Is this the fast I choose?

Scripture: Isaiah 58: 1-9
February 20, 2015

You shouldn’t fast as you are doing today if you want to make your voice heard on high.  Isaiah 58:4b

There are a rising number of people in our country who claim to be spiritual but not religious.  I’m not about to make a sweeping generalization about why people are leaving organized religion but when I read this passage of scripture from the prophet Isaiah, it screams religious but not spiritual to me. 

And I think it is safe to assume that part of the exodus from organized religion stems in part from experiencing faith communities that are religious but not spiritual:  Meaning that they seem to be going through the motions of having a deep relationship with God and with neighbor but it appears that their connection with God and with one another is only surface level. 

The prophet speaks for God and points out quite honestly how the religious people are hallow spiritually and that has caused brokenness in their community.  There is a sense of masquerading going on, where the religious ones are in effect oppressing the marginalized and vulnerable members of society.

There is this constant plea throughout the scripture for those in power to take upon the holy task of looking out for the marginalized and vulnerable members of society.  This call is grounded in the reality that God rescued the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt and brought them to freedom.  We see then repeated throughout the Old Testament a falling apart of sorts that happen when this isn’t a priority.  The fragile system built upon God’s steadfast love and compassion for all people begins to crack when those who are in charge lose touch with God and seek power and prestige for themselves.

One day of “self-affliction, of bending one’s head like a reed and of lying down in mourning clothing and ashes” isn’t the prescription for turning back to God,  frankly because it isn’t enough. 

Isaiah lists the offenses, oppression of workers, violent actions and quarreling. 

One day of turning to God isn’t going to be enough, instead God asks for the people to embrace a life style of fasting:  One where you untie the ropes of oppression, where you share your bread with the hungry, where you bring the homeless into your home, and clothe the naked. 

Prayer:  God change me from the inside out.  Help me to empty myself so that I can be filled with your spirit so that my words and actions bring about healing and restoration in my community.  Amen.


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