by Rozella White

“Of Many Generations” is the theme for the 2014 Women of the ELCA triennial gathering and it comes from Isaiah 58:12. This passage describes the act of rebuilding that will occur when the people come together in new and radical ways. The beauty of Christianity is that it is a faith of radical reversal. It is a faith that invites believers to consider living an alternative lifestyle, one that places God first and places life-giving relationships second. It is a faith that speaks up against cultural norms that would seek to exclude and oppress. It is a faith that seeks abundant life for all.

Isaiah 58 is a beautiful passage of Scripture that provides an alternative view of something that the people of Israel thought they were good at–worship. It becomes clear that their understanding (read: our understanding) of what true and authentic worship was (read: is) did not line up with God’s desire. It uses the practice of fasting as the example by which the people of Israel could understand what God was after. It is text that many within social justice movements use as they lift up the biblical mandate for worship being a lifestyle, one that is focused on justice, advocacy and care for others.

The text begins with the prophet Isaiah sharing a clear picture of what worship was not and moves to imagery that embodies what worship is truly about. It’s about caring for the neighbor. And in true radical reversal form, it moves to a place where the reader sees that caring for the other is really about caring for oneself.

Lives of wholeness

“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.” (Isaiah 58:11)

For a variety of reasons, it makes people uncomfortable to talk about their needs and desires. This text invites us to consider another reality. What if God wants us to be clear about our needs so that we can live lives of wholeness and be available to meet others’ needs?

Isaiah 58 is all about the importance of needs being met– God’s needs, our neighbors needs, our needs. However, unlike cultural norms that would talk about needs being met in material ways, the needs in the text are met in ways that deal in the realm of emotion and connectedness. I can’t meet someone’s need if I don’t know it. I don’t know it if I don’t know them. I become aware of another’s needs when I enter into relationship with them.

The same is true with us. God seeks to be in relationship with us, to know our heart and fill our lives so that every need, every desire that seeks life-giving connection and the care of another, is met. God invites us to journey into ourselves to experience the joy that is present when we recognize our giftedness and worth, which come first and foremost from the Creator.

Let us live into this alternative view of worship, of relationship, of needs being met.

Discussion questions

1. What does it look like to trust in God’s promise that your needs will be met?

2. How is God calling you to care for yourself in the same manner that you would a well-watered garden?

3. How does your ability to meet others’ needs change when your needs are met?

Closing prayer

Mother God, you desperately seek justice, love and compassion for your people. Make us agents of change. Embolden us to be in life-giving relationships and remind us constantly of your promises to never leave nor forsake us and to satisfy every need we may have. Amen.

Rozella White (@rozellahw) describes herself as a faith-based social entrepreneur, constantly seeking innovative ways to address human issues from a faith-based perspective that is grounded in love. She is the director for ELCA Young Adult Ministry.

This issue of Café was sponsored by the Women of Peace Lutheran Church, Alexandria, Va.

“Our main group is called WRAP (Women Renewing at Peace) which meets monthly for fellowship, learning and Bible study from Gather Magazine.” This group has a number of other active projects that involve college students, sending cards to soldiers abroad and much more. You can learn more about this bold group of women from their website .