you remember the good old days? When things were better? Maybe the good old days were when life was simpler. Maybe they were before the internet? Maybe they were the days when churches were packed each Sunday morning, and every church had a vibrant Sunday School? Or maybe they were earlier this year before Covid-19 stopped us meeting together?
Maybe they are all the good old days. And as we think bank to them, we tend to highlight all the things we liked, and skip over the other bits. Remember the 70s? Churches were bustling and houses were cheap. But there was inflation, unemployment, petrol strikes… and of course food has come along a long way since then.
But it is in our human nature to look back on the good ‘good old days’, and to long for a return to them. And that’s nothing new: People have been doing that for thousands of years. Back in the days of the prophet Isaiah, when the nation of Israel was exiled in Babylon, people were longing for the good old days of King David. And just like we do, they tended to overlook anything bad, and emphasise the good.
Isaiah 55 is one of the servant songs of Isaiah. It is the prophet Isaiah sharing the words of the servant of God, the suffering servant, who we Christians identify as Jesus, with the people – and indeed with us today.
And it begins with an invitation “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.”
The invitation is for everyone, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters. We know everyone thirsts, everyone needs water, and the servant says come to the waters. And it brings to mind the conversation recorded in John’s gospel (4:1-26) between Jesus and the Samaritan woman where Jesus spoke of the living water and said “…those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”
Or to the sermon on the mount (Matt 4:6) where Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
And what the servant offers is free – you have no money? No problem. Buy wine and milk – don’t worry: it has no price. Because someone else has already paid.
And speaking of hunger, Isaiah asks (55:2) “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
Have you heard of ‘buyer’s remorse’ - the sense of regret after an expensive purchase like a house or a car? The reality doesn’t always meet our expectations.
Or have you ever found yourself standing in front of the fridge or the pantry, trying to find something to satisfy a hunger? Or maybe not a hunger… but maybe a desire for…something nice.
You aren’t looking for anything specific, but you know you want to fill a longing. You probably know everything in that fridge… and yet you look and hope for something nice.
And it can be like that with our lives in so many ways… we want something... something better… something to satisfy ourselves.
I was at Bunnings last year – as I often am - and I was queuing at the paint counter. When I say queuing, there was me, and the couple being served. So I waited. I needed some paint tinted. I had already got the tin of base colour paint to be tinted from the shelf. I had a Post-It note with the name of the shade I needed written on it – I like to have things prepared so it’s as quick and easy as possible. But the couple in front of me weren’t quite so well prepared.
They wanted some blue paint. And they wanted a very precise shade of blue. I can’t remember the precise details, but it was something like half way between one of the shades on page 12 of the Dulux catalog and page 7 of the Taubmans catalog, and surely the man at the counter would be able to mix something to suit.
And he can. He mixed it up and spread it on a piece of paper, and got the heat gun and dried it out… how’s this?
“Oh, it’s too blue – have you got something a little less blue?”
At this point, my 4 litres of paint was getting heavy so I put it on the counter, and watched as this poor guy mixed up two , so sample pots.
The third one was not perfect, but they thought they would settle for it. After all it was to paint the inside of a footstool and they wouldn’t see it much.
“What finish would you like? Satin, semi-gloss or gloss?”
“Oh, what’s the difference?”
So he rolled his eyes and explained the difference. And they eventually settled on semi-gloss. So, he went and got a 1 litre can of semi-gloss base colour.
“Oh we don’t want that much!”
And on it went.
Probably half an hour later after they got to the paint counter, this couple walked off with more paint than they wanted, which cost more than they wanted to pay, in a finish they weren’t sure they wanted, in a shade of blue that wasn’t quite right. Why?
Why did they spend so much time choosing something that didn’t satisfy them?
The servant asks “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy?”
We find ourselves wanting…something… paint… a snack… a relationship… a home… a church… but so often we’re not satisfied. The result might be …okay... But it’s not right. It’s not perfect. It’s not all it could be.
So often, the empty spot we try to fill isn’t in our stomachs or inside our footstools, but the empty spot is in our hearts. We desire more than this world can provide. Nothing in this world will fill the void.
We may not recognise it as such, but I think everyone knows that feeling of dissatisfaction that sometimes seeps into our hearts.
But Isaiah tells us the servant says “Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.”
What satisfies us, what fills the void in our hearts, isn’t of this world. It’s from God. The servant says: “Listen carefully to me and eat what is good.” Forget about the bread and eat rich food. Don’t worry about the wealth of this world but think about the riches of the kingdom of God.
Verse 3 says “Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live.”
We need to listen to God. Go way back to Deuteronomy 8:3, which Jesus quoted when he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness “one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord”.
The servant says “listen, so that you may live.” Listening is so much more than just hearing what he says - but it’s responding to it as well. We need to take the word of God into our hearts and be changed by it. And, of course, left unsaid is what happens if we choose not to listen.
Isaiah then goes on to tell us about David – who God has made a witness, a leader and a commander. David was Israel’s greatest king, and by Isaiah’s time people were looking back on the reign of David as Israel’s golden age – the good old days. The people wanted another king, another leader like David. A return to the good old days - that’s what they longed for.
But Isaiah reminds the people that David was only a great king because God had made him that way. It wasn’t David who was responsible for Israel’s prosperity, it was God.
What’s more, the prosperity wasn’t for Israel alone: Isaiah makes it clear that the rich food that God offers isn’t only for them – verse 5 tells us “See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you.”
And this was something that Israel continued to have difficulty grasping – yes, they were God’s chosen people – but all the world’s peoples would be blessed through them – something that goes all they way back to God’s promises to Abraham in Genesis!
