Sermon Epiphany 5A, Sunday February 9, 2014.
“Don’t say sorry: Fix it”
1 Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins. 2 Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God.
Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? 6 Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? 8 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly……. 9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.
If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, 10 if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. 11 The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.
“Don’t just say sorry:Fix it!”.
One of our boys’ footy coaches used to say something that has really stuck with me.
In training drills or at quarter breaks he would say to a kid who had made a mistake or not really put in enough in a particular play or not followed the coach’s plan, “Don’t say sorry: just fix it”.
The first time I heard him say that was when helping out the team in a handball drill. I had not been at pre-season training and this was my first time actually doing some hand-on helping and in the drill I fumbled a couple of handballs and did not hit the target as well as I might have. When ever this happened I said, Sorry mate”.
When that drill had finished we did another drill. This time i was just watching on. A lad in the team made a mistake and was cursing himself for doing that right in front of the coach and saying “sorry”. Then the coach said those words, ‘Don’t say sorry: just fix it”.
Well, didn’t I feel like a tosser! That was the very thing I had been saying all the time – “sorry”! And then I knew that all the boys, who knew their coach’s mantra well, must have thought I was a real ignoramous when I had the very thing they knew to be out of bound with the coach!
I reckon the coach had a bit of Old Testament in him. His little mantra had similar meaning and purpose to these words of Isaiah that call out to us today. “Don’t say sorry: just fix it”.
See, God is naming false sorrow here. He is naming pretence and the outward show of sorrow for sin, awareness of weakness and need for God’s help and healing that does not match the inner life. He is saying to his people, “Don’t say sorry all the time: Fix it. Do something about it. Show you are for real.
“…Day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness…..But you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers.You fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high”.
So, God’s people are like the kid on the team who does not listen, does not really care about the coach and team purposes and goals, nor the coach or the team members. He continually makes mistakes and says sorry, but never really does anything about – thereby showing up is dual heart, his lack of genuine sorrow for the mistakes and what it costs the team and the coach.
God’s holy and chosen people are doing all the outward signs of repentance and faith but this is not matching their self-orientated behaviour and heart. They bow down in the church, they observe festival and feast. Yet they treat their workers and their own family and those in need with contempt, not don’t lift a finger to do forgiveness, speak forgiveness, work for peace and help people out but rather point the finger in judgement on others.
Friends, this goes to show that we people of God – chosen, loved, baptised in the Lord’s grace and love are very capable of having split personality or forked tongue or divided heart that makes our outward show disconnect from our inner life. We are very capable of having a “dis-integrated” body, mind and heart.
When we are “dis-integrated” it comes out in our words and actions with others – “pointing finger of accusation, gossip and malicious talk about others, disregard for others, even those in obvious need…..serving our own interests and being locked in to our own reality, never moved anymore, quite callous in the face of need, out of touch with others need, story, situation…
Is this you? “What’s happened to you?” people ask. “Where did your kindness and generosity go? You have been so soft-hearted and aware and full of genuine care, and now you are hard, and closed off and care-less”?
What causes this change in us?
What makes us say sorry outwardly and then have no intention of “fixing it”?
Isaiah says it.
“Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins.”
“Rebellion”. Every fake “sorry” with its tell-tale sign of no intention to actually do anything to help or “fix it” – actually do anything to change or learn or show real compassion and care for the one damaged by our lack of sorrow and care is rebellion against God.
The root cause of our forked tongue or split character is rebellion against the “Coach” and his Word and way.
Our rebellious heart is what causes us to disregard God’s will and his way, and that is what God names as sin. So, this is the “sin under the sin” – rebellious heart against the Lord and his Word and way.
Holding ourselves up to justify ourselves
And yet it goes deeper still. With our rebellious heart we become fake and dis-integrated, dis-connected and care-less about the Lord and his Word on things, but then we do something worse. We try and hold up our fake show of repentance and sorrow for all of this as a reason for God to accept us and forgive us!
That is what is going on for the people in Isaiah’s time. They are going through the motions with a dead heart shown by no real intention to act in accordance with the Lord’s kindness and justice – but are holding up their dress, their ritual, their name, their outward shows of humility and etc as a the means by which they will be forgiven and restored to community.
Genuine love from genuine repentance
God says, “no”. This cannot be. The “show” he calls for is genuine repentance that bears the fruit of love.
“…to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin.”
What recovers us? When we have been fund out and named by the judge of all where do we go and what happens to help us find our soul again?
Light: The instant promise of instant light is made available. Like the stage director of a play, God says, “Lights!”
“…your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am”.
“Say sorry: and let God fix it” would be our mantra now.
In our rebellion and fake heart and heartless words and actions that kill our relationships and offend God, God says, “Lights!”. He promises. He promises a lot.
Light. Promise. A heart of love and a future in community and in the grace and kindness of God.
“…your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. 11 The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail”.
I can’t believe this.
In the face of my rebellious and duplicitous heart and lousy words and deeds, God promises the following…
Bright light to replace my gloom
Healing for my broken body, mind and spirit
Guidance in my words and actions among others by his word and wisdom
Satisfaction in my work, my vocation, my family life – life in general
A strong inner core – a true heart, straight, single minded, faithful, aware and thankful – solid, unwavering…
Continual watering of life for my dry soul – over and over again s his forgiveness replaces my rebellion and the sin that entangles me.
What have I done to deserve this treatment? Nothing. He did it all.
Jesus’ “righteousness has exceeded that of the law keepers” (Matthew 5:20). Jesus has exchanged my rebellion and false humility with life and righteousness before God and the promise of peace and full life.
Friend, go ahead and say sorry: and let God truly fix it
You can’t. He has. He will.
Share a high and low for your week…
Read the text carefully noting down what stirs your imagination, arrests your attention or raised a question….Share anything that come up with the group.
How does the problem of false sorrow of which Isaiah speaks, that is, saying sorry to someone but never actually doing anything about it ti fix the problem work itself out in your life? Share a story of how this has occurred in your life (either with you being the one displaying false sorrow or another person displaying it).
I said that this false sorrow is a sign of a deeper problem – that of being “dis-integrated or double minded or “out of wack” with yourself. God names this dis-integration between the outward show of love and respect to Him and the inner rebellion and carelessness that goes on within us. Can you relate to this “dis-integration? What does it bring out in you when you feel this way. Share your experiences… Read Paul’s description of this aspect of our life in the Lord in Romans 7:14-25. Share you thoughts on this “law at work” within all of us, as Paul says.
Did you notice how God responds to us with our dis-integrated heart and rebellious spirit? First of all he names these things (esp in verses 1-3). Then he does the unexpected. he promises good things to people who don’t deserve his goodness! See if you can identify the gifts he promises to give to remedy our rebelliousness and dis-integration in verses 10b-11. Amazing Grace!
Share your experience of God’s grace and these promises.
Blessed be the name of the Lord for you are our hope and life and cure for our rebellious heart. Lord, help us to say Sorry Lord: Fix me” often as we live in honest sorrow and child-like faith in your goodness given in Jesus. Amen.