“A Recipe for Home” on Isaiah 55 by Joe Ellis — New Years Day, 2023
Our time together this morning is an opportunity to pause, reflect and ask, “Who do we want to be as people, as families, and as a church as we walk into 2023?” If I were to choose one word for us to build 2023 around it’d be this: Home. This morning I’d like to take time to wonder how, in 2023, we can cultivate Home in our relationships, and our families, and our church.
I think I’ve found a Bible passage that can help us to think about Home more deeply — it's Isaiah 55. This is one of the most beloved passages in the Bible — I wonder if one of the reasons it is so beloved is because when you read Isaiah 55, it feels like home. In fact, throughout this whole section in Isaiah, God is promising to bring His people Home. This passage is truly about Homecoming. I believe that if Home felt like what we read in Isaiah, we’d all be a bit better off.
This morning I brought in Michelle’s recipe tin to help demonstrate our time together. The tin is shaped like a Home. it's painted with a picture of some bears enjoying life at home, it's got dents all over it, the lid doesn’t fit on right, inside it has recipes that family and friends have given us over the years — this is a piece of our home. Throughout the service I’m going to pull out recipes that the Prophet Isaiah has handed onto us — these are recipes that we can use not for baking Norwegian cookies like Sandbuckles, or for grilling Salmon. These are recipes for making a Home.
Verses 1-3 in Isaiah 55 give us our first recipe for Home. Home is Hospitality and Welcome. As you listen, notice the extravagant hospitality of God coming through this passage:
Come, 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.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live.
As we sing these next two songs, I invite you to remember that the heart of God is Hospitality and Welcome. Jesus came to us in order to welcome us Home. He came to welcome us into God’s Hospitality.
Song of Praise: What a Beautiful Name
Song of Praise: Build My Life
We’ve been looking at Isaiah 55 as offering us various recipes for Home. He begins with Hospitality and Welcome. The next recipe for Home is similar — the next recipe for home is Unconditional Love. Home is knowing that we are deeply, deeply loved. May our church become this sort of Home, a Home where we know we are loved.
With that, let me read you Isaiah’s next recipe for home, Unconditional Love: (v. 3b-5)
I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for He has glorified you!
“I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.” This is referring back to God’s solemn promise to King David in 2 Samuel 7:14-15 — God made this promise to David and his sons:, “I will be a Father to him, and He will be my son… and I will not take my steadfast love from Him.”
Jesus joins us into David’s family. By that I mean that Jesus welcomes us into this deep, unending love of God. That is true Home. As God’s family, we help each other experience this sense of Home as we love one another, and remind one another of God’s love. So, if the first recipe for Home is Hospitality, the second is Unconditional Love.
One way that we can become aware of God’s love is through the practice of Thanksgiving. This helps us to take notice of God’s forever love for us. When we reflect how much we can be thankful for, we remind ourselves these are all gifts from God — signs of His faithful love. As we sing 10,000 Reasons, take a moment to think about the specific ways that God has shown His love for you this last year.
Song of Thanksgiving: 10,000 Reasons
Let’s take a moment to share with one another some of the specific people in 2022 that have reminded us of God’s love for us.
Remembering and rehearsing God’s unconditional love for us prepares us to practice the next recipe for Home. Home is a place of forgiveness. Home is a place where we can screw up, where we can admit that we’ve screwed up. At Home find forgiveness after we fail, after we fall, after we we sin. Isaiah tells us that God is always and forever abundantly forgiving. God forgives and forgives and forgives. He never gets tired of forgiving. Listen to the way Isaiah puts it (v. 6-7):
Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways, 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.
God is so quick to forgive. So may our church be a Home where we can come with all of our screwed up ways of being, a place where we can confess to each other our faults, and may it be a place where we may find forgiveness.
Let’s take a moment to practice this recipe for Home, as we pray this prayer of confession:
“Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbours as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen”
God abundantly, abundantly pardons us in Jesus Christ.
May our church be a Home where we can come with all of our faults, admit them to one another, and find forgiveness in the name of Jesus.
