How can I make sense of this piece of scripture?


(All comments and insights gratefully received)

One of my favourite passages of scripture is the first reading of today’s liturgy: Isaiah 58:1-9

feeding-people“Shout for all you are worth, do not hold back, raise your voice like a trumpet. To my people proclaim their rebellious acts, to the House of Jacob, their sins.They seek for me day after day, they long to know my ways, like a nation that has acted uprightly and not forsaken the law of its God. They ask me for laws that are upright, they long to be near God:’Why have we fasted, if you do not see, why mortify ourselves if you never notice?’ Look, you seek your own pleasure on your fastdays and you exploit all your workmen;look, the only purpose of your fasting is to quarrel and squabble and strike viciously with your fist. Fasting like yours today will never make your voice heard on high.Is that the sort of fast that pleases me, a day when a person inflicts pain on himself? Hanging your head like a reed, spreading out sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call fasting, a day acceptable to Yahweh?

Is not this the sort of fast that pleases me: to break unjust fetters, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break all yokes?.Is it not sharing your food with the hungry, and sheltering the homeless poor; if you see someone lacking clothes, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own kin?.Then your light will blaze out like the dawn and your wound be quickly healed over. Saving justice will go ahead of you and Yahweh’s glory come behind you.Then you will cry for help and Yahweh will answer; you will call and he will say, ‘I am here.'”

My ministry is vocations accompaniment and university chaplaincy (as well as basement digging as previously explained!). I find myself wondering how I am actually involved in ‘breaking unjust fetters’ or ‘sharing my bread’, ‘sheltering the homeless poor’. There is a big part of me that feels pulled in this – I would love to be in a more ‘hands on’ ministry and yet I also believe that where I am missioned is where I am called to be at this point in time. So how do I make sense of it all? How best to live with the tension between the desire to somehow be MORE involved and the demands of my current ministry?

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3 Responses to “How can I make sense of this piece of scripture?”

  1. Denise Says:

    Just some thoughts…Traditionally, the time of Lent is a time for praying more, and has a tone of somberness. Giving up something for Lent as a spiritual discipline has been practiced for centuries. When many of us were children, we might remember our giving up candy for Lent. And, it seemed like a real sacrifice. As we grew up, it was often more difficult to decide what thing to give up, to make Lent a special season – to get our attention and to prepare ourselves for deeper sacrifices.
    When I reflect on this I wonder if the giving up became the focus rather than the intention of becoming more alive. In the Old Testament reading for Ash Wednesday we hear Isaiah (Chapter 58) urging people to realize that it is kindling relationship with God, aligning with the energy of mercy and compassion and joy, rather than any stipulated action that is the true goal of Lent.

    Perhaps your ministries allow people you enter into relationship with to see you as a witness to the gospel and encourage them to search and begin to look at who they are “warts” and all, allowing them at this time during Lent to reflect on what it means to die to the person we think we are, that we pretend to be, that we wish we were, the masks we present to the world. Through this death perhaps they can come to new life and enter more fully into deep relationship with God and neighbor.

  2. Emma McDonagh Says:

    I think Lynne that you nailed it in a post a few weeks ago when you discussed your approach to feeding a homeless person. There is certainly scope for giving within your current ministry to students and potential noviciates, perhaps the more physical hands on stuff right now is about recogognising and seizing the opportunities to serve in a hands on way when they come along and it sounds as though that’s already happening! Another thought is that by sharing your experiences with the wider world you are making a direct impact on others, unfortunately it’s another ministry that you are unlikely to see the impact of but that does’t mean it isn’t happening. Hands on via your keyboard, I believe that your reflections can ‘undo thongs of the yoke’ that we may have place on ourselves, helping with Gods grace to free us to serve too.

    Just a thought 🙂

    God bless,
    Emma x

  3. clarefcj Says:

    It’s a great scripture text – wouldn’t it be a sad day if it no longer challenged us?

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