We declared this week Poetry Night. We looked at Isaiah 58:1-12, which is part of a really long poem. We went through the text chunk by chunk, seeing what insight came out reading the text together. Then we had a poetry reading at the end so people could share the poems they created while we were looking at the text.
The Beatitudes, that we looked at last week, was Jesus’ declarative answer to the question “What does life, the way God intended it, look like?” This passage further fleshes out what life the way intended it, or God’s kingdom, looks like.
The poet begins: There is a problem. (vs 1) The problem is inside verses outside. God’s people appear to be right-living. (vs 2) But. (that’s always a warning sign) But they view their relationship with God as one of commercial exchange. (vs 3a) Here’s the “bottom line,” the self giving you offer as though it’s spiritual capital, you’re not really giving. You’re actually doing it for your own profit. How’s them economic apples? (vs 3b-5)
Break the chains of injustice. Then live the generous life God intended. (vs 6-7)
When you do, here’s the natural result. “Then, oh then, your light will break out like the warm, golden rays of a rising sun; in an instant, you will be healed.” (vs 8 The Voice) I won’t be your divine vending machine, but I’ll be right here with you. (vs 9)
Then comes what looks like commercial exchange, some if/then statements. But they’re really invitations that delineate the natural result of accepting the invitations. Along the lines of “If you burn more calories than you consume, you’ll lose weight. As a result, you’ll not only feel healthier, you’ll be healthier." Sort of like that.
If you break the chains of injustice and live generously as God intended
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.
Then came the really cool part of our evening. We put a mic stand up front and declared Poetry Night to have begun. I read a couple of poems and it was terrifying. And then 11 people read poems. Either poems they liked, or poems they had written right then and there. Eleven people! There were only about 20 of us total. What a testament to this loving, brave, embracing, risking, safe community. I am amazed and humbled.
Here's Chris' poem, followed by Adi's poem: