Sunday, August 21, 2016

Pentecost 14C

Isaiah 58:9b-14

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.

13If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs; 14then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth;...
Earlier in Isaiah: Isaiah 58:1-9

notes and discussion

Since earth's population moved from Abram/Sarai // Abraham /Sarah to 123946678412398++ people, we've had to learn to live together, to create wellness and shalom for everyone; to help in that regard, God models covenant for us! Today we have:

• More on how to walk the talk
• More neighborology, "the word about the neighbor"
• Plans and commands for supplying very material needs

The book of Isaiah is 66 chapters long; Barbara reminded us the entire bible is 66 books long!

• 1st Isaiah, mostly writings from Isaiah of Jerusalem, prior to Babylon exile: 1-39
• 2nd Isaiah, during exile in Babylon, 40-55. Includes "Comfort ye.... every valley" we know from Handel's Messiah and other exquisitely memorably poetic passages.
• 3rd Isaiah, after the exile, back in town trying to rebuild lives, physical and community and religious structures, meaning.

Everyone didn't leave Jerusalem and Judah for Babylon; of those who did leave, some stayed permanently and helped continue to create good living conditions in Babylon. The first reading today is from 3rd isaiah, who wrote to the returnees during the time of reconstructing Jerusalem with hope-filled, shalom-full urban renewal. Rebuilding the temple especially concerned Haggai and Zechariah; Nehemiah focused on rebuilding city walls; Ezra's passion was restoring worship.

Last week on Pentecost 13C again we talked about Jeremiah and his emphasis on (especially distributive) justice, kindness, making sure everyone has adequate food, housing. Both Jeremiah and 3rd Isaiah remind us how the "daily bread" Jesus tells us to ask for includes food, shelter (roofs and walls), clean air, clean water, reasonable laws, good government, overall safety. A huge part of the covenantal ideal for distributive justice is no super-rich, no ultra poor. If you have more than you need, share it. Martin Luther says daily bread includes good servants and obedient kids, too. Revised versions of the Small Catechism include "friends" as necessary for daily sustenance.

In this first reading 3rd Isaiah ties together being good neighbors with keeping sabbath and worship. Isaiah 58 lines out a series of "if – then" conditions regarding human behaviors, God's response, and effectiveness of the behaviors' outcomes.

Note:The actual Sabbath never changed from Saturday, the seventh day of the week, the final day of the original old creation [Exodus 20:1-17; Genesis 2:2-3]. The early Church started a tradition of worship on Sunday the day of resurrection, first day of the week, start of the new creation. Let's assume "sabbath" as a necessary time out, a literal ceasing from producing, counting, working, but not a time of laziness and shiftlessness.

Discussion: In terms of "trampling on the sabbath," people not observing any day or time of rest, stores staying open all day long... it has seriously escalated during our lifetimes. Human doings more than human beings.

We could have endless conversations about what agency or individual or branch of government best provides which goods and services, how much can an individual do, what can a local church or larger expression of the church attempt and accomplish? Taxes we pay to government help pay for some services and goods. Isaiah 58:12"Your 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," reminds me of a county commissioner in former city that everyone referred to as "streets and roads," because of his plans, passions, and agendas to mend potholes, repair road surfaces, and simplify getting from one place to another.

3rd Isaiah addresses people who have been displaced just as during later centuries people have been exiled, driven out, or for some reason found it necessary to leave their home country for political or physical (sometimes not enough food for everyone?) reasons. However, I would not underestimate the reality and potential dysfunction of psychological and emotional displacement or exile. Southern California? Twenty-first century? Southern California in the 21st century? I mentioned the late Henri Nouwen writing during the last century and his remarks about life in California frequently feeling and actually being anonymous and rootless.

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