Sit quietly for a couple of minutes and ask God to be with you in this time of prayer and meditation as you seek to encounter him genuinely. Use the words of Samuel as a breath prayer as you breathe in and out, quietly repeat, “Speak Lord, for your servant your name is listening (1 Samuel 3:10).
Scripture: Today’s reading is from the Prophet Isaiah 58 (Common English Bible)
Shout loudly; don’t hold back;
raise your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their crime,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
2 They seek me day after day,
desiring knowledge of my ways
like a nation that acted righteously,
that didn’t abandon their God.
They ask me for righteous judgments,
wanting to be close to God.
3 “Why do we fast and you don’t see;
why afflict ourselves and you don’t notice?”
Yet on your fast day you do whatever you want,
and oppress all your workers.
4 You quarrel and brawl, and then you fast;
you hit each other violently with your fists.
You shouldn’t fast as you are doing today
if you want to make your voice heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I choose,
a day of self-affliction,
of bending one’s head like a reed
and of lying down in mourning clothing and ashes?
Is this what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
6 Isn’t this the fast I choose:
releasing wicked restraints, untying the ropes of a yoke,
setting free the mistreated,
and breaking every yoke?
7 Isn’t it sharing your bread with the hungry
and bringing the homeless poor into your house,
covering the naked when you see them,
and not hiding from your own family?
8 Then your light will break out like the dawn,
and you will be healed quickly.
Your own righteousness will walk before you,
and the Lord’s glory will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and God will say, “I’m here.”
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the finger-pointing, the wicked speech;
10 if you open your heart to the hungry,
and provide abundantly for those who are afflicted,
your light will shine in the darkness,
and your gloom will be like the noon.
11 The Lord will guide you continually
and provide for you, even in parched places.
He will rescue your bones.
You will be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water that won’t run dry.
12 They will rebuild ancient ruins on your account;
the foundations of generations past you will restore.
You will be called Mender of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Livable Streets.
13 If you stop trampling the Sabbath,
stop doing whatever you want on my holy day,
and consider the Sabbath a delight,
sacred to the Lord, honored,
and honor it instead of doing things your way,
seeking what you want and doing business as usual,
14 then you will take delight in the Lord.
I will let you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will sustain you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob.
The mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Comments: The people of Israel are returning to Jerusalem after 50 years in Babylonian exile. As they settle into to their lives, the prophet Isaiah speaks to the people about God’s promises for renewal and new beginnings. Their renewal is conditional and based upon faithful worship expressed through actions that create a society freed from the scourges of injustice, inhumanity, and inequality. Isaiah’s strong prophetic pronouncement to the returning exiles also calls out to us reminding us that vital worship and love of God is inextricably bound to love of neighbor; particularly the most vulnerable among us.
Questions for Reflection:
Prayer Focus: For a deepening awareness, compassion for, and courage to act on behalf of those that are cast out and cut off and who face injustice, inhumanity, and inequality.
Concluding Prayer (Repeat 3 times): Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son: and to the Holy Ghost; As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.