We are thankful to share our Lenten worship with St Anne’s Steveston, Gilmore Park UC, and St Alban’s Anglican.
Isaiah 55:1-9 in many ways is about the transformation of desire.
And part of the salvation God has worked in Jesus is the transformation of our desires, to desire true things and to no longer mistake the tinsel of the world for the God who made us and all that is. Martin Luther described human sin as incurvatus in se, being turned in on oneself.
Israel is an exile. The people want to participate in the Babylonian economy. They are on the treadmill to economic success which in their case would mean, why return to the promised land, why return to being God’s covenant people, why seek economic justice.
Mike Budde, who teaches political science and catholic studies at de Paul in Chicago points out that the economic paradigm of growth our economies have postulated as their creed, namely that without growth we’re dead in the water, stands not only in stark contradiction to the earth’s resources but is also the fig leaf with which we justify economic inequality. To those who struggle to get by at home or in the global economy, we say, be patient, the next innovation, the next wave of economic progress, the next wave of growth, the next wave of new efficiencies will lift your standard of living. So hang in there, be patient, it will come to you. It is, Budde says, a safeguard against redistribution, even though redistribution is built into the system by taking the labour of the poor and adding to the wealth of the powerful.
To this Isaiah says no.
Don’t participate in this economy.
Don’t worship the idols of economic growth that will destroy the earth and that stand in the way redistributive justice. Trust the Lord with all your heart, soul, and might, because the Lord provides for you better than any economic system can.
Of course, we will object and say how can biblical wisdom trump the wisdom of our economists? How can an ancient text possibly question the systems we have devised?
But it does, and it does so by speaking to us God’s promises. Promises that ring truer than the global economy with its supply chain issues, slave labour, and the exploitation of the earth.
“See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you. (…)
Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; (…)
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.” (55:5, 6, 8)
This wisdom of the Lord is counter-cultural and in being counter cultural shall be the light that we are to be to the world.
You see, the church has so much been part of the world, so tied into its systems of power and wealth, that we have not been able to be a voice that would be noticed, that could offer a different vision, and that offers a community in which the Gospel that has given us life is practiced outside of our liturgies.
You see that the exiles in Babylon are not called to go back home to create the same economy as Babylon. They are to create a different economy, live a different life, in the words of the prophet Micah, they are called to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with their God. (Micah 6:8) This is more than a command. It is a promise.
Thanks be to God.