The Lent season, even being later this year, inched up on us quickly, didn't it?
I've never given up anything for Lent. Every year I contemplate what I could give up, what I should give up...
This morning I read these words in Isaiah 58. Just last night I had been asking the Lord what He would have me give up for Lent, because I really wanted to do something. This passage of Scripture is about fasting and I found it to be extremely applicable to how we approach Lent.
"...Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist..."
With a clenched fist. Whatever you are thinking about giving up for Lent, don't let your knuckles grow white while you're deciding. Give it up - and then give it all UP.
"...Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself?
Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD?"
Don't commit to these days for yourself. Give all of your days in hope of being acceptable to Him.
Here is what this season, and every season, should be from the Word of the Lord:
"Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 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 him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard."
It's a heavy order - to loose the bonds of wickedness, to let the oppressed go free.
Years ago, Eugene H. Peterson was frustrated with his congregation. They were sipping coffee and joking about the Sunday school table. None of those things are wrong, of course, but they were in desperate need of revival. They needed to be shook up in a brand new way. They needed to think about what they were doing in a fresh way.
Standing in a worship service makes me feel a little like he must have. Eugene H. Peterson was struggling for them to see what he saw. Wanting all of them to see the enormity of our God in the way that we can on earth, together. We all need to wake up from our spiritual slumber. We need to get down to business. We need to stop taking ourselves so seriously and our God so lightly.
As many of you know, Eugene H. Peterson wrote The Message. A translation that is frowned upon by the Christian community in many different settings. Up until a few weeks ago, I would have been cringing at the translation myself. Now that I've read "Eat This Book" by Peterson himself, I will never look at The Message the same. He never intended to translate the whole Bible. The Lord carved the way so that he had no choice in the matter. I still don't believe we should only use The Message by any means, but by all means, you need to read it. Eugene H. Peterson began this project because he had a righteous anger. He wanted his congregation to see the Lord in a new way. That's what we need to be craving this Lent season. Here is a portion of our Scripture we read above in the ESV in The Message:
a day to show off humility?
To put on a pious long face
and parade around solemnly in black?
Do you call that fasting,
a fast day that I, God, would like?
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’