The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified. Isaiah 61:1-3 (King James Version)
I was contemplating this past week’s Bible Study at church, which was on Ash Wednesday-the first day of Lent. Our pastor encouraged us to take on rather than give up for Lent. We could take on visiting the sick, reaching out to a loved one we broke off contact with, study our Bibles more, things that could help us grow as Christians. Pastor advised us that it can be easy just to “give up” something for the 40 days since we could resume it at the end.
As I sit here on the First Sunday of Lent doing this contemplating, the above scripture came to mind. What is God laying on my heart for Lent? What is it that He/She wants me to take on? When the above Scripture was penned, Israel was in deep shit thanks to its turning its back on God. God sent Isaiah to preach to Israel-not just about its sin, but also about the hope of restoration. It was also interesting that Jesus cited this passage centuries later (ref: Luke 4:19-20) during a time when Israel (now called Judea) was under Roman occupation.
Are we called to bring hope and restoration to others for Lent? Are we to take on the mantles of Isaiah and Jesus in our postmodern 21st Century age? Does this mean we quit our careers, families, churches/mosques/temples/ashrams, and other parts of our lives and wander the globe preaching? Not quite. I believe there are other things we can do to “proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” We can start being (or giving) a voice to the voiceless among us. We can include the marginalized by engaging them as fellow children of God. We can speak truth to power with Scripture. We can show people another way of living, who otherwise may not know, by living the love of Jesus in our lives. We can liberate people of the internal chains that bind them; and from the internal prisons they’re in. We can spread joy to those who are depressed and have given up hope. We can restore those who life has maimed and battered.
Maybe that’s what we can take on for Lent. God knows, people in our midst don’t need a bunch of aloof ascetics. No folks, these folks need people to take on the challenges they face in their lives. They need our love, spirit, courage, joy, laughter, tears, hugs, kisses…whatever it takes. Then we truly can be called “trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.” For people will see God in us and give Him/Her the glory.
So, what do you plan to take on for Lent? There’s plenty out there for us to do! Peace!