The dictionary definition of “contrast” is, “to compare in order to show unlikeness or difference; to note opposite natures, purposes, etc.”
I almost always begin my day first with some sort of devotion, and then second I read several news sources on the internet as I sit in my chair with my Kindle Fire HD tablet in hand. This morning I was struck by a CONTRAST so stark and intense it almost knocked me out of my chair!
My devotion this morning was based on Isaiah 58:1-9, this coming Sunday’s Old Testament reading from the Revised Common Lectionary. Here are a few selected verses from that passage.
“Why do you fast but you do not see? Why do you humble yourselves but do not notice? Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.” (58:3, 4b)
I reflected on the fact that Isaiah was addressing the hypocrisy he saw exhibited by those who were the most “religious” among his people, perhaps and especially even the religious leaders. He saw outward expressions of religious ritual and piety, but in those same ones he failed to see any authentic inner transformation. Their religion was a pretense – a sham – a self-righteous charade – full of false humility.
“Is not the fast I choose to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thong 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 to not hid yourself from your own kin.” (58:6-7)
I reflected on the many things that Jesus taught that sounded a lot like Isaiah, and how he, in the tradition of the social prophets, challenged and confronted shallow, self-serving piety devoid of heart, compassion and the pursuit of social justice.
I reflected on the fact that Isaiah sounds a lot like a couple of the other Hebrew social prophets in this passage. He sounds like Micah who said, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to show mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) He sounds like Amos who declared, “I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your sacred assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like and ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:21-24)
I then turned to the morning news. The first four items in the news that I read were thus:
1) That the Senate failed to reauthorize long-term unemployment benefits for more than a million workers cut off in December who cannot secure employment through no fault of their own.
2) That a representative from Arkansas is against raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour because it is “too much too fast.”
3) An article about children (as young as 7) forced into slave labor on West Africa and Latin America cacao farms that is made into chocolate by international giants such as Hershey’s, Mars and Nestle – chocolate that we buy and consume voraciously – every bite of which helps support child slave labor. These children are separated from their families, and some never see their families again or for many years.
4) That a congressman from Florida predicted that “he doesn’t expect anything to happen on the issue (of immigration) at all in 2014.”
“Is not the fast I choose to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thong 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 to not hid yourself from your own kin.”