The phenomenon is called ‘The Cocktail Party Effect.’ Have you heard of it? Your brain has the ability to identify and comprehend a single voice from a large, noisy crowd. For example, somewhere in that jumbled tangle of arms and legs is a child that belongs to you. Your eyes strain to pick out some shape, some piece of clothing that clearly identifies your child, but you see nothing. Ears only pick up random shouts and yells and shrieks and screeches. Suddenly(!) you catch one voice that stands out from the rest. Eyes instantly zero in on that delightful sight: Your child! Empty baseball stadiums are pumping in a kind of ‘fan soundtrack.’ Catch a game on television and you hear fans chatter and mumble and cheer and boo. Among the obscure mishmash of noise one tinny voice rings out: ‘Hotdogs! Cooollosal hotdogs, herrah! Work captures your attention. With single-minded concentration, you prune flowers or measure the post, text your friend or scroll through Facebook. Yet, one voice breaks your trance: ‘Hey!’ You can be surrounded by commotion and still pick a single voice out of a crowd.
So, can you hear it? That one voice? Many call for your attention; many promise relief. You grapple with deadlines and battle stress. More statewide restrictions mean that more want your opinions. How your congregation handles a pandemic can stoke fear and nervousness and uncertainty. It may feel like you live in a sea of chaotic chatter, unsure of who to follow. Yet, one voice rises above the rest. A voice crying for your attention. A voice promising real relief. God Invites You to ‘Come!’ Receive real satisfaction. Find eternal life.
So, can you hear it? The cry? The invite? You stand right in a thick sea of commotion, right in the smack-dab middle of a bustling market. Tents and tables lining both sides of the street stretch on as far as the eye can see. Behind each table paces some excited merchant calling for you. Rhythmic jingles promise only good, beckoning you to come closer. Open hands pan over products, solutions for any trouble. A cheerful face desires your trust.
Out of the hundreds clamoring for you, one voice rings loud and clear: “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.” Come! Take the glass of ice-cold water. Let it satisfy your parched, sapped body on a sticky summer day. Come! Take the glass of fine wine. Let its full, rich depth captivate your senses. Come! Take the glass of creamy whole milk. Let its nutrients fill your belly and the fat tickle your emotions. Come! Take a seat at this endless banquet. Let no thought of cost (or fear of making a bad investment) keep you away. Come! Delight in this refreshing relief!
Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? That would be absurd, right? Who would buy something labeled ‘bread,’ when it really is not bread? Who would invest time with something that does not satisfy? Better still, how can you gain relief from something incapable of providing relief? You cannot.
Perhaps by now you realize that God is not describing a real marketplace filled with real food. Rather, these vivid pictures of food and how food benefits you pictures how only one Merchant can provide the relief wanted, the relief no one else can guarantee. That one Merchant is God.
That does not stop other voices from calling out for your attention, your trust, your heart. The voice of vacation offers to stomp out stress. Hit the water. Lounge around. Forget your schedule. Leave life’s problems behind! Except a getaway does not actually make stress vanish, does it? Heading up north does not make a virus go away; you will return home to restrictions. Vacation promises relief, but cannot give permanent relief.
The voice of a friend offers a better life if you just lay Scripture aside. ‘Just stop listening to your pastor,’ they say. If you are not happy, then …get the divorce! …yell at your parents! …insult your government! Except that advice does not actually make life happier, does it? Torching relationships does not remove the stress of dealing with difficult people. Friends may offer happiness, but cannot give peace.
Maybe the voice of ‘you’ offers rest. Panic about the coronavirus. Worry about your health. Get depressed about the future of your congregation. Obviously you are fully capable to handle all of life’s problems on your own. Except you can’t, can you? You may hope to control the future, but you lack that ability. That means, you cannot give yourself rest.
So many voices call for your attention, your trust, your heart and each voice will let you down. That’s why God calls their product: ‘Un-bread,’ ‘Un-satisfaction.’ As in, you want bread (that satisfies) and think you have it, but in reality you do not. You bought something not-authentic. If you make a loaf of cardboard part of your regular diet, you will not be nourished. You will stuff yourself with junk. You will starve. You will die! If you feast on words that do not line up with God’s Word, you will die.
