Go to Rehab

Written by Elaine Ellis Thomas, Rector, All Saints Episcopal Parish, Hoboken, NJ

Trees with light coming through. A Voice in the Wilderness

Isaiah 58:1-12

Nobody wants to go to rehab. Back in 2007 at the age of 24, singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse took home a boatload of Grammy’s for the song Rehab with its lyrics

                  They tried to make me go to rehab,

                  I said “no, no, no.”  [1]

The bouffant-hairdoed Winehouse was resisting an intervention from her manager and recording company to seek treatment for alcohol and drug addiction. Like so many people, Winehouse did not want to go to rehab, with tragic results.

Rehab is hard. Whether it’s for addiction or physical therapy, it is painful and challenging and forces us to do things we’d rather not. Years of pounding my knees running on pavement led to a knee replacement which, as anyone can tell you, is not for the faint of heart. Months and months of arduous physical therapy followed surgery, and there were many times when I was reduced to tears.

But here’s the thing about rehab – things don’t get better if you don’t go.

The prophets all, in some way or another, tell us that we need to go to rehab.

                                Shout out, do not hold back!
                                 Lift up your voice like a trumpet!
                                Announce to my people their rebellion,
                                    to the house of Jacob their sins. (Isaiah 58:1)

We, the people of God, deceive ourselves with our words and our piety that are limited to the walls of the church, our fasting that serves only our own sense of worthiness, none of which relieves the sufferings of the world.

                  At 2019’s United Nations Climate Action Summit, Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, sounded a lot like a prophet of old:

You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are at the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of endless economic growth. How dare you!  [2]

Through Isaiah, God is saying to us, “How dare you? How dare you go through the motions of orthodoxy and ignore the activities of orthopraxy? Saying and believing the right things are not going to win my favor. No, you must do your religious practice.

                                ‘Why do we fast, but you do not see?
                                     Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?’
                                Look, you serve your own interest on your fast-day,
                                       and oppress all your workers. (Isaiah 58:3)

Y’all need to go to rehab.

I don’t really believe God despises our acts of worship and prayer and fasting. These are all parts of a life of faith. It’s how we grow in knowledge and love of God and neighbor. The problem comes when we think that is enough, that we are absolved from looking around us and caring for those who are suffering. Feed the hungry, care for the sick, house the houseless, welcome the stranger, free the oppressed. Then our “light shall break forth like the dawn” (58:8). God will hear us when we call and guide us in right paths.

Yes, we are being sent to rehab, and the only way out is through. And what is our reward?

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. (58:12)

It’s time to go to rehab. Don’t say no.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUmZp8pR1uc

[2] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-09-23/teen-activist-greta-thunberg-to-world-leaders-how-dare-you

A Voice in the Wilderness: Lent 2024

Find all entries from A Voice in the Wilderness online here: haymarketchurch.org/lent24