How many of you kids out there are looking forward to sliding down that huge slide this afternoon at the church picnic? Over the years it has become very clear that that giant slide which we have set up for our church picnics for quite a few years has made our church picnics something that a lot of our kids don’t want to miss – and that may be the case even for some of you who wouldn’t normally be categorized as kids… But there are other things, too, aren’t there, that make church picnics a “can’t miss” opportunity – often summarized with those words food, fellowship and fun: the food that comes from a variety of people and gives a great variety of choices; and the fellowship of just spending some time with people you know or would like to get to know, especially if you are new to us; and the just plain fun of not having to worry about anything really super important for a couple of hours, because all that can wait for a little bit.
Now I know that not everyone just loves church picnics the same way as others do, but I hope that many of you are able to join us later today for our annual event. Most importantly, though, I hope that every single person here today will love — and will keep wanting to come to — the church picnic that God is talking about this morning in these words from the prophet Isaiah, because to God’s way of looking at things, this truly without any question whatsoever is A Church Picnic You Don’t Want to Miss!
The spiritual church picnic we are talking about today comes from God’s words right in the middle of our lesson right in the middle of verse 2: “Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.”
Now, if you take a quick look at those first two verses of our lesson right before the words I just read, what does there need to be for you to have any desire to make God’s church picnic a church picnic you don’t want to miss? In other words, what do you have to realize about yourself? You have to realize how hungry and thirsty you are – and that you have no money to buy anything that can take away your hunger and your thirst: “Come,” the prophet Isaiah says, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!”
For our church picnic we hope you will be able to throw in some money for a freewill offering to help with the expenses, but what is there about God’s church picnic that doesn’t allow us to even try to help with the expenses? We have no ability to do so. We are dirt poor. The ability to have a fellowship meal with God forever in heaven is totally beyond our wildest dreams to be able to enjoy, because there is no way God should associate with us. It is hard for us at times to accept this – and often we don’t want to think about it – but there is nothing about me, and there is nothing in me, and there is nothing that has ever been done by me that should lead God to do anything but say, “Sorry, but my picnic is not for you. You are too sinful, and you have sinned too much. No one like you can possibly expect to eat the richest of fare of my love.”
But that’s the thing. When we realize how hungry and thirsty and poor we are because of our sins, then we can truly understand the Bible’s main message of what God has done for spiritually hungry, thirsty and poor people. He has made what he calls in verse 3 an“everlasting covenant” with us based on the “faithful love” which he “promised to David.” We are so hungry and poor, but God is so generous and faithful.
This everlasting covenant or promise of our generous and faithful God is what could lead the apostle Paul to tell us in our Second Lesson this morning that nothing in the world – not even when it is time for us to die and not even if all the devil’s demons should be all around us while we are alive – that “nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”It is Christ Jesus our Lord who was the one promised to King David of old, whom God said would rule on his throne forever. That’s everlasting. And the everlasting covenant and promise of God is that you and I will never have to pay a single thing to attend God’s church picnic, that you and I will never have to pay a thing to have the holy God throw away any memory of our sins, that you and I will never have to pay a thing to be called a child of God – all because Christ Jesus our Lord paid everything to make that so – the payment price we often call his holy, precious blood and his innocent suffering and death. Jesus allowed himself to be banished from God’s church picnic while he paid that price so that you and I would always be welcome and never have to be afraid that there ever could be a time when that would ever change.
Yet the devil doesn’t give up, does he? He doesn’t give up in my life; he doesn’t give up in yours. He tries to get other people – and he tries to get us – to keep spending our time and energy and money on things that can’t really help us at all. In verse 2 he says, “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?” It is easy to see how that can happen to any of us. For example, in our Gospel for the day we once again hailed the power of Jesus’ name as he fed the 5000 with just a few fish and loaves of bread. Do you remember what happened right after that? Jesus did this miracle as another way of showing that he was the one promised to David as the almighty King and Savior of the world, but the Bible tells us that right after he did this, he had to leave that area because so many of the people he had just fed wanted to make him their earthly king. After all, that would be a pretty good deal, wouldn’t it? Have a king who could give you food or money or a car or a new house whenever you needed it – right out of nowhere!? It is easy for us, too, when stock markets are up, like they are now, or when stock markets are down as they often are at other times, to fret when they are down about how we will make it and to fret when they are up, because we are afraid for when they will go down. It’s just a vicious cycle that can’t stop – and won’t stop – because while earthly blessings truly are blessings from God, they truly can’t satisfy.
But Jesus can – and Jesus does. And he has satisfied you. He is the one to whom you confess your sins. He is the one to whom you go when you are scared or when you are crying or when you are sad. He is the one to whom you pray when you are confused or have a request. He is the one to whose Word you listen when you have a question about the purpose of life now or what’s going to happen after you die later. He is the one to whose glory you live because you want to say “Thank You” for giving you at no cost to you what cost everything to him. And … he is the one to whom you and I want to bring other people. In these words God says that that is going to happen. Look yet at verse 4 at what God said at that time about the coming Savior, who has now come: “See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander of the peoples. Surely you summon nations you know not, and nations that do not know you will hasten to you.”
In your mailboxes today is a much longer than normal edition of Synod President Schroeder’s Together Newsletter, since it gives a summary of the main events of our synod convention, which was held the first few days of August. What an amazing experience. What I think most would agree made it most amazing were the presentations not only by our WELS missionaries from Russia and Africa and the huge East Asian country, but also from native pastors from Ethiopia and Hong Kong and Germany and that huge East Asian Country – men of different colors and shades of skin, some who could speak amazingly clear English and others who very understandably stumbled with their words – but all of whom spoke in such heartfelt and simple ways about such profound and eternal things that hardly anyone could keep from weeping or at least from tearing up. “What a joy it is to know,” they all said, “that Jesus the Son of God died on the cross to forgive my sins and has told me that I will live with him in heaven. I want to teach the true Word of God about Jesus and all its other teachings to my family and to those in my country so that they can be rescued from the spiritual darkness in which I too once lived when I worshiped other gods or the things of this world.” Jesus Christ has been – and is – a witness to the peoples, in his love and power summoning nations we didn’t know could be possible to summon, leading people to hasten to us to want to join us in sharing God’s Word and the invitation to come and buy and eat things of God – without money and without cost – because of Jesus.
These people right close by here, too, are people we can look at in the exact same way, just as they can look at us. We have all been summoned by God in the same seemingly impossible way, simply because he loves us, to be part of his family by giving us the faith to believe in his Son. You may or may not join us later today, but make sure not to miss the church picnic which God once again invites you to this morning. All the expenses are paid in full, the food cannot possibly taste any better, … and if you like huge slides, you can slide all day!