Last night, yeah I’m a day late, at the Ash Wednesday service the preacher talked about giving things up for Lent. She asked us if we planned to give up candy and sweets. Again. The same thing we’ve been giving up since we were 7. If so, she suggested maybe it was time to try something new for Lent. We all laughed. It was funny because there is truth there.
I’m still thinking about that sermon, in part because it was funny and how often do you hear a funny sermon on Ash Wednesday? And in part, because I wonder what that something new should be for me this Lenten season.
Isaiah 58: 6-7 says…
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
A very long time ago God declared through the prophet Isaiah that laying around in sackcloth and ashes and moaning about our fasting was not what it was all about. God wants a different kind of fasting. God wants us to work for justice and free the oppressed. God wants us to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. God wants us not to turn away from our own flesh and blood (meaning other human beings, folks, not just our blood relatives.)
I don’t know about you, but for me that is a lot harder than not eating chocolate. Apparently God doesn’t really care if I have a little chocolate break now and then or even every day. What God cares about is a lot more important than that. It’s not so much about what I like or I want or what I crave. It’s about a renewed commitment to what God wants all the time: for us to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God and learn a thing or two.
It’s time to get back to work.