Songs: Mighty to Save
Only a Holy God
Home is a place of Hospitality, Unconditional Love, and Forgiveness. Home is also a place where we can go for Help. That's our next recipe for Home. Home is a place of Help. Our God assures us that He is an ever present Help in time of trouble. This whole section in Isaiah is was a word of hope to people who found themselves in trouble because of their sins — the Biblical word for it is Exile. These were a people who made bad choices and found themselves homeless. That’s why in Isaiah, God is calling the people to repent of their sins, and then He promises deliverance — it's a promise to bring His people back home. It's a promise that He will be their help. Listen to this next recipe for Home (v. 8-11):
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish what I desire and succeed in the purpose for which I sent it.
God promises that His help is as sure as falling rain watering the earth. Even if we can’t see it. Even if the life giving rain feels like a storm. Even if we can’t make the connection between a raindrop and the food that grows out of the Earth — God makes the connection. God is at work in ways we can’t see. God assures us that His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor His ways our ways. He will come to us in Help, we need to trust. Home is a place where we can come for help. May our homes be a place of help, may our church be a place of help, and may our God always be our help. Let share with each other where we see need of God’s help in time of trouble.
Song: Great Are You Lord
Now I’d like to read you Isaiah’s final recipe for Home in v. 12-13. It's God’s assurance that we will find home, and it’s God’s assurance that when we find it, it will be good.
For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the LORD for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall endure forever.
Again, this is a promise that God made to a people in Exile, a people who had found themselves to be far away from home. They were longing for home with everything in them. Here, in this final section, God is promising that He will indeed bring them Home, and the homecoming will be beautiful. That’s why God sent His Son — to bring us home.
Listen to Jesus’ words in John 14:1-4, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have not told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am there you may be also. And you know the place to where I am going.”
Certainly these words apply to when Jesus finally returns and we enjoy life with Him in the life hereafter. But these words also apply here and now. Jesus came to bring us home now, to give us the experience of Home here and now. Home — a place where we can be with God and with one another. Where we can know that we are welcome, know that we are loved, know that we are forgiven, and know we can come and find help. That is the Home we find in our Father, His Son and the Holy Spirit. That is the Home we find in the church.
These recipes for Home are so important. Their importance hit me in a deep way as I was watching John Prine’s video for his song “Summer’s End”. John Prine is a singer-songwriter who dedicated the music video to Max, the son of Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, who died in 2017 due to an overdose on drugs. The video itself show a grandfather and granddaughter coming to terms with the death of their daughter and mother. At the end of the video, there’s a flash on the TV screen reporting on the U.S. opioid crisis — a clue to the story being told through the song. Watch and listen to the story with me.
If you experienced strong emotion, as I do, while watching this — that’s your body and mind letting you know that this is really important. Your body and mind are saying “Don’t miss this. This is so important.” Home is important! As you watch and listen, you just have this sense as John Prine is singing, “Come on Home” that he is saying “Come on home, and everything will be all right.” “Come on home, and be healed.” “Come on home and be a mom again.” “Come on home and be made whole again.” Home is so important.
When I first watched this, I kept thinking, this needs to be the song of the church. This needs to be our constant call — Come on Home! Come Home! Just come on home! And perhaps our church can be the sort of Home we’ve been talking about. A Home of Welcome and Hospitality. A Home of Unconditional Love. A Home where you can find Forgiveness. A Home where you can find Help. The world desperately needs this sort of Home. And the hope is that as we become this sort of Home, we will see something of the healing that Isaiah talks about when he says, “The mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress, instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle.” May our Home be a place of healing — a healing where we the broken are made new.
Our home won’t be complete until Jesus finally returns, when he makes this house into our true home, and we find true complete healing. But He’s given us the recipe to start — we can start with offering and receiving Hospitality, Unconditional Love, Forgiveness and Help. As we do so, we will experience what it is to find our ome in our God.
It takes every one of us to be this home. Every one of us. Home is bigger than all of us. We do this together. And this is our purpose in this thing we call church. So in 2023, let’s embark together on this journey homeward, and may our God be with us every step of the way.
Songs: God of Angel Armies
May Jesus, the Bright Morning Star, light your path.
May His peace go with you, wherever he may lead you.
May he guide you through the wilderness, protect you through the storm, guide you on the long road.
May he bring you home rejoicing at the wonders he has shown you.
May he bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.
Closing Song: My Friends May You Grow in Grace.