We give thanks for water when we are thirsty,
Strength when we are weak,
The promise of building again what has broken down.
Teach us to love our neighbors and to serve you,
That we might be part of this rebuilding. Amen.
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 58:9-12
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.
Memory Verse – Isaiah 58:11
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.
Thoughts on Scripture
The closest I’ve ever come to ancient ruins, I think, was when I visited the Sutro Baths in San Francisco. And they’re only a little more than a hundred years old, so this is admittedly a stretch. But…
The baths used to be magnificent. Pictures from the early 1900s show them so full people had to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, with barely any room to move, if they wanted to hang out at the baths. And everyone did! There were slides, trampolines, and trapezes; diving competitions and mock boat races; there was a theatre, a concert hall, lots of places to eat and have a great time. The building itself was really impressive, too – all these pools, built on the edge of cliffs, that were filled by waves from the Pacific Ocean as it came crashing against the rocks.
All of that is gone – there are just ruins, some half-rock walls that still hold some water, but mainly ducks swim there, now. I visited last year with my family, and we made our way down the hiking path that leads past what’s left of the old structures.
We peeked in one small window and saw a tattered pillow, and a crumpled-up blanket, and some food wrappers. And then I realized these aren’t just ruins – they don’t just tell the story of what once was – these old structures are someone’s home, now. I don’t know who, but someone has made that old room, with its vulnerability to the elements and its non-stop view of the Pacific Ocean and sound of crashing waves, their home.
So when I think about the prophet’s words, about rebuilding ancient ruins, I can’t help but think he doesn’t mean, “Go check out the Sutro Baths. Recreate what was once there – remake that fabulous water park.” I wonder if he means something closer to, “Go check out the Sutro Baths. You might be surprised by what – or who – you find there. Find out what you can about the needs that are there now. Get creative about how you might help to meet those needs.”
We don’t have to remake things that are falling apart exactly like they were. But we ought to pay attention to what needs remain in these places that are kind of hidden from us, since we think all the life left there long ago. The Scripture doesn’t just say that we will restore streets, but streets “to live in.” That’s a special kind of re-creation, a special kind of restoration. How can we be a part of it?
Questions to Discuss
– A “yoke” is a way of talking about things that are heavy or oppressive, things that burden us. This Scripture says, “If you remove the yoke from among you… then your light will shine…” What are some yokes that you or your family or your friends feel? What weighs heavily on you? What would it mean for that yoke to be removed?
– Have you ever felt like God made your bones strong, or watered you when you felt dry – maybe like you got new strength or new energy sometime when you really needed it? What was that experience like?
– What are some ways you can help repair or restore things that have been broken?
Spiritual Practice: Found Art
Gather up some “junk” from around your house, or your neighborhood. Look at it closely. Turn it over in your hands, cut it into pieces, discover it from new angles. Then put the pieces together in interesting ways and see what you can create. You’ll be restoring these objects, in a way, but not to their original purpose – you’ll be giving them new life!
Objects that work well include buttons, fabric scraps, old electronics, game pieces, detergent bottles, broken toys, cards, jewelry – you name it. Have fun. If you know the stories of the pieces you’re using, telling those as you create your project will add richness to the experience.