Third Sunday in Lent, Year C

Isaiah 55:1-9
Psalm 63:1-8
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Luke 13:1-9


Every one of us must do some work each day to be Sustained.

At our most basic level, we must take in some food and some water...our physical bodies must be Sustained.

We must also find ways to be in relationship with others...our social and emotional selves must be Sustained.

We must also find ways to be in relationship with God...our spiritual selves must be Sustained.

Of course, these three categories are arbitrary categories...none of them can be so easily separated from one another. They often work together...physical Sustenance often occurs for us while in the presence of others giving us social Sustenance. Many of us stop to pray and find some spiritual Sustenance before we eat and gain physical Sustenance. Many of us pay attention and show gratitude to where all of the food comes from that we take in, and that can lead us to physical, social, and spiritual Sustenance taking place all at once.

In the scriptures this week we see some different examples of the importance of different types of Sustaining resources and avenues.

The prophet Isaiah almost teases the listener - come and eat good food and drink good wine without price! Among the exiles, such a promise must have seemed enticing and rich, indeed. But the prophet is not really speaking of physical sustenance. Instead, the prophet is inviting the listeners to Lean more deeply into their covenant with the Lord. He's suggesting that they call upon the Lord while the Lord is still near - which sort of implies the Lord might not stay that close at hand. The Lord will abundantly pardon. We don't often think of the act of pardon as something that happens with abundance - at least it is not common to refer to non-tangibles "in abundance." But here the prophet is promising abundance if we'll only pay attention to the relationship.

The psalmist is giving thanks again with a metaphor of food and drink and physical sustenance. A soul satisfied with a rich feast must be near to overflowing, we think. And what overflows from a soul that is abundantly nourished? We deeply suspect that like a spring gurgling with good clean water, our souls might just provide sustenance for those around us in these times of plenty.

In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul offers some warnings about hunger and thirst. Hunger and thirst can beget hunger and thirst and take on a life of their own! Paul warns of idolatry, of forgetting the reason for being sustained and seeking instead the sustenance itself. Do we sometimes become greedy? Ask for more than our share out of a ravenous, unfulfillable place? Paul reminds us that God is faithful - that we will only have to endure that which we are able. Similarly, like the Israelites in the wilderness, we needn't gather manna to spare. It will be there when we need to be sustained. It kind of reminds us of Thanksgiving. Why is it we rush to gorge ourselves on pumpkin pie on this day? Isn't pumpkin on the store shelves 365 days a year?

Finally, in the gospel of Luke, we read some puzzling teachings of Jesus. He seems to be questioning their basis for judging others harshly and encouraging their consideration of their own misdeeds and trespasses. But he ends with a puzzling parable about a fig tree that has not borne fruit. When the vineyard owner asks his gardener to cut down the fruitless tree, the gardener asks for one more year during which he will feed it and tend to its roots very carefully. This tree might just need a little TLC to bear fruit. And the master agrees to that second chance, but only on the condition that it be fruitful or be cut down in the next year. Hmm. That puts a little pressure on sustenance, doesn't it?

It would seem that there is something important about the care and feeding of ourselves so that we are able to care and feed for the kingdom.But it is hard to find the right balance - enough to be fruitful without becoming idolatrous.

Help us recognize
true hunger
and find
appropriate ways
to care and feed
our souls
so that we might
care and feed
those around us
and bear fruit.

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