Music: David Haas
Text: Isaiah 58: 7-10 (alt. DH)
Clothe the naked and take them to your care;
do not turn your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wounds will be bound and healed.
If you share your bread with the hungry,
if you welcome the poor to your home,
then your light will shine, your light will shine,
and the sun will rise once more.
And your dignity shall go forth before you,
and the glory of God shall keep you safe.
Then you shall call and God will answer,
you will cry and God will be there.
If you believe all oppression from your midst,
and the shame of those who do you harm.
If you offer your bread to the hungry,
your God will be with you.
Copyright © 1997 GIA Publications, Inc.
This song was highly influenced, both musically and in terms of message, by the music and ministry of my “Brother in the Lord,” Tom Franzak – and in particular, his marvelous song-prayer, “Unless a Grain” (the keyboard accompaniment on the verses is very reminiscent of Tom’s song). “Share Your Bread with the Hungry” is a setting of Isaiah 58: 7-10, a passage that gets to the heart of the matter without any lack of clarity.
Isaiah is arguably the most known and read (Jeremiah also shares a similar distinction) of the Hebrew Scripture authors that we refer to as “prophets.” Now, there is a lot of “un-learning” we have to do in regards to how we think of prophets, to be specific, in the biblical tradition. For the ancients who wrote these texts and for those who first read and heard them, they understood that a “prophet” was not someone who could predict the future, nor were they people to label as “fortune tellers.” This narrow and yes, flawed understanding of who prophets are, blurs and limits our appreciation not only about the prophets themselves, but it dilutes our ability to hear and embrace the message of these powerful writings.
In the biblical understanding, a prophet is a “spokesperson for God.” Through them, we are hearing and witnessing God’s presence and God’s vision for our lives. These “prophets” are not only known in the scriptures, but we have them all around us. We can identify who they are in our lives, these people who we often claim to be “prophetic” in both and large and small ways. We certainly can say this in regards to many of the saints for whom we might have a strong devotion for. Even today, such prophets are among us. For myself, the prophetic people who have most certainly been “spokespersons for God” would include people like John XXIII, Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Dorothy Day, Oscar Romero, Peter Maurin, Bishop Kenneth Untener, Martin Luther King, Jr; Christianne Brusselmans, Fr. Jim Dunning, Marcus Borg, Sr. Dorothy Stang, Ceasar Chavez, Harvey Milk, and living saints (they are in my humble and correct opinion) such as Sr. Helen Prejean, Fr. Richard Rohr, Sr. Joan Chittister, Fr. Ron Rohlheiser, Bill Huebsch, Jim Wallis, Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, Fr. Greg Boyle, Megan McKenna, Leonardo Boff, Fr. Jim Martin, Bishop Remi de Roo … and all of you reading this, have people who have been such “spokespersons for God” in your life. Among them are also people who may not have achieved any sort of celebrity, but who, have most powerfully, witnessed and spoken on God’s behalf. Isaiah is our professor here. Isaiah’s words here, are God’s words.
There are two different recordings of this song, included on “God Has Done Marvelous Things,” and “Glory Day.” I love them both because they feature some of my favorite singers who I have worked with over the years. On the “Glory Day” version, of course, I love hearing Tom sing the first verse. Lori True brings an amazing power and skill not only vocally, but in communicating the message of the second verse. And then there is David Fischer (who does so on both versions) and Larry Hylton (featured on the “Marvelous Things” version), who embody true “Tenor-power” on the final and concluding verse and refrain. Great singing on these tracks, and then you add Bobby Fisher’s truly “prophetic” guitar solo on both performances … well, I have no words. Love it.
In plain English, this passage contains a core “curriculum” for those of us who want to discover and explore God’s will. The question might be, what does God’s reign look like? Well, it looks like what we hear and sing in this most holy scripture: the naked are taken care of and not left alone; wounds are healed; the poor are lifted up; prayers are answered; dignity to those distained is restored; those without food are hungry no longer; oppression is defeated; all shame is driven away – and we are to become God’s instruments, God’s “spokespersons,” who illuminate the light that will shine. This song attempts to “sing” Isaiah’s announcement and is intended to be an anthem that awakens our inaction, leading us to become this shining sun that produces a blinding light that can never turn into darkness. (11.19.17)
This essay is an adapted excerpt from I Will Bring You Home: Songs of Prayer, Stories of Faith by David Haas (G-9617). Copyright © 2018 GIA Publications, Inc. / www.giamusic.com. Printed with permission. All rights reserved.
CD: Throughout All Time; Glory Day: David Haas and Friends in Concert; Without Seeing You: The Best of David Haas, Vol. 3 / MP3: X-80513 / Music: G-4734