5 Is such the fast that I choose,
a day to humble oneself?
Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush,
and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
6 Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
8 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Ash Wednesday worship will take place at Medford United Methodist Church today, March 2, 2022 at 12:00 noon in the Family Life Center and at 7:00 pm in the Sanctuary. The imposition of ashes will take place at both services. If you are in the area, please join us!
We often view the spiritual practices of Lent through the lens of personal piety alone. In other words, we focus on prayer, on self-denial, or other kinds of personal disciplines intended to bring us closer to God. These are good and holy things. Lent is a gift that’s meant to bring us closer to the One who made us, who saves us, and who loves us to the end. It’s 40 days designed to draw us closer to Christ.
But there’s also a bigger picture to Lent – and really to the whole of discipleship. It’s not just about how we interact with God. It’s about how we interact with each other, too. I don’t just mean kindness, though that’s an important place to start. It’s about fairness and justice in how we design the structures and institutions of society, and then how we hold them accountable when they fall short. In Luke 4, Jesus begins his ministry by preaching on a passage from Isaiah 61 that draws on the same language of releasing bonds, that the oppressed might go free. We sometimes seem to forget that.
And so Isaiah proclaims a word from God that basically amounts to: “Do you think I’m only interested in you sitting in ashes? Do you think I’m only interested in you feeling sorry for your sins?”
Alongside the call to personal piety this Lent I pray that we might hear God’s voice calling us to look at a bigger picture: hearing the voices of those who are still in the yoke of oppression, hearing the cries of those suffering injustice, and considering our role in how we might help set them free. This too, is spiritual work.
By Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Action begins with awareness. Are there specific -isms or people groups whose treatment brings you to tears? Commit some time this Lent to learning more. Pray for God to suggest ways for you to help.
Prayer: Holy God, as we enter Lent, remind us how your Son’s eyes were always looking at the margins. He preached to the powerful, but he spent his time among the poor. Help us today to understand that faith is not just a matter of personal devotion, but of concern and care for those who suffer injustice and indignity. By your Spirit, guide us in our learning and in our action. Grant us a Holy Lent. Amen.