But it continued to be an issue for the Jewish people into New Testament times.
And it can be an issue for us too, we can think we’re special, that we’re the only ones who are entitled to God’s promises – but we need to remember that they are for all, and just like all nations would be blessed through Israel, other people will be blessed through us, as well.
Go back to the beginning of the Isaiah reading: “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.” No money, no problem. Because someone else has paid. And that someone was Jesus.
No one else can pay, and no one else can ultimately satisfy the longings of our hearts. There is a great gulf between people and God, a gulf that no human can cross… but Jesus did.
We often ponder questions about God, about why God did things in particular ways, but there are many things that we simply don’t know.
We just have no way of knowing what God is doing from moment to moment - other than by listening to his word. God says to call upon him, and he will answer.
He says to come to his word - come to the waters - and he will provide all that we need. He doesn't say anything about giving us everything that we want, because there is no end to human wanting, but He will provide all that we need for everlasting life. It may not feel like it, and it may not feel like we are doing anything big or important or valuable, but those judgments are not ours to make. Not if we are his people.
God offers us the best, for free. And that is something that is difficult for us, in our modern society to grasp: We seldom get anything for free, these days. We value things so often by how much we pay for them. And we sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that we need to work for what God has already given us, in Jesus.
And while we do things in response to what God has given us, we always need to remember that it is God who reached out to us. God who gave his only son to us. Not because of what we’d done, but because God loved us.
Isaiah calls the people to God’s word, and to faith. He tells us the ‘good old days’ were only that because God made them that way. He highlights the futility of those who pursue things of no real value - things that will perish with them and with the using up of them.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
And so Isaiah calls us to listen to God, and to trust in God. Listen, so that we may live.
Seek the Lord. Listen to his word. Trust him! Take God’s offer of the best, for free.
Trust that he knows you - and that he loves you. Jesus has proven that love on the cross. Even when things don't seem to be going right to you, and you find yourself longing for the good old days, trust in God, trust his ways are just different, higher, better.
Come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat!
Listen, that you may live.
Hymn: May the mind of Christ my saviour
Gracious and loving Lord, we thank you for this glorious day as we offer You our prayers for the people of the world.
Let all of us who are gathered together in a virtual kind of way to worship You, our families, our friends and even those on our minds who we don't know personally, welcome the presence of the holy spirit. Let You be their comforter and their guide.
Gracious Lord, we thank You for the richness of our lives, the peace we live in locally, the love of our friends and families, and the opportunity to worship You, where ever we are and however we are able, without fear.
We pray that You will continue to uphold our Minister, Richie, as he works among us to support us all and particularly those among us whose needs are a little greater than usual.
We pray for Ena and her family and friends, as they mourn the loss of John, a much loved husband and father and a loved, respected and faithful member of our congregation. Uphold them through their faith in You and help us to support them through our prayers and in day to day practical ways too.
Lord, this virus seems to have taken over the world. It has taken the lives of many people, infected many, many more and is affecting everything we do. It has hijacked the news on TV and radio and even our own conversations. It has brought out the best in most people, and the worst in some.
Lord we pray that we will clearly see You at work in every aspect of how the world addresses these challenges. We know You are there, but please help us recognise Your work, to help us feel confident that we will be safely through the challenges before too long.
We ask that You support and strengthen the health workers who are doing their best in very challenging times. Through Your love arm them with Your strength against unfair criticism. Keep them healthy and strong and committed to their work.
We pray that You will support and guide our leaders as they make important decisions. Help them focus on the human side of the challenges. As they decide what strategies to implement, keep their own loved ones uppermost in their minds as examples of how they would like people to be treated. Don’t let their focus be distracted towards political sideshows and media pressures.
Gracious Lord, help us to keep our focus, too, on doing the right thing, keeping to the guidelines, even when we think “oh, it’ll be alright to give Aunty Alice a hug, I don’t see her very often”. Help us Lord, to remember that it is our social responsibility to help break the chain of transmission by minimising our excursions into society and keeping our physical distance from people.
We give thanks that we live in an age when technology can help us stay in touch with our family and friends, and while this is not the same as actually being with them, these are not normal times.
Help us maintain our sense of humour Lord and our mental balance. There are so many wonderful things still happening in the world; the virus is even a catalyst for some of them, and so our trust in human nature, through Your love for each of us and for our whole world, can stay strong.
We pray for those who suffer; the sick; the poor; the depressed; the lonely; the unloved; the persecuted; those who grieve; and those who care for other people.
Comfort and heal, merciful Father, all who are in sorrow, need, sickness or any other trouble.
Give them a firm trust in Your goodness; help those who minister to them;
We commend to Your keeping, Father, ourselves and each other, our families, our neighbours and our friends. Enable us by Your Spirit to live in love for one another and for you.
Into your loving hands, gracious God, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in Your abundant mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Hymn: In Christ alone
Gracious God, we realise we have nothing that does not come from you. You have been generous to us beyond measure and have given us the best for free.
Guide us in the wise and faithful use of all the gifts that you have given us, so that we may serve you, and serve people everywhere, and witness to your love and grace in whatever ways we can.
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.
To the Father who created you, the Son who redeems you, and the Spirit who sustains you, be worship, honour, glory and blessing, now and always.
Looking Out: The kingdom of heaven
Next week (August 9, Communion Sunday)
Ps 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b or Psalm 85:8-13
Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28 - or 1Kings 19:9-18
For worship: 1 Kings 19:9-18, Matthew 14:22-33
Theme: “Strengthened by God”