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Saturday after Ash Wednesday

February 12, 2005

Blessed Saturday!

Isaiah 58:9-14 (obeying God’s law brings new hope)
Psalm 86:1-6 “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may be faithful in your sight”
+Luke 5:27-32 (Jesus came for sinners)

The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake,
and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up;
“Repairer of the breach,” they shall call you,
“Restorer of ruined homesteads” (Isaiah 58:12).

How many come from (and/or live in) homes that could be described as ancient ruins, ruined homesteads! How many parishes could be described in similar terms. God declares that there’s hope! No matter how decayed or run-down the family (or parish family), it can be restored, raised up. Jesus underlines this concept in the Gospel when He declares that He has come for the sick, for those who need a Physician.

So what does it take? “Remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech.” (Isaiah 58:9). That’s a tall order. Dysfunctional families breed oppression, false accusation and malicious speech. We’re going to need some divine speech therapy, especially when it would be sooo easy to return evil for evil. Fortunately the Word (Jesus) is up to the task. When we approach Him in Confession, reveal to Him our speech disorder and follow Doctor’s orders, He will teach us to speak properly. “The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them” (Isaiah 50:4). Those in ruined households are so weary. They need us to learn to speak words that will rouse them to rebuild, not rouse them to further destructive anger. “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying [building up], as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29).

What else? “Bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted” (Isaiah 58:10). But I’m insecure. If I start giving things away, or–Heaven forbid–giving myself away, people are going to take advantage of me. I might not have enough. To this Jesus replies, “Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you of much more value than they?…Be not solicitous, therefore, saying, What shall we eat: or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed?…For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things. Seek ye therefore first the Kingdom of God, and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 26, 31, 32-33). If I’m clinging to anything other than God out of insecurity, then that’s precisely what I need to give away, so that I can be free of it. I won’t know that God can take care of me until I depend on Him.

*Whew* That’s hard enough. Is there anything else? “If you hold back your foot on the Sabbath from following your own pursuits on My holy day; if you call the Sabbath a delight, and the Lord’s holy day honorable; if you honor it by not following your own ways, seeking your own interests, or speaking with malice–then you shall delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth” (Isaiah 58:13). In other words, we need to do things God’s way on God’s day. The problem here is that the survival skills learned in a ruined homestead make it very natural to become a control freak. If I’m in control, I’m safe. Even if I’m willing to loosen my death-grip on my sense of being in control, as soon as anything unexpected happens I’m going to grab control even more tightly (if such a thing is possible) than before. But if I persist, that death-grip will be the death of me. It will perpetuate the ruins. Only God is qualified to be in control of my life. He asks for one day a week; one day to prove to me that He can handle being in control. If I can set aside my busyness for one day, step off the whirlwind of odd jobs and things for which there never seems to be enough time, He will demonstrate to me that He can handle running the world without my help. It won’t disintegrate without me. Then I can enter into His rest!

“And the Lord God will give thee rest continually, and will fill they soul with brightness, and deliver thy bones, and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a fountain of water whose waters shall not fail” (Isaiah 58:11). What freedom, what a relief, to have a continual inner rest even in the midst of work, to constantly well up with life, never “running on empty”. This is a vision we need to keep before our eyes, to give us hope in the midst of the rebuilding. It may sound like a dream, but we stand on God’s promise that He intends to make it a reality. “The zeal of the Lord of Hosts shall do this”! (Isaiah 37:32).

May our ruined homesteads bring us to hope in the Lord, Who can raise them up.

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