Isaiah 58:1-12 (NRSV)
58Shout 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. 2Yet 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.
3"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. 4Look, 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. 5Is 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? 6Is 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? 7Is 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?
8Then 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. 9Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, 10if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. 11The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. 12Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.
So far, a Christian life of prayer and worship has not solved all of my problems. How has it gone for you? The prophet Isaiah addresses just such a frustration. The people proclaim their love of God; they worship and fast, and yet they do not find what they’re looking for. Isaiah tells them that this is because their spiritual well-being is not a private matter between them and God. Prayer and worship are only half of the equation.
We will never find healing so long as our neighbors are wounded. We will never be free while others are shackled. Our healing is bound up together with that of others.
But when we commit ourselves to joining God’s healing of others, and when our prayer and our work for justice live hand in hand, “[our] light shall break forth like the dawn, and [our] healing shall spring up quickly.” This is good news indeed!
God of mercy and justice, uncover the barriers that keep me from participating fully in your mission of healing. Open me to receive your goodness from the hands of my neighbors, and to share your goodness in turn. Lead me in the way of Jesus. Amen.