What Happened Before the Then?

What Happened Before the Then?


Shawn (he/him/his) is a husband to his wife Linda of 25 years, a father to his 22-year-old son Garrett and the Pastor and Teacher at Bloomfield Congregational Church in Bloomfield, CT. After four years as a Designated Pastor, he was recently voted to become the Settled Pastor. You are invited to the installation on September 18th at 3pm and the after-party at his home, which he promises will be a good one. RSVP to the Church Office at (860) 242-0776

Scripture: Isaiah 58:9a (NRSV)

9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

Reflection: What Happened Before the Then?


Passages that start with “Then” intrigue me. Why? Because, they indicate a mystery to pursue; an opportunity to go on an adventure. Something happened before it that required the word “Then” and what happened before it makes all the difference to understanding the meaning of the passage.
So, what happened before, “Then” in this passage? Isaiah is told to “not hold back” and to “shout like a trumpet” (v.1a), statements used when messages of extreme urgency are about to be delivered. What is that message? That the people of Israel are being called out for “their rebellion” (v.1b).
The people think they are doing what they are supposed to be doing. They are focused on ritual practices of piety that, to be fair, were deemed appropriate in many circumstances. They are even upset with God for not responding to what they are doing (v.3). Yet, they are being called out for being severely out of step with the will of God. So, what gives?
It’s the focus on the self rather than a focus on the other. Isaiah makes it clear that isn’t going to cut it (v.4).
So, what does God want from the people? To partner with them for a greater cause. To “loose the bonds of injustice”, to “let the oppressed go free” (v.6), to feed the hungry and house the homeless, to clothe the naked and not hide from all of it (v.7). Basically, Isaiah is saying, don’t let your personal piety blind you to the needs of others. Do not let your rituals get in the way of doing the work of God.
The next word in verse 8? “Then.” “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,” (v.8a). Not before then. Then. Which is where verse 9 starts. “Then.”
“Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and God will say, Here I am.”
The second part of verse 9 through verse 12 reinforces the message of the assurance of God’s support if the people focus their attention and their lives on serving others as opposed to themselves.
But, but, but… does that mean God only shows up when we’re doing the right thing? Does that mean God will only be there for us when we act the right way? I don’t think so, but it would be arrogant of me to answer directly for God.
I do believe that God is there with us and is for us no matter what. I’m confident God was there for me on those days I desperately wish I could do over, and I believe God is there in the process of repairing the damage I did on those days.
However, I believe that God is easier to see when I’m focused more on us and less on me. I believe it’s easier to hear God say, “Here I am” when I’m working to free others from oppression than when I am concerned about my personal salvation.
Early in Isaiah, in Chapter 6, Verse 8, in response to God’s call Isaiah says, “Here I am.”  Now, in this passage, just a little over six chapters from the end, God says, “Here I am.”  Isaiah said, “Here I am; send me!”  

I wonder what would have happened if instead Isaiah had said, “Here I am; save me!”


God of, “Here I am” – thank You for being here. Thank You for being here when I am at my best and when I am at my worst. Thank You for being here to encourage me to focus less on me and more on the connection among all of us. Thank You for being here so that I have the confidence to say, “here I am.”  Amen

New Prayer Requests:

We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane at cochranem@sneucc.org.

Prayers of Intercession:

  • For the family and friends of The Rev. Vardell D. Swett, who died Sunday, July 24, 2022. After serving for many years in New York, Swett was called to pastor the Terryville Congregational Church in Terryville, CT where he served for 23 years. Upon retirement he served as a prison chaplain and as part-time pastor in Hope Mills, NC.
  • For the people of Ukraine whose lives continue to be shattered by war.
  • For those grieving or suffering due to the ~27,100 gun violence deaths in the US this year.
  • For those who served in the military and are experiencing health concerns due to toxic water and fires, as well as those suffering from other physical and psychological issues.

Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:

  • For those who focus on others instead of self
  • For sabbaticals that allow folks to rest, get refreshed, and be re-energized

 This Week in History:

August 20, 1619 (403 years ago): First enslaved Africans arrive in Jamestown, setting the stage for slavery in North America. [History

“Study the past if you would define the future.”

Shawn Fisher
Shawn Fisher

The Rev. Shawn Fisher is Senior Pastor at First Congregational Church of Bloomfield, CT.

August 15, 2022
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