Many of us are familiar with a tradition of fasting during Lent. This usually means giving up a food we enjoy for the sake of experiencing a little bit of what Jesus practiced during his 40 days in the wilderness. We refrain from eating meat; or more recently perhaps coffee, chocolate, alcohol, or some other luxury. We feel like we are making a sacrifice by “going without.” But this is exactly the kind of fast that God rejects through the prophet Isaiah. What does it matter, Isaiah challenges, if wealthy people go without the luxuries they’ve become accustomed to? How does that help the marginalized people (in Isaiah’s time, widows, orphans, and the poor)? How does fasting extend God’s love and justice to our neighbor? We might not exactly think of ourselves as wealthy; and many of us have had to pinch pennies and struggle through difficult times. But things we take for granted, like access to clean water and basic
medical care, make us wealthy in the eyes of the world. More than half of our brothers and sisters around the globe survive on the equivalent of less than $2 per day. When we consider this reality, it helps us understand that fasting is a luxury of those who have. Fasting is not a choice or a novelty when starvation or malnutrition are a daily battle.
This Lenten season, let’s consider what we can give up in order to share God’s nurture and care with our neighbors. Could we give up eating out and use the extra money to stock the Project Outreach food pantry? Could we give up an afternoon or evening of watching TV in order to volunteer at the Salvation Army shelter? Could we give up going to a movie or concert and donate the same amount of money to One Great Hour of Sharing? We can pray for God to care for the hungry and poor, but prayers are often answered through the actions of God’s children. May your heart and hands share in God’s fast this Lent: setting free the oppressed, and breaking every yoke! (Isaiah 58)
– Pastor Rachael