Readings for week of Sunday, Aug. 12, 2007 (Proper 14)
What this opening chapter of Isaiah rails against is religious hypocrisy. The believers of Judah were bringing lots of sacrifices, but they were hollow, and meant only to keep up appearances. There was no real commitment to be transformed by the old covenant, and no real commitment to extend the righteousness of that covenant into their own lives, much less into their society.
To what extent might we be guilty of the same? Is the extent of our faith commitment to show up on Sunday and drop a few dollars into the offering plate, or is there a real shared commitment within our local fellowships to “Seek justice, encourage the oppressed, defend the cause of the fatherless, and plead the case of the widow” (Isa. 1:17).
Here are some questions to make these imperatives come alive for us:
Seek justice: Come to church on Sunday not to fulfill a religious obligation, but rather to create an opportunity for the justice of God to permeate our own priorites and commitments.
Encourage the oppressed: As a fellowship, commit to encouraging at least one oppressed group of believers somewhere else in the world. Chuck Colson, in a recent Breakpoint article, notes what Russian author and survivor of years in the Soviet gulag, has to say on oppression under totalitarian regimes (quoting from the Washington Post):
“The truth is that in totalitarian regimes, there are no human rights. Period. The media do not criticize the government. Parliaments do not check executive power. Courts do not uphold due process. And human rights groups don’t file reports . . . life under totalitarianism is slavery with no possibility of escape.”
Does our fellowship have contact with anyone this situation already, or who is at risk for this kind of oppression? Write to them. Pray for them. Visit them.
Defend the cause of the fatherless: Find out about the orphans in our community. Gather together a small group of adults from your church that can each commit to weekly to meet with an orphan to provide some love and mentoring.
Plead the case of the widow: Talk to a widow in our fellowship. Ask them what challenges they are facing and then find one specific way to help them practically.
There is something in this for us as well: “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land.” (Isa 1:19).