During February we begin our journey through the season of Lent.
Lent is a time of spiritual preparation for the wonderful celebrations that await us during Easter week.
It is a time to reflect on where we’re up to as individuals and churches in our walk with the Lord, a kind of spiritual stock-taking.
With God’s help, we can get rid of bad habits, begin good habits, get rid of clutter and focus on what is important.
In Isaiah 58:1-12 the Lord appears to be a bit ‘cheesed off’ with his people to say the least. Why? It seems they are doing all the right religious things (worship, fasting…) but actually they are just going through the motions because while they are doing all this ‘religious’ stuff, they are not doing the really important things right.
OK, says the Lord, I can see you’re fasting, with your heads bowed and your sackcloth and ashes on But that’s not the real fasting I want.
The kind of fasting I want is to see you stand against oppression, to see you proclaim freedom to those who are burdened, to see you share your food with the hungry and open your homes to the homeless.
This chimes in with what Jesus says to us in Matthew 25:
Whenever you feed the hungry, you feed me; whenever you welcome a stranger, you welcome me; whenever you clothe the naked, you clothe me; whenever you visit someone ill or in prison, you are visiting me.
Jesus, like Isaiah before him, could not stand religious hypocrisy.
Lent gives us pause for thought: What motivates us? Who are we trying to please?
I would suggest that our motivation flows from that simple but powerful word: love.
Love stands at the centre of who we are and all our living as followers of Christ.
Who are the people in our communities who need someone to stand with them for justice or who need help with their burdens?
Who are the hungry nearby and far away who need us to feed them?
Can we commit during Lent to giving of our prayers, our time, our money?
Who or what is the Lord of love laying on our hearts during this season?
There is no shortage of opportunities.
There is no shortage of help from God’s Holy Spirit.
Lord God, thank you for this season of Lent and the opportunities you give us.
Help us to discern what you want us to take up for and with you, so that our Lenten fast will be the kind of fasting you want from your people and bring glory to your name. Amen.