A Bible Reading: Isaiah 58. 6 – 9, 11 - 12
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I… The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
A Thought This week’s paper had much to say about drought with stark pictures of the dry and dusty parks of London, once a healthy green now arid and scorched. The Rectory lawn is brown and all the local fields now look like tinder dry stubble. As the temperatures soar once more, water levels continue to drop and more hosepipe bans are threatened. Some supermarkets are even starting to ration water.
The paper also carried an article about a couple down in Dorset, who have cultivated a genuine tropical jungle in the garden of their bungalow, complete with banana trees, vast cacti and Australian ferns. What’s more, this garden is looking green and lush despite the heat. This little Dorset oasis has left the neighbours green - with envy. The enterprising Cliffords, who have carefully collected 2000 litres of precious rainwater over the year in three huge tanks, are now being accused of theft for ‘stealing rainwater’ by jealous neighbours! All the neighbours could have conserved rainwater if they wanted to; they just didn’t bother, and now they are irritated by their lack and someone else’s plentiful supply.
This episode reminded me of a passage in Isaiah 58. The Israelites had missed the point of a living relationship with God. They were complaining that they fasted, but God took no notice. God pointed out that the problem was that when they fasted they then did exactly as they pleased, exploiting their workers, quarrelling with their neighbours, and pointing the finger. God did not want empty piety, but a desire for godly attitudes, right living and a genuine compassion for the poor, the helpless and the oppressed.
Despite having sufficient water, maintaining a healthy jungle still demands great effort on the part of the Cliffords. The water has to be lovingly transferred from the storage tanks to the garden on a daily basis. It is hard work, but the results are visible to all.
Although we cannot be saved by deeds of service, our faith lacks sincerity if it doesn’t reach out to others. Acts of kindness, charity, justice and generosity not only help those in need, but they also enrich and sustain our own lives in a remarkable way. It’s hard work and takes effort, but…Just consider for a moment the enrichment that welcoming the Ukrainian refugees into our villages has brought to our community. May we continue to endeavour to make our villages an oasis in a parched and sun-scorched land. This is one example, but you will be able to think of others.
A Prayer Loving Father, may our spiritual disciplines be truly in tune with our actions,
so that our prayers are worked out practically in both word and deed,
bringing friendship to the lonely, strength to the weary and comforted to the oppressed. Amen.
With a prayer, you fed the hungry, Stuart Townend