Among the chatter of luxury and earthly opinion and personal ego, pay attention to the ‘Cocktail Party Effect.’ Hear one voice rise above the rest. Hear God Invite You to ‘Come!’ and receive real satisfaction. Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. What is it that delights the very depths of your soul? This: I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.
Do you like reminding others of the promises you have made to them? Sometimes we hope the listener forgot what we promised so that we do not have to go through the effort of keeping our word. Yet, God points to his promise and his seriousness in keeping his Word. Seven hundreds before Christmas, God promises Jesus. When the time comes, he sends the great Son of David.
The Twelve disciples hear his voice. Thousands dot the hillside and Jesus says, They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat (Matthew 14:16). They cannot! (And yes, they checked.) They all turn out their pockets, but find little money. They search for a feast, but come up with one lunch packed for a boy. Someone even takes the time to do the math; eight months’ wages could provide only a bite (Mark 6:37). What voice do the disciples hear? The little whisper that creeps up so often: ‘How can I solve my problem?’
While the Twelve are stuck on themselves, Jesus literally takes the problem into his own hands. With a blessing and a breaking, he feeds over 5,000 mouths. Yes, one miracle demonstrates how Jesus can meet our physical needs— but it also points out something else: Jesus has the same power to meet our spiritual needs.
On that Good Friday, his parched lips taste sour wine. Even more, his whipped body tastes the sourness of separation from God. God wrings out his innocent blood all over us and throws his lifeless clay into a tomb. And as God sees us, he does not see people feasting on un-bread; he sees people covered in Jesus. The Son of David so pleased God that God raised him from death. Now he reigns on a throne over all things.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander of the peoples. That witness is Jesus. He has a firsthand knowledge of the facts. You have peace with God. Put another way, God hands Jesus final authority. He has the final word. He speaks truth.
God Invites You to ‘Come!’ Come, receive real satisfaction for all of life. Listen to the one voice who lifts off guilt and sucks away the fear of death. Listen to the one voice who makes you right with God and calls you ‘favored.’ Come, find eternal life.
Understand that correctly. ‘Eternal’ life. That ‘eternal’ does not start when you die. ‘Eternal’ starts now. As in, you will walk from this life into paradise, just like you walk from an indoor building into the outdoor parking lot. Nothing changed. Life continued. You changed location. That means, eternal life has already started. Your God, with his Word, keeps you on that eternal path that leads from earth and into heaven.
He leads with his voice. Jesus blasts through the chatter of all the voices ringing out today. No, not because the tone is louder, but because his Words actually do what they say they will do. Just consider verse 5. Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations that do not know you will hasten to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor. Those words are written 700-years before the birth of Jesus and 2,700-years before today. Those ‘nations’ are you. People stream from all corners of the world, from all corners of Clare County and gather around one voice. (Hint: That voice is not mine.) You run to feast on promises God has made and kept.
That voice gives life. Life— a meaning to live, a purpose for life. Sometimes that voice cuts the heart. Worried about your health? Do not worry (Matthew 6:25-34). Angry about leadership? Well, pray for them, including the ones that wrong you (1 Timothy 2:1). Depressed about the future of your congregation? Remember that Jesus is the Chief Shepherd, not the face in the pulpit (1 Peter 5:4). Your Jesus, with his Word, steadies unsure hearts. He provides relief by directly telling you: ‘You cannot handle all these things. You do not have that ability, but I do. Hear what I am doing. Let me worry about holding people accountable or providing a new Pastor. Live at ease. I will do what I say I will do.’
That one voice still rises above the commotion so that we can always hear it. When crisis strikes: ‘Come!’ Immediately trust that your God is with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). When the future remains unclear: ‘Come!’ Remember that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and always (Hebrews 13:8).When you have a crummy day: ‘Come’ Cast your anxiety on him (1 Peter 5:7). God Invites You to ‘Come!’ into his Word. There you find eternal life.
Many call for your attention; so many promise relief. You grapple with deadlines and battle stress. More statewide restrictions mean that more want your opinions. How your congregation handles a pandemic can stoke fear, nervousness, and uncertainty. It may feel like you live in a sea of chaotic chatter, unsure of who to follow. Yet, one voice rises above the rest. A voice crying for your attention. A voice promising real relief. God Invites You to ‘Come!’ Receive real satisfaction. Find eternal life.