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Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ (Isaiah 58:9a ESV) Today the prophet Isaiah deals with the age-old conundrum of when our prayers and worship of God are more focused on our actions than God’s. Today at International Lutheran Church, we see how Isaiah points to the good news that brings light into our lives in how God comes to serve us in worship that then is reflected in our actions toward others.

Isaiah 58 starts with the harsh reality of the emptiness and vainness that is often reflected in our worship of God. ‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ (Isaiah 58:3) By musing in this way, we uncover our true attitudes about our worship of God. We only focus on our own actions and not on what God has done and is doing. In other words, it seems like we are only interested in what is in it for me. We develop a kind of quid pro quo attitude towards prayer as if it was our “way,” our “action” to press God’s button so He will answer us or do what we want. This chapter then is an amazing insight to what worship and prayer are all about – not us, but God. God reveals to Isaiah that it is God who serves us. Worship is “His Divine Service” where His presence is the only thing that will bring about the change in us that we truly need.

This is not what we would expect and so we need to perhaps take a closer look. To begin it is helpful for us to recall the instances where someone used the words “Here I am!” in the Old Testament. Whether Abraham (Genesis 12:1), Jacob (Genesis 31:11), Moses (Exodus 3:4), Samuel (1 Samuel 3:4ff) or Isaiah himself (Isaiah 6:8), the term “here I am” is spoken as one who is a servant to God. But now these words are spoken by God Himself to those who would call on God in prayer! Worship, prayer, fasting is where God comes to serve us. This is seen in how God describes what fasting is all about – “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6) These are all things that point to God’s outcome of His service in our lives – to work forgiveness of sins and deliverance from death and the devil. Only God can do this. And only God has done this.

How?” you ask. With His very presence. When God comes to serve, He comes into our midst, into our death and hell for the purpose of setting us free. His divine presence in the midst of our “fists and quarreling” literally breaks the cycle, the yoke and oppression that we are stuck in. His presence is what frees us and changes how we look at God, ourselves and our neighbor. His presence on the cross of our destruction, His presence in the stone-cold tomb of our death makes us alive and restores us to Him and one another. This is the amazing part about Epiphany – the Light of God that has shone in our Savior Jesus – that light now shines in and through us.

God’s light goes before us. His glory is our rearguard. Jesus is reflected in our lives as we live in the reality of His service to us. As we stand in the presence of His grace, we are forgiven to forgive, we are freed to free, and we are shined upon to shine before others. His Divine Service – His presence - is what moves us to fast and pray with acts of kindness to our neighbor, clothing the naked as we have been clothed, feeding the hungry as we have been fed, serving our neighbor as we have been served even as the light of His Divine Service shines in us and through us.

Pastor Carl