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Into the Wilderness – Ash Wednesday 2017

March 1, 2017

“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 rearguard. 

“Then 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,  if 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. 

“The 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. 

“Your 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 58:6-12)

The Communion table for Lent is covered with burlap and rocks… it represents the wilderness where Jesus spent forty days and nights… three branches arise out of the rocks… a foreshadowing of the three crosses on Golgotha. The candle represents Christ, the light shining in the darkness of the wilderness.

Tonight’s theme is “A Time for Repentance” and the Isaiah passage above was part of the Scripture reading (we read Isaiah 58:1-12). In a time where religion has become completely self-focused and all about our own personal salvation, it calls us to return to the foundation… the source. Reminiscent of Matthew 25 and Jesus’ call to see him in the invisible ones (the poor, the prisoners, the naked, the hungry, the thirsty), Isaiah calls us to examine why we “observe the rituals” while ignoring the call of the Law to love God and love neighbor.

The call of the passage to me and to the congregation tonight is found in verse 12. Wouldn’t you like to be known as the repairer of the breach? There is so much division and hatred and fear in this world that divides us… creates a breach in our relationships with one another and with God. Is Christ calling you (as Isaiah did long before him) to repair the breach that has torn those relationships asunder?

I believe that we are called, dear reader, to repair the breaches caused by hatred, fear, and bigotries of all sorts. God gives us the means to repair those breaches… what are the tools and the materials? God’s Love… God’s Light… God’s Grace… God’s Peace… will you join me not just in this Lenten season, but beyond, in repairing the breach with God’s help?

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