Friday, October 8, 2010

Blogging about a fast from words (yes, I recognize my hypocrisy)

The words “conversation” and “dialogue” are very popular these days. I find myself saying them more often than ever to communicate the way I’m engaging in relationship and welcoming another’s perspective. I like these words because of the openness they communicate. Words can be very powerful; however, I kids myself if I believe words alone are enough.

I am reminded that words are not enough when I read this passage from Isaiah. Written to a people who often used words to complain, to worship, to recite laws and to pray, the challenge set forth in these verses is nothing less than a call to move beyond speech and engage in action. Isaiah 58 says,

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 allyour 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.

When we do share “conversation” with others (and I’m talking about going beyond ‘hey, how are you?’), we discover that we all have parched places. We are all in need of healing, and according to this passage, our healing only comes when we seek justice on behalf of all who are oppressed. Let’s be honest, although we talk a good bit about wanting to move toward healing, we DO little in the scheme of things to make healing a reality. Words, it seems have become our “fast” from action.

Every day we hear stories of oppression. We hear about racial and economic discrimination, we take note of the loss of innocent life resulting from violence on our streets and in distant lands, we read about women caught in sex trafficking, and we listen to stories of how ridiculed homosexuals are killing themselves rather than endure further alienation. Yet, it seems at times that we as Christians spend more time talking about these realities, arguing bout our differences and celebrating what we have in common than ever acting on behalf of those who are naked, homeless or hungry (physically and metaphorically).

Words are not enough. We do not have time to argue over whether or not yoga is an acceptable Christian practice or which denomination gets it right, we must break the fast of inactivity and enter into a movement of anti-oppression. Only then will our parched places be satisfied, our streets be restored and the glorious light of God break forth like the dawn.

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