Yet what follows in the context contains such great promises:
The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
Valerie Luna Serrels offers these reflections on the reading from Isaiah.
In Empire Baptized, Wes Howard-Brook refers to these two worlds in the context of what a society governed by YHWH would look like, with Jesus “proclaiming the reign of God in accordance with the pattern of the ‘religion of creation’ while denouncing the counterfeit ‘religion of empire’.”A religion of creation is rooted in the marrow-deep connection to self, other, the natural world, and therefore to God. Howard-Brook notes that in a religion of creation the place of sacred encounter is with the Earth (mountains, rivers, wilderness), table fellowship and human intimacy. Flowing out of this rootedness, the basic social and economic structures are egalitarian, based on the idea of kinship, gift, and barter. Diametrically opposed, a religion of empire finds sacred encounter in the temple and the basic social and economic structures are hierarchical patronage, money, and debt.
Isaiah calls out the counterfeit, The people of Israel lost their identity. And their religion. There’s soul work required of the Jews, and of us, to see our misplaced loyalties and values, to notice the ways that the religion of empire influences our worldview and behavior.
This is why we need the prophets – to call us back to ourselves, to realign ourselves with God and the land, leading to the justice and love upon which our religion is based.
The disconnect for the people of Israel, and for all people who live in a civilization associated with empire, is located in the soul, or in the lack of soul development.
This urgent and unordinary season calls us to repentance, to re-examine who we say we are and what religion we practice.