I was reading a reflection earlier today and was directed to read a passage from Isaiah that speaks to the whole idea of fasting in conjunction with justice. I for some reason had not looked to this passage very often but reading it today I thought I would share it here as reminder to us all to seek to be a people who remove injustice wherever we find it.
Isaiah 58:6-14 (The Message)
6-9"This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’
A Full Life in the Emptiest of Places
9-12"If you get rid of unfair practices,
quit blaming victims,
quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.
13-14"If you watch your step on the Sabbath
and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage,
If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,
God’s holy day as a celebration,
If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’
making money, running here and there—
Then you’ll be free to enjoy God!
Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.
I’ll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob."
Yes! God says so!
Given the state of all the shopping and consuming that we do, I particularly intrigued by the last part of this passage.
I think we could use a dose of treating the Sabbath with a little more respect. I think that we could help our whole spiritual being by refusing ‘business as usual’ on our day of rest and worship. I think that for me I will focus on that little throughout Lent. In the past few years I have found that we do get busier on Sundays that we ever were. The store seems more and more to be a place where we are prepared to land on a Sunday.
But I really was intrigued by the strong justice theme in this passage. This direction toward justice is great advice to us not just in Lent but at anytime. The promise here is that we can feed the hungry, we can cloth the naked and we can rid ourselves of unfair practices. The promise from the prophet is that God will give ‘us a full life in the emptiest of places.’ I love the imagery of using the rubble of our past lives to build the foundation of our future. Just imagine! Imagine having the courage to name have we have failed in the past and using the lessons from those past failures as a foundation on which to build a sense of equity and justice for all people. If we could embrace that thinking, we would indeed be known ‘as a people who could fix anything.’
Lent is the perfect time to reflect on these issues. Tonight we had a great presentation from Dr. Norm Becker tonight that gave us all pause to think about how we might face form being unjust. In working with our First nations people’s Norm has learned about the failings of our past as settlers in this land. If we could take seriously our responsibility as this passage calls us to, we could make a big difference. We could make our ‘community livable again.’ We need to own the problems that we have invested in. This passage gives us hope that if we look honestly into our lives and our past we might find so many ways that we can better be the church. God has promised to do good with who we are and with what we have done. We can make a difference.
I look forward to more of these Wednesday Night speakers.