Sunday, February 10, 2008

A different kind of religion. . .

Isaiah 58 (from The Message)

Shout! A full-throated shout! Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!
Tell my people what's wrong with their lives,
face my family Jacob with their sins!

They're busy, busy, busy at worship,
and love studying all about me.

To all appearances they're a nation of right-living people—
law-abiding, God-honoring.

They ask me, "What's the right thing to do?"
and love having me on their side.

But they also complain,
"Why do we fast and you don't look our way?
Why do we humble ourselves and you don't even notice?"

Well, here's why:

The bottom line on your "fast days" is profit.
You drive your employees much too hard.

You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
You fast, but you swing a mean fist.

The kind of fasting you do
won't get your prayers off the ground.

Do you think this is the kind of fast day I'm after:
a day to show off humility?
To put on a pious long face
and parade around solemnly in black?
Do you call that fasting,
a fast day that I, God, would like?

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,
cancel debts.

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."

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.


greg said...

I noticed no one commented on this post. What can one say, though? So powerful and convicting. Thanks for stepping all over my toes, Larry. I need it, often.

Larry James said...

greg, thanks for the post. It seems to me that lots of us "church folks" don't remember or, maybe better, understand the heart of the truth of our faith. It's all about people, it's all about fairness, it's all about life.

Anonymous said...

A different kind of religion, indeed! So different from the total emphasis on "personal morality" of the religious right.