Tuesday, January 08, 2013

"Maintain justice and do what is right"

Tuesday, January 8, 2013 -- The Epiphany and Following (Year One)
Harriet Bedell, Deaconess and Missionary, 1969

[Go to http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html for an online version of the Daily Office including today's scripture readings.]

Today's Readings for the Daily Office

     (Book of Common Prayer, p. 942)

Psalms 117, 118 (morning)       112, 113 (evening)
Isaiah 59:15-21
Revelation 2:8-17
John 4:46-54

The collection of prophecy in chapters 56-66 of Isaiah form a later compilation than the post- (or near post) captivity  section of chapters 40-55.  Within the 56-66 section, chapters 56-59 seem to be an integrated sub-collection, with today's passage at the end of chapter 59 composed as a conclusion to the sub-section. 

This part of Isaiah addresses problems in the post-exilic community.  The prophet calls for justice.  "Maintain justice, and do what is right," he tells them at the opening of this section.  He tells them to create a more inclusive community, embracing the foreigner and eunuch who wish to worship and participate.  He calls for a renewal of worship that is sincere, and not just for show.  Prayer should lead to compassion and concern for the less fortunate, he says.  Do not attend just to the outward show, but to the inward spirit of the heart.  Faith is not simply about believing certain things, but about compassion, heart-searching, and tolerance.  With such a renewal of heart, real spiritual revival will happen.  That is the message of Isaiah 56-58.

He closes by telling the people that the reason things aren't working out the way they should is because of the poor leadership which has failed to administer the kind of justice described above.  Instead, they have allowed corruption and violence to flourish.  Such wrongdoing is a barrier that blocks us from God's blessing.  "Therefore justice is far from us and righteousness does not reach us; ...for truth stumbles in the public square, and uprightness cannot enter."

The prophet declares that God will respond.  God will repay the injustice and will return to redeem.  The prophet closes with a renewal of the covenant that God's spirit is upon God's people and God's word shall not depart from them.  It is the introduction to the next section beginning with chapter 60, a vision of a new city -- a city of peace and righteousness.  "Arise, shine: for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you."

For many of us, these themes from the 6th century BCE sound fresh and alive.  It has seemed for some years that truth has stumbled in the public square and justice has been far from us in this nation.  Compassion, heart-searching, and tolerance have been lacking, and many have excluded the foreigner and eunuch who wish to be in our community.  Instead of righteousness, our leaders have condoned kidnapping, torture and imprisonment without process.  At times constitutional protections have been compromised.  During the past decade we relaxed economic oversight and allowed greed and irresponsibility to overwhelm the credit system -- which is actually a system of trust, a system of faith.  The Great Recession ensued, hurting the poor and middle class disproportionately.  It has been an ugly time.  We have lived far away from our deepest values and ideals. 

Some of the descriptions of Isaiah 59 describe our situation.  "We grope like the blind along a wall, ...we all growl like bears.  ...Our transgressions indeed are with us, ...conceiving lying words and uttering them from the heart." 

No wonder so many of us have yearned for change.  We pray that God will turn the hearts of our people back to our source.  Like the prophet want a renewal of compassion, heart-searching, generosity and tolerance -- a renewal of honesty, uprightness and economic justice.  This is essentially a yearning for a return to God. 

Christians proclaim that God's central character is love.  The God of love is also the God of justice, for justice is the social form of love.  Like Isaiah, we call for a renewal of justice in the land, not only for people, but also for the land itself, the natural world. 

We have been living in Isaiah 56-59; we long for the vision of the renewed community of Isaiah 60-62.


Audio podcast:  Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week.  Go to: http://www.stpaulsfay.org/id244.html

About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html

Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


At 12:41 PM, Anonymous Taylor said...

There was a great article today in New York Magazine that played with the idea of self-help. For the author, the struggle with self-help theory arises in the place where authors don't get really deep. These authors essentially stop at the idea of "there are two selves, one who needs butt kicking and one who can do the kicking."

The author of the article ultimately agrees that our brain can repair itself by telling itself to do so. Thus, positive thoughts and feelings do in turn lead to a better mind and body.

Your reflection posits the idea that our faith, more plainly Christ, is this internal prophet--the "wise man" that drives these positive desires. Christ loves us therefore we are loved, feel lonely no more. It is a wonderful idea and a great think to employ. So this reflection really drove it home for me--God is the central character. God matters for us and for the natural world. Personally, this means that all those times when I feel rejected and isolated I should, instead of wallowing in guilt, turn toward my inner “Christ Prophet” and be set free.

At 3:55 PM, Blogger Lowell said...

Thanks for the great comment, Taylor.

I don't get too far scolding myself or even encouraging myself. But Christ's encouragement and correction makes a difference to me. Appreciate your reply.


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