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Opening God's prayers to God

A Reflection for Ash Wednesday, February 14 by Rev. Mary Putera, Ph.D.

Lectionary Texts for 2/14/2024: Isaiah 58:1-12; Psalm 51:1-17; II Cor. 5:20b-6:10; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Selected passage for reflection: Isaiah 58:1-12


Read

Isaiah 58:1-12; The Inclusive Bible

1- “Shout for all you are worth,

     raise your voice like a trumpet!

     Proclaim to the people their faults,

     tell the house of Leah and Rachel and Jacob their sins!


2-  They seek me daily

      they long to know my ways,

      like a nation that wants to act with integrity

      and not ignore the Law of its God.

      They ask me for laws that are just,

      they long for God to draw near.


3-   Yet they say, “Why should we fast

       if you never see it?

       Why do penance

       if you never notice?


4-   Because when you fast, it’s business as usual,

      and you oppress all your workers!

      Because when you fast, you quarrel and fight

      and strike the poor with your fist!

      Fasting like yours today

      will never make your voice heard on high!


5-   Is that the sort of fast that pleases me – 

      a day when people humiliate themselves,

      hanging their heads like a reed

      lying down on sackcloth and ashes?

      Is that what you call fasting,

      a day acceptable to YHWH?


6-  On the contrary!

     This is the sort of fast that pleases me:

     Remove the chains of injustice!

     Undo the ropes of the yoke!

      Let those who are oppressed go free,

      and break every yoke you encounter!


7-   Share your bread with those who are hungry,

      and shelter homeless poor people!

      Clothe those who are naked,

      and don’t hide from the needs of your own flesh and blood!


8-  Do this, and your light will shine like the dawn – 

     and your healing will break forth like lightning!

     Your integrity will go before you,

     and the glory of YHWH will be your rearguard.


9-  Cry, and YHWH will answer;

     call, and God will say, “I am here” – 

     provided you remove from your midst

     all oppression, finger pointing, and malicious talk!


10- If you give yourself to the hungry

      and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,

      Then your light will rise in the darkness,

      and your shadows will become like noon.


11- YHWH will always guide you,

      giving relief in desert places.

      God will give strength to your bones

      and you will be like a watered garden,

      like a spring of water

      whose waters never run dry.


12- You will rebuild the ancient ruins,

      and build upon age-old foundations.

     You will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,

     and Restorer of Ruined Neighborhoods.



Reflect 

The Word of God is always a “we thing”, spoken to a people! This text addresses the community of God. Therefor I gathered a small community to bring forward this devotional. Our work together has influenced what I have written here. We began by reading the text above and Rabbi Harold Kushner’s quote: “In Jewish thought, a sin is not an offense against God, an act of disobedience. A sin is a missed opportunity to act humanly”. In preparing this devotional, I trust that wisdom is formed in relational interdependence, with one another, with God and with the Living Word. This is an application of the meaning to Love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourself. This is one way we act more humanly, to invite to the table a multiplicity of God’s people to God’s table to chew on God’s Word.


Personally, I have been reposing in this text of Isaiah 58:1-12, sitting with a trust that in doing so God would speak through this WORD. God is Faithful. In the quiet, this came: “Pray the prayers of God to God until you enter the flow of God’s answers to the prayers of God”. My heart became so soft and my body eased, and I wept. God prays so lovingly over our misunderstandings and choices to be less than we are formed by God to be.(v.3-5)God prays to God that we would regain the full circle of Loving God, and loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.(v.6-7; 10) I felt warm waters cleansing all the ways I guard and protect myself from grief, loss and the awareness of the suffering of others. I am washed bare. What to do now?


And then I listened to my Sisters! Here is the essence of each contribution! From Cara “Break Out!’ of all the ways we contribute to violence and injustice. From Elisabet, SHOUT! When the light comes, even as a sliver, for the light restores the generations of suffering endured! For the light is like the floodwaters of Love gushing forth. From Elizabeth: “I seek You… You Lord are the Light… You set us free! Then Lori shares that change is different than making changes, that change is of the heart, and everything is made different when we dwell with God and are changed. 


YHWH compassionately responds to our misunderstandings and misdeeds towards others with a passionate plea for us to remember to BREAK OUT of what we participate in that is not loving, to OPEN to the Light that comes and washes the grime from the lamps of our hearts, to TRUST the Lord’s ability to set us free, and to SOFTEN us into a stance of vulnerability before God. God’s prayers to God moving around, in and through us will bring change, in and amongst us. God never changes. God simply loves and implores us to do the same. Fasting from everything we participate in that is less than loving, this is the way of Lent. Amen


Respond 

What would it be like to pray God’s prayers to God through Lent? What would it be like to listen for the changes in our hearts that come when we do so?


Rest 

Oh God may we sit in the prayers you pray and trust what we learn when we do.  May we fast from our chosen agenda’s and what we have decided to give you, that we may be filled with your desires and ability to bring your heart contentment.

Thank you for loving us so much,

Amen amen.


About the Author 



Rev. Mary Putera is ordained with the Progressive Christian Alliance. She works locally and globally as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Expressive Arts Therapist, Faculty member, and Consultant. Please visit her website for more details and an opportunity to connect: https://theartofintegrity.org 








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I love the idea of spending time reflecting on Scripture in community. I think so much learning comes when we share and open ourselves to the Spirit together. Thank you for sharing the results!

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