Thursday, March 3, 2022

The Fast He Has Chosen

The Crown of Thorns wreath, has been a part of our Lenten table display for close to a decade now.
It is my favorite element, and I'm beginning to think that Lent, might just be my favorite liturgical season.

I've had a feeling. An anticipation that I haven't been able to put my finger on in the weeks leading up to Lent, that somehow this one is going to be special. Like God has something for me in a way He never has before. I also believe this because I am struggling harder with what I've given up, which is sugar, than I have with anything else I've given up in years past. This isn't even the first time I've given up sugar, it's just harder this time.

And then yesterday morning, Ash Wednesday, and the very first passage laid me bare. As I read these words in Isaiah 58:6-12.

6“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?

7 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 them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

8 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.

9 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,

10 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.

11 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.

12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

I was deeply moved, and convicted and I quickly picked up my journal and began to write, and this is what the Holy Spirit revealed.

"As I read this passage today I couldn't help but reflect upon the current state of the world. As I write Russia has invaded the Ukraine. In all likelihood Kyiv has or may soon fall.

All over the internet I see where people are posting, "Pray for Ukraine" or posting images of their flag. None of this is wrong, by any means.

But after I read this passage I was deeply convicted, sorrowful really. As we enter the season of Lent, a time of prayer, fasting and acts of service, my intentions . . . . are shallow, comfortable,. More about me, and less about "the fast He has chosen".

It is easy, here in this moment, in the comfort of my home in America, to pray for Ukraine. But an affective prayer, and one that would honor God, would be to pray and to act as though I am on the ground in the Ukraine. Because in the end, we are in a battle, every-single-day. This war, this enemy we battle, is so much bigger than the Russian invasion upon Ukraine.

How would I act? How would I live my life today if I was on the ground fighting along side and aiding the afflicted in battle?
- I would bring food to the hungry.
- I would clothe the naked.
- I would give shelter to the homeless and uprooted.
- I would bandage and heal their wounds.

And the Holy Spirit convicted, "Go, and do likewise."

I pass by homeless people on the streets often, I would dare to say every time I leave the house. I have friends who are struggling, and I don't give them enough. If it inconviences me, requires more than I am willing to give? And in that, I dare to pray for God to come to the aid of the people in Ukraine.

What I am actually asking is for God to send other people, as I sit comfortably at home and watch the news. 

IT IS NOT ENOUGH

I would never feel burdened or inconvienced by someone standing in front of me, cold, hungry, and bleeding and I need to live my life with the knowledge that on some level, this is true of every person I encounter. We are good at hiding our feelings, masking our wounds, but we are all wounded from battle. If I want to affectively pray for the people of Ukraine, then I need to put myself in the battle, right here, right now, at home."

Because "this the fast He has chosen"

Then and only then
- will the light break through.
- will the healing rise up.
- will The Vindicator go before me.
- will the glory of the Lord be my rear guard.

Then and ONLY then, when I call will The Lord answer.

Then and ONLY then, when I cry for help,
WHEN I PRAY FOR UKRAINE
will He say, HERE I AM!

I won't stop praying, but in my prayers, I am enlisting in the battle. I am joining the fight.

Until then . . .

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