Sermon – March 5, 2014
The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers, CSW
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Corbin
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? Isaiah 58:6
Please be seated.
Last month I traveled to Lookout Mountain, Tennessee to participate in the ordination of a seminary classmate of mine. In addition to the wonderful spirit and joy of such occasions, I was also able to reconnect with some classmates. We had lived together for three years and now are scattered around the church.
One classmate and her partner moved to Atlanta with their two children. The two women had lived in New York City for quite a few years and we talked about the shifts in moving to another part of the country. My classmate’s partner said her mantra is, “Who have you liberated today?” In the changes that have occurred, she more clearly sees the ways we oppress each other.
In this passage in Isaiah, we hear a similar question from God, “Who have you liberated today?” The Israelites were seeking God and following all of the rules of the religion: fasting, wearing sackcloth and ashes. But the fast that God desires, according to the prophet Isaiah, is to work for liberation…to not oppress the workers… to work to eliminate hunger and homelessness, the oppression of not having the basic needs of life.
As we enter this time of Lent, often we fast from something we enjoy. It is a good practice, becoming more aware of the things that control us and take us away from God. In recent years, we hear of the practice of taking something on. Maybe a new spiritual practice like fasting, or a new kind of prayer.
And we can also heed God’s words and work in new ways to end the oppression of poverty and injustice. There are so many ways to feed the hungry. We have started to do so at our monthly potlucks. In addition, we have our basket to collect items for the food pantry at Corbin Presbyterian. Some help with the back pack program. We’ve talked about using part of our park for a community garden. During Lent, you might take on one of these ways to alleviate hunger in Corbin.
The Adult Formation Class recently decided to collect money for goats, which cost $80 each through Episcopal Relief and Development. The goats are given to families, along with training in their care. According to Episcopal Relief and Development, “Goats are hardy, reproduce quickly and can be raised in a variety of climates to produce staple items such as milk, cheese and manure for farming.” There is a goat bank on the shelves in the parish hall and you’ll see other reminders. So you may want to contribute to this project during Lent.
Some of us have begun working with the Everlasting Arms shelter for the homeless and we’ve collected items they need. You can take on this project for Lent, providing the items they need.
During Lent, you can also educate yourself about effective ways to end food insecurity and homelessness.
And in doing so, … in working for liberation each day, God promises:
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.
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.