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Monday, August 17, 2020
Today’s Scripture Reading | Isaiah 56:1, 6–8
Thus says the Lord:
Maintain justice, and do what is right,
for soon my salvation will come,
and my deliverance be revealed.
And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it,
and hold fast my covenant—
these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.
Thus says the Lord God,
who gathers the outcasts of Israel,
I will gather others to them
besides those already gathered. (NRSV)
Justice. It’s always sought, occasionally found, and often elusive.
Someone loses something, has something taken from them, and they cry out for justice. They want a just restoration for what has been unjustly deprived them. It’s only right, isn’t it?
The passage is a beautiful promise of restoration, an affirmation of God’s justice. It’s also significantly more than that, and that difference is what lifts this promise from the level of mere platitude.
It’s a promise to the “outcasts,” those who are set apart, tossed aside; those people whose lives seem to matter less to the insiders, the ones who aren’t part of “the mainstream.” The excluded ones. God says that these people matter, that they are welcome and that they will be as blessed as anyone. The “outsiders” matter as much as the “insiders,” and so God gathers everyone together.
It’s a beautiful promise, a restorative promise. And beyond the words, there is more: a challenge to those who did the casting-out that resulted in the outcasts. You know them, you love them, we are them. The in-crowd, “God’s people.” It’s a challenge where God says “I didn’t cast them out, you did. These are my beloved. I’m bringing them in. What are you going to do?”
The passage starts with “Maintain justice and do what is right.” We have to realize that the “outcasts” were outcast by us. We’re the ones who said that our lives matter more than theirs. God is challenging us by saying that their lives matter, that God’s house, God’s kingdom, is for all people. Let’s take up that challenge and affirm the worth of those cast out.
Lord God, who gathers all the outcasts of Israel, point us toward those who are told that their lives are lesser, and let us do your work of restoration. Amen.
Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts
Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
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