Is Not This The Fast I Choose? Isaiah 58 For America In 2017

By Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush

An American interpretation of Isaiah 58 on Ash Wednesday, 2017.

“Shout it, rap it, sing it, scream it, chant it, let it flow
Raise your voice like a trumpet, like an electric guitar, like a sitar, like a djembe
Declare to America its rebellion
and to the descendants of Washington, Jefferson and Hamilton their sins.

For day after day they claim to know me,
they pose and preen as if they desire to do as I would do,
as if they were a nation that truly believes in liberty and justice
and has not forsaken the commands of its constitution and the conscience of its soul.
They make public shows of prayer and righteousness,
and are eager to appear to privately own God’s blessings for their personal use
And then seem surprised when God leaves their hearts cold and unsatisfied

“We declared America to be a Christian Nation” they say,
“We made an idol of our skin color and our militarized jesus.
We have made our piety political
so why In God’s name have you not noticed?”

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and insist on mistreating workers, breaking unions, paying a substandard wage,
Your fasting is a feast of mean tweets and vicious lies,
Inciting the striking with bully clubs and state sanctioned executions and racist shooting of innocents
You cannot fast with your white knuckles, fist closed, clutching your ill earned cash
and expect for your heart to open and know that still, strong blessing of God.

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
a day for people to show mock humility while humiliating the vulnerable?
Is it only for bowing one’s head to the power of presidents,
and for lying in sackcloth even as ashes of death smolder, incinerated with weapons inscribed with Made in the U.S.A?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of systematic racism,
and untie the cords of the yoke of endemic sexism,
to set the LGBT people free to love and live in peace,
and break every yoke around the neck of the immigrant?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry children
and to provide the poor refugee with shelter?
when you see the naked, to clothe them with dignity and respect
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood who are lying on the streets, homeless, addicted, alone?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn and a just vision will guide America
and your healing will rise up quickly with health care for each child of God no matter rich or poor.

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.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression and the hatred of the Jew, the Muslim, the Sikh, the Hindu and the Atheist,
And away with the deadly sepulcher finger of White, Christian Nationalism,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of those hungry for nutritious food and free, decent public education
and satisfy the needs of the Native People’s sovereign rights.
Then your light will rise in the darkness of this grim moment
and your night will become like the noonday as we dance as one nation guided by the beat of the deep heart that connects us all.

The Lord will guide you always as we walk together as one people,
indivisible striving for a nation and a world where love is the law;
God will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land, as we protect our natural world;
and recognize the sacredness of creation.

You will be like a well-watered garden full of beautiful, wild roses, nutritious vegetables for all to eat
and trees for young people to play in,
like a spring whose waters are safe and clean and free,
where no child will be poisoned by neglect or for gain

Together we will all rebuild the ancient ruins
Together we will raise up the age-old foundations of truth, solidarity and trust
Together we will reach across all that divides us and will move as one towards justice.
Together we will be called Repairer of Breach, with our feet marching, our minds creating, and our spirits soaring, our voices singing, our souls unifying.
Together we will be the Restorer of Streets to live in where all are neighbors, in this one beloved community.

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