Pause

We repent of the evil that enslaves us, the evil we have done, and the evil done on our behalf.

from a prayer of confession in Enriching Our Worship

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Listen

Hear the Lord’s word, you leaders of Sodom. Listen to our God’s teaching, people of Gomorrah! What should I think about all your sacrifices? says the Lord. I’m fed up with entirely burned offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts. I don’t want the blood of bulls, lambs, and goats.

When you extend your hands, I’ll hide my eyes from you. Even when you pray for a long time, I won’t listen. Your hands are stained with blood. Wash! Be clean! Remove your ugly deeds from my sight. Put an end to such evil; learn to do good. Seek justice: help the oppressed; defend the orphan; plead for the widow.

Isaiah 1:10-11, 15-17

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Think

In the moment just after I do something awful, especially something that hurts someone I love, my first thought is usually not one of repentance. Instead, my brain gets busy thinking of either 1) a reason why it wasn’t my fault, or 2) a reason why it wasn’t that bad. I want to hold onto my idea of myself as a good person, even when the evidence suggests otherwise.

In this passage from the prophet Isaiah, the leaders of Sodom and Gomorrah are doing evil things like exploiting widows and orphans and stealing from the poor, but they keep on going to worship in the temple and making animal sacrifices. They want to convince themselves, others, and God that they are still good people.

But God explains to them that it doesn’t work this way. If their other actions are still hurtful, then all of their prayers and sacrifices are empty. God describes the kind of offering that is truly holy: a heart that seeks justice and learns to do good.

Catherine Healy

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Pray

Holy God, I want to be a good person, but sometimes it feels like I can’t stop messing up. Hear my prayers and help me learn to do good, seek justice, help the oppressed, and remember that other people’s feelings matter as much as my own. Amen.

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Go

May you feel the love of the God who created you, walks beside you, and dwells within you — this day and always.

Catherine Healy

The Rev. Catherine Healy is the rector of the Church of St. Paul & the Redeemer (Episcopal) in Chicago, Illinois. She is always up for a bike ride and shares her life with her spouse, daughter, and cat. You can find her online at www.rockthatcollar.com.

Six Pieces For Piano, Op. 118: No. 2, Intermezzo In A Major

Garry Bailey

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