Israel is engaging in spiritual practices, but God isn’t responding and Israel wants to know the reason why. We live in an age when spirituality has been privatised and turned into a marketable commodity; where fasting is about slimming and ‘wellness’; where subscription-based meditation apps are best-sellers; where spiritual practitioners push products on goop; where people spend thousands on spiritual retreats; yet anxiety, depression, addiction and autoimmune diseases run rampant. To those wondering, ‘Why isn’t God listening? Why aren’t we being healed?’, God’s answer through the prophet Isaiah is scorching–and there’s not a scented candle in sight.
1. PREPARE: Make yourself comfortable. Uncross your legs; relax your body; uncomplicate your heart. Ask God to help you surrender to whatever it is that God wants to do in you or say to or through you. Breathe slowly and deeply in, then out.
2. READ: Read the following passage aloud at least three times through, slowly. Listen carefully. Notice anything which captures your attention.
- 3″Why do we fast, but you do not see?
Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?”…
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 faithfulness 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. (Isaiah 58:3a, 6-12).
3. REFLECT: Allow the passage, a phrase or a single word or image speak to you. What catches your attention? What emotions are you feeling? What questions are bubbling up? Reflect in silence.
4. RELATE: According to Isaiah, what spiritual practices lead to healing? How do you hide yourself from your own kin (v 7)? How does the text support, challenge or contradict your expectations or experiences of healing? What response does this text call out?
5. RESPOND: Arising out of your reflection, pray. Tell God about anything which has emerged. If you feel called to action, ask God to show you/us the next step.
6. REST: Rest now in the Word, who loves you. As you leave this space, if any word, phrase or image persists, carry it with you and let it guide you. Or, if nothing in particular arises, remember this:
- If … then your healing shall spring up quickly.
Justice for all, care for the vulnerable, food and shelter for neighbour and kin: these things will heal you, lift your depression, light up your darkness, and make you strong. Yet creating a just society is not something you can do on your own. So part of the invitation of this text is to find others who are working for justice, and to throw your weight in with them. For as many have discovered, it’s not so much achieving justice as working with others towards it that brings a sense of healing and wholeness.
So, who do you work alongside already? Or, what do you feel called to work towards now, and who will you invite to work with you? And if you’re struggling to imagine the possibilities, for one person’s response involving hospitality, a development agency, a broken finger and guinea pigs, go here!
Emailed to Sanctuary 9 June 2021 © Sanctuary, 2021. Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash from his series Faces of the Homeless.
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