Thursday, May 11, 2006

Seeing social action as worship - Isaiah 58

Since I have been in ministry with homeless people through Breakthrough I have been drawn again and again to Isaiah 58, especially verses 6-12...
6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?"

8 "Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. 9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, 10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. 11 The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. 12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings."
There is so much packed in those verses, such as, putting faith into action, not pointing fingers, stopping oppressive practices and, of course, offering food and shelter.

The "then" part of the "if-then" clauses is not so much that others are blessed, but that our lives are changed when we care for the hungry, the naked, and those in need of shelter. Our light shines forth, God guides and strengthens us, satisfies our needs, we are like a well-watered garden, etc. Cool stuff!

But the chapter is not about social action. If you read the verses that proceed it, it is really about worship, seeking God, knowing God's ways, wanting God to come near. Ah-hah... social action as worship! We care for the practical physical needs of oppressed people out of our love and worship of God and wanting to be near God! WOW! It's as much an act of worship as the courses we sing on Sundays!

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