Scripture reference: Isaiah 58 (Thanks to my Pastor for using passage this for Lent).
I know a lot of you out there are doing your fasting thing for Lent: be it from certain foods, smoking, drinking, porn, social media, etc. Me? I haven’t quite shifted into that lane on the Lenten highway; even though my Pastor offered us the challenge at my fellowship. If you folks out there are working your fast successfully, cool.
However, fasting is a lot more than just giving up something for a period of time. There is the “why” of fasting, and the “what” one wants to bring about from fasting. Today’s Scripture reference gives us an excellent glimpse of the kind of fasting that was in ancient Israel; I recommend that everyone reads this passage sometime during the Lenten season. Say to say, what’s happened in Isaiah’s day could apply to today.
In Isaiah’s day, folks were fasting for show and were making a big production of it. However, these people-while fasting-still fought among themselves, treated their workers poorly, and were putting on a suffering face before God; and God was not happy. What God wanted Israel to do was fast for justice: to set the slaves-and those wrongfully chained-free; to feed the hungry; clothe the naked; shelter the homeless; provide for one’s family. Also to use this fast to stop the finger-pointing, the disharmony among the people; the oppressive behaviors towards others. To God, this is was fasting needs to bring about.
Sounds like us, eh? Don’t we tend to fast (and do other spiritual practices) for show? Don’t we try to earn some religious “brownie points” – especially at this time of the year? Don’t we still act like assholes towards each other-whether at work, home, church, or on the subway-despite our fasting? Don’t we act oppressively towards others-still supporting a flawed criminal justice system, or “supporting our troops” as they help some nation with a nil human rights record…while we’re fasting? Or how about our dissing the poor, homeless, hungry and naked since we’re too busy fasting to think about “those” people?
And we wonder why God don’t pay a lot of us any mind. Quite a sorry lot, are we not?
However, what if our fasting this time is more in line with what God calls for? What if we took fasting seriously and begin to fast from the crap we’ve allowed? What if we fasted from trying to “look good” before God, and instead looked within ourselves for serious introspection? What if we started to truly love one another as we fasted from fear and hate? What if we started to fast from being oppressive and let our fellow humans be what God created them to be: human beings? What if we fasted from apathy and running with the crowd, and lived with justice; standing up for the oppressed and for the refugee? What if we fasted from greed and reached out to the poor-in every sense of the word-and provided for them?
Then our fasting will mean something, as will our journey down the “Fast Line” on the Lenten highway…
…And then our lives will mean something as well.
Prayer: Father/Mother God, help those of us who fast this season to do so with a heart of Divine love and justice. Keep us from trying to look good, rather instead teach us to look inside ourselves. Help us to fast from the things that hinder us from living Divinely so that we may live lives that reflect You. In Your Name, Amen.