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The longest prophetic book in the Hebrew scriptures begins with complaints about the rebellious people of Judah in the Southern Kingdom with its capital of Jerusalem. The readings this week address their worship practices and their evil ways that oppress the most vulnerable in society.
The book of Isaiah begins...
God of Justice and Compassion, open my ears to hear the cries of the poor, soften my heart so I can feel the pain of the wounded and hungry, make ready my hands to build a new beloved community where the smallest and most vulnerable are cared for and all are valued and respected and fed and housed. Amen.
The prophet Isaiah brings a harsh message to the Southern Kingdom of Israel. Although they are performing sacrifices and observing feasts, they have lost their heart for God. God wants no more meaningless sacrifices but instead wants the people to repent. The psalmist proclaims a similar message from God. The people’s sacrifices have become pointless because they have forgotten God. The primary offerings that God desires are thanksgiving and ethical living. The author of Hebrews sounds a note of harmony, emphasizing that Abraham’s faith in action—not his performance of religious duties—brings him favor with God. Jesus teaches that we cannot rest on our laurels of having faith. Instead we should remain vigilant and continue to perform acts of charity, including caring for the poor, as a response to our faith.
Read Isaiah 1:1, 10-20. Consider the author’s difficult questions: Is there blood on your hands? Does your worship lead you to acts of mercy and justice?
Read Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23. How do you offer thanksgiving as sacrifice and go in the right way?
Read Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16. How do you demonstrate faith as a verb, not just a noun?
Read Luke 12:32-40. God promises us a bountiful kingdom, but we cannot take our worldly possessions there. How do you work toward living as if you are already in God’s bountiful kingdom? How do you help to create it?
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