Gratitude is at the center of sacrifices that are pleasing to God. Of equal importance is how we express that gratitude in the world.

The book of Isaiah begins much like Psalm 50, with God rendering judgment upon the people and explicitly rejecting sacrifices grounded in rote rituals. Instead, God encourages the people to cease doing evil, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, and plead for the widow. God calls us to challenge the systems that allow inequality and poverty to persist.

It seems that another quality of sacrifice that is pleasing to God is being of service to others. God invites us to be hands that heal the hurting and downtrodden. In doing so, we become co-creators with God of the Beloved Community—a state without poverty, hunger, and hate and in which everyone is cared for. In serving others, we find that we are also serving ourselves. It is through service that we become more fully aware that each of us has been and will be on the receiving end of needing help.

In the early days of my ministry, I often worked alongside college students who were discerning their vocational path. They were asking big questions about where God was leading them to serve. Each of us, they believed, has a “prophet purpose.” We are all called to live in that space of grief and hope, so that we become partners in God’s work of justice and reconciliation. Yet each of us also has a unique role to play. To find it, we must read the signs of the times for ourselves, and discern where the Spirit moves each of us to act.

What specific part of the world’s brokenness most speaks to your own passions, griefs, hopes? Where do you feel most called to do the work of justice?

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Luke 12:32-40

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Lectionary Week
August 1–7, 2022
Scripture Overview

The prophet Isaiah brings a harsh message to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. 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 the people 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 simply “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.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

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 “bring Thanksgiving as [your] sacrifice” and “go 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?

Respond by posting a prayer.

This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”

Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.