Rev. Garett-Cobbina is Assistant Professor of Pastoral Care & Education and Shaw Chair of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at SFTS. Her reflection follows this version of Isaiah 58: 1-12
God answers before God's people ask a question, declaring:
"With a loud voice, with a full throat, like a trumpet disputing the silence, relate to my people that I see their rebellion.
Yet, they seek me daily. They beguile me with their mouth. They pretend to want to know my ways. They ask for instruction as if they intend to fulfill them. They constantly ask for rules of righteousness, as if they intend to satisfy them.
And when I do not answer their fast with a belly full of good things, with a loud voice, with a full throat, lake a trumpet in my ear, they shout,
'Why do we fast if you do not see? Why do we humble ourselves when you do not notice? We have afflicted our soul, and you do not know.'
But I say, look here, on the day of your fast all you do is chase business, all the affairs of your necessities you toil to pursue, even with robbery and violence you rush to prosper yourself. With a wicked fist you strike your debtors exacting payment from them on the day of your fast.
This kind of fast will not carry your voice to me. Breaking your heart, afflicting your soul, spreading out sackcloth and ashes. Do you call this a fast, an acceptable day to your God?
Is not this the fast I choose for you?
Loosen the bonds of wickedness and unbind the ties of captivity,
then ask why there are prisoners in our world.
Eliminate all perversions of justice,
then ask why injustice reigns in our social relationships.
Share you bread with the hungry,
then ask why there are hungry people in our world.
Bring the homeless poor to you home,
then ask why there are poor people in our community.
When you see someone naked cover them,
then ask why there are overly exposed and vulnerable people in our community, and remember that you too are vulnerable, so do not hide
your vulnerability from your community.
Then your light shall break through,
like the ray of dawn that breaks through the clouds.
Then your healing shall quickly sprout,
for I will bring up healing for you.
Then the glory of God will surround you,
and I will have your back.
Then you will call,
and I will answer.
If the fast of our community is unacceptable, what should we do? A famous quote from Dom Helder Camara, Archbishop of São Paulo, comes to mind: "When I fed the poor, they called me a saint. When I asked why are the poor hungry, they called me a communist."
Sometimes we like to reinterpret God's command that we love one another, serve one another, forgive one another, work to eliminate all perversions of justice, and hold one another accountable to God's fast because it is just too hard, too risky.
Yet, this is the fast I hear that God wants for us:
Make the world a better place for all of us.