“What Might God Want Most From Us?”

Isaiah 58:1-9

The Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

Is not this the worship I choose; to loose the bonds of injustice, to let the oppressed go free, to share your bread with the hungry and to bring the homeless into your house?

Every three years, the lectionary places, in the path of the church, those words from today’s Old Testament lesson.  And, every time they roll back around, they remind us that the worship which matters most to God is the kind which sends us out into the world to live other-minded lives; sitting down with, and standing up for, whomever is most in need of help and hope.

Which, as you know, is not a novel notion in sacred scripture.  Rather, Isaiah’s voice belongs to a Bible-wide chorus which calls the people of God of every time and place to live other-minded lives; from Leviticus 19:9, “When you reap the harvest of your fields, you shall not reap all the way out to the edges; you shall leave the edges for the poor,”  to Deuteronomy 15:18, “Do not be hard-hearted toward your neighbor in need,”  to Luke 14:13, “When you give a dinner invite the poor,” to I John 3:17, “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has this world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help them?”

Little wonder that more than twenty percent of our church’s budget leaves these walls for the wider world, helping support ministries such as Stewpot, Shoestring, Habitat for Humanity, Grace House, and a long list of others which lift the lives of those who are most in need of help and hope.  Little wonder we embraced “A Wider Net” fifteen years ago, opening our hearts and arms, doors and lives, to a neighborhood in need.  And, little wonder we give so much time and energy to Meals on Wheels, Adopt-A-School, Boarding Homes, Angel Tree, Caregiving, and so many other channels of grace which take our lives beyond our walls.

We do those kinds of things, and we live that kind of life, because we know enough about the Holy Bible, and we have enough of the Holy Spirit, to know that what God wants from us, and for us, is an other-minded life; a life of expansive piety; the kind of life which lets the love which has come down to us go out through us.