During this Lent, thousands of faithful United Methodists in Alabama and millions of Christians worldwide will join our spirits in a season of penitence, reflection, devotion, and even self-denial.
Some will struggle to imagine our own mortality, even when ashes smudge our foreheads. Some will recognize frailty in the human body looking back from the mirror - broken from lack of affordable care or access to medicine or safe environments in which to live.
Some will chose to give up luxuries and comforts for the sake of discipline and empathy. Some will have little choice about the resources and opportunities available because of their neighborhood or race or side of the border on which they were born.
Some will fast from entire meals for entire days, remembering the journey of Jesus in the wilderness. Some will famish without breakfast and lunch at school, just like last weekend.
When I consider this, in light of my own feeble attempts at devotion through spiritual discipline in Lents past, I feel rebuke in these verses from Isaiah:
Is this the kind of fast I choose,
a day of self-affliction,
of bending one’s head like a reed
and of lying down
in mourning clothing and ashes?
Is this what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
Isn’t this the fast I choose:
releasing wicked restraints,
untying the ropes of a yoke,
setting free the mistreated,
and breaking every yoke?
Isn’t it sharing your bread
with the hungry
and bringing the homeless poor into your house,
covering the naked when you see them,
and not hiding from your own family?
(Isaiah 58:5-7, CEB)
You may feel chastised by these words, too. But I hope not. I hope instead we can discover in Isaiah the challenge to seek holiness through justice. I hope we will hear God’s call not only to serve the immediate needs of our neighbors because we see in them the face of Christ, but also to work against the systems discrimination and discourse of division that keep us from seeing each other as brothers and sisters.
In your experience, does giving up something for Lent serve to bring you closer to the heart of God? closer to a brother or sister? closer to the justice ideals of God’s Kingdom? What could you give up (a grudge, a position of power, a sense of division, etc.) that would?
What is your prayer for this season? How do you seek God's transformation in your life and in your world?
May God bless you for a holy Lent.
Rev. Amy DeWitte
The Advocacy for Social Justice Blog is produced by the North Alabama Conference Advocacy for Social Justice Team to help people think about justice issues through the lens of faith. It is intended to be a place where United Methodists can listen and learn from each other with mutual respect and understanding. (For the purpose of this blog see the the post “The work of justice is the work of the church”.) Please join the conversation by adding your comment below. If you have an idea for a blog topic or would like to make a submission to the Advocacy for Social Justice Blog please contact the Team Convenor Rev. R.G. Wilson-Lyons at email@example.com.