Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God.
“Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers. Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.
Isaiah 58:1-9a; lectionary text for Sunday, February 9, 2020
A voice like a trumpet wails shrill and harsh. I read God’s anger at the powerful for their abuses.
Yet in the LORD’s “as if” I imagine not some rapacious ruler but a greedy child who cannot understand why his demands are not met: I said please; I asked nicely. A child trying to play the game without having read the rules through; mistaking both the object and the process. A child stubborn in his mistake, insistent on his own way, loudly protesting and beating his pudgy fists against the door. A child hauled from an expectation that all would be well into a world where it is not. Where the cry is unheard; the door is left shut.
Why? Why? Why?
I show up on Sunday. I give of my gifts. I’m courteous to the grocery clerk, let the car merge in front of me, throw my litter into the proper bin, volunteer at my children’s school.
The trumpet-voice is tempered. Flailing fists are caught and firmly held, hard questions asked.
For whom are your good manners truly given? Are your gracious courtesy, your public tidiness, your carefully-calendared exertions owed only to yourself? Do you give because of who you are – or because of who I Am? Do you worship your own humility – or My glory?
The trumpet rings clear again. This is the end of it all; this is the way to that end: love God and love your neighbor – love God by loving your neighbor – love your neighbor because you love God. With your bread and your clothing and your home. With your heart. With yourself.
Now the trumpet sings infinitely gentle. It is all one: end and beginning and way. Love.
I love you. My light shall dawn upon you; my glory will be given you; I will always be with you.
Stop pounding on the door as if it is locked. Turn the handle. See? It opens. Won’t you come in?
Here I am. Here I am.
*originally written Feb 2011