One of Virginia’s favorite Scripture passages is Isaiah 58. Years ago she read it, then read it again and again until eventually it became motivation for younger Virginia to step out of her comfort zone into new adventures as an overseas relief & development worker in 1992 (yikes, a long time ago!)
The truths in this chapter are not just for overseas workers or for the young and strong of knees, they are for us wherever we are, at any age, whatever we may be doing, and most especially as we observe Lent.
“… Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?
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 him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and He will say: Here am I.
If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land, and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail… (Isaiah 58:5-11)
Water in a sun scorched land is not easy to find. (After working in sun scorched regions of the Middle East and Africa, take my word for it!) To fast as Isaiah dictates, we must go deep in our hearts and ask for God’s help dealing with scorched circumstances of our world: injustice, hate, oppression, poverty, hunger, homelessness, (disease, global pandemics…)
The whole list is daunting, but this Lent consider taking one issue and doing something about it. Speak out against injustice. Where you see hate, offer a tweet of understanding and love. Help fill up local food pantries. Support local homeless shelters. Clean out a closet and share your clothes. Buy warm coats for families who need them (especially given unusually frigid temps!)
So much is oppressive these days. Vulnerable folks have been homebound for almost a year – a word of encouragement goes a long way (phone, face-time, food and flowers left on their doorsteps?)
Isaiah 58 fasting grooves are not about one day of ashes and abstinence, but a lifetime of lifting others with God’s love in action.
Virginia : )
Photos: St. George’s Monastery, Wadi Qelt