Repairers of the Breach
Isaiah 58 [9-14], NRSV
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, 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. 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. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in. If you refrain from trampling the Sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests or pursuing your own affairs; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Today’s familiar passage from the prophet Isaiah was forever changed for me on August 21, 2016, when our then new Dean, Randy Hollerith, preached his first sermon at the Cathedral. This passage of scripture was the foundation of his sermon, “Repairers of the Breach,” and it has been a cornerstone of his ministry here ever since.
On that day, Randy said, “You shall be called repairers of the breach, the restorer of the streets to live in.” If you pressed me for four words that describe what it means to be part of the Jesus movement, four words that describe what it means to build the kingdom of God, four words that exemplify the Christian life, it would be: repairers of the breach. This is what Isaiah makes clear this morning as he speaks to the people of Israel who have just returned from exile. If you want to know what God wants from you, he tells them, then quit your bickering, your finger pointing, your slandering of others, and offer your food to the hungry, satisfy the needs of the afflicted–work to repair that which is broken in your own lives and in the lives of those around you.
I believe that this is our calling, and it is the reason I am so excited to share in ministry with you, because this cathedral has been a repairer of the breach for many, many years. The book of Isaiah is one of the most important in the Christian tradition because it is quoted or alluded to in the New Testament more that any other book in Hebrew Scriptures except the Psalms. Today’s passage clearly states that our actions, or inactions, have consequences. The passage is replete with the “if”…followed by the “then.” As we begin this Lenten journey, may we too spend time reflecting on our own actions, or inactions, on how we can better serve as repairers of the breach.
Collect for the Saturday After Ash Wednesday | Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth your right hand to help and defend us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (From Lesser Feasts and Fasts)