Shout out, do not hold back!
Lift up your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their rebellion,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet day after day they seek me
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness
and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments,
they delight to draw near to God.
“Why do we fast, but you do not see?
Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?”
Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day,
and oppress all your workers.
Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today
will not make your voice heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose,
a day to humble oneself?
Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush,
and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
Is 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?
Is 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?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. ~ Isaiah 58:1-9a
I read a quote from a pastor on Facebook recently that made me stop and think.
He was quoting Martin Luther as saying that after Word and Sacrament, the highest priority of a pastor should be the poor, because the poor are usually the only true disciples of Christ.
I'll add to that that that priority goes beyond pastors to all Christians, and that in addition to the poor, that should include the oppressed.
What is it to be oppressed? I've heard lots of Christians claim to be oppressed because people don't say Merry Christmas to them, or because people of other faiths get to have a voice in the public square.
Another quote I read recently...from Diana Butler Bass: being disliked for your beliefs has nothing to do with your religious liberty. It just means people don't buy what you're selling.
There are certainly Christians in the world who are oppressed and persecuted; who are dying for their faith.
But for Christians in the US, we might want to heed the words of Isaiah and wonder if we serve our own interests, or the interests of those who actually have no power.
And ask how it is we can work with God to free the oppressed.
Holy One, open my eyes and my heart and help me to see the needs of those who are poor, oppressed, and persecuted. Amen