Lenten Trumpets In this passage of scripture, Isaiah is instructed to be God’s trumpet, sounded to wake the people from their half-hearted worship, half-hearted because they are doing the Sunday part of worship but not the Monday-Saturday part. Worship, God says, has become something that serves our own interests. (v 3) The accusation clouds the sun of our Sunday. The evidence brought forth to support God’s case presses us down and casts a shadow on all we would call success. We oppress our workers, quarrel and fight, tighten the bonds of injustice, withhold our bread from the hungry, and ignore the homeless. These truths point to the other half, the missing half of our half-hearted worship. This passage of scripture calls us to sackcloth and ashes, and for a bowing of the head in shame and repentance. We cannot ignore or fail to acknowledge that the issues raised are the issues of our national politics. These issues are the issues of our congregational budgets. They shed light on our individual and family budgets, our to-do lists, and our understanding of neighbor. These are the issues that distort our Sunday songs and prayers.
God instructs the prophet Isaiah, ìDo not hold back!î (v 1). But the Lenten trumpets do not seal our doom. Instead, they awaken us to the necessary points of turning. The term ìturning pointî means something to us. This list of accusations can be a list of turning points, of ìre-turningî points. The weight of Lenten grey and gloom, of Lenten honesty and guilt rightly brings us to our knees, but we do not have to be crushed by the weight. Worship that turns us and leads us in returning to God, and Godís desire for justice and mercy for and among the poor and oppressed, is the whole-hearted worship God desires and deserves. It is the only approach to God that can confidently be termed worship. God said this through the prophet Isaiah. The season of Lent stops our self-centered rushing around and unstops our self-focused ears. We speak of the relevance of worship while God speaks of its acceptability. We speak of worshipís connection with culture, and God speaks of worshipís disconnect with justice, mercy, and human dignity. Turn. Return. Quarreling over issues of health, hunger, and poverty is not addressing those issues (v 4). Quarreling and fighting exposes our half-heartedness.
The turning to God that the Lenten season would facilitate changes the scene drastically. Sharing our food with the hungry, opening our houses to the homeless, covering the naked with clothes and dignityóthis turning will cause light to break forth like the dawn and the springing up of healing (V 8). God will guide us in the timing, strategy, and focus of it all. Such turning will result in the meeting of needs of parched places and the rebuilding of places ruined by warís greed and fear and cruelty. Worship that honors and reflects Godís embracing of the poor will bring about a new normalcy for generations to come. But clouds roll inónot clouds of refreshing rain, but clouds of fear. We need the food. We need the economic and political structure that we associate with freedom. We need the security that forces us into oppressing barriers and profiling and guardedness. And our worship loses half of its heart, and the weeping that should be ours, is Godís. Then comes Lent with its trumpets and tears, and hope of returning to God turns blackness toward grey. God, who would be worshiped, we turn our hearts to youand ask for your guidance into wholeness.
A Word about our Lenten Series:
The Lenten season has always inspired many people to create everything from poems, art and music to a completely new direction in their lives. This Lenten season Tabernacle will be exploring many of those creations in the hope of inspiring you to compose in a medium that is natural for you. The paintings in the Sanctuary are of the Biblical Stations of the Cross. The artist, Grieg Leach, completed them in 2010. They will help us to visualize the events leading to the crucifixion of Jesus. In addition to the paintings there is a Lenten devotional booklet, Return to Me, which is available in print or online. The Stations of the Cross also inspired these devotions, written by Terry York of Baylor University. Living with these two bodies of artistic expression based on the Biblical Stations of the Cross throughout the season of Lent should help us as we seek to return our lives to God by walking with Jesus though his final days.
Pray, read, think and return to God.