Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Lenten Surrender Part One

"This is the 'fast' that I want from you: break the shackles of injustice; remove the chains of slavery; stop oppression; release the prisoners." Isaiah 58:6 

The warm February weather has confused my garden - the chives, the peonies, the tulips, the daffodils - all have come up; I even found some secret crocuses blooming this rainy morning. Lent is such a time as well: sorrow and celebration; guilt and renewal; death and life; hopelessness and hope. As children, we were taught that we must surrender something...
“Shout! A full-throated shout!
    Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!
Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives,
    face my family Jacob with their sins!
They’re busy, busy, busy at worship,
    and love studying all about me.
To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—
    law-abiding, God-honoring.
They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’
    and love having me on their side.
But they also complain,
    ‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way?
    Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’"
We once had a Pastor that told us to take up something instead of putting down something - people looked at her like she was crazy. But she was right, do we really surrender anything important (to us, to humanity, to God)? Do we really do anything important, anything transforming and different, anything holy? Or is it all just a big show of public piety, self-righteousness, religiosity? 
“The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit.
    You drive your employees much too hard.
You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
    You fast, but you swing a mean fist.
The kind of fasting you do
    won’t get your prayers off the ground.
Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after:
    a day to show off humility?
To put on a pious long face
    and parade around solemnly in black?
Do you call that fasting,
    a fast day that I, God, would like?"
Are we surrendering ourselves, or just what we have to spare from our abundance? What does a voluntary fast or deprivation mean or do when so many starve and suffer involuntarily? Are we not called to surrender our lives so that we may live new lives? So that others may have better lives?
“This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
    to break the chains of injustice,
    get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
    free the oppressed,
    cancel debts.
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
    sharing your food with the hungry,
    inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
    putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
    being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
    and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
    The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
    You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’

“If you get rid of unfair practices,
    quit blaming victims,
    quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
    and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
    your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
    I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
    firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
    a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
    rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
    restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
    make the community livable again."
What does the Spirit of the Word of God say to me, say to my church, say to the Church, say to the nation? 

(Text from Isaiah 58:1-12, the Message; photography by tiwago)

1 comment:

Mary Harwell Sayler said...

Beautifully expressed truths, Tim. God bless.