Isaiah 58:1-12 Psalm 51:1-17 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:10 Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say,
Here I am.
The first time I ever heard of Lent was in my second-grade class at W. B. Prescott Elementary School in Opelousas, LA. The teacher, Mrs. Baldridge, asked us to stand up one by one and say what we were giving up for Lent. Every single kid said, “Candy!” Except me! I had no idea what everyone was talking about. As far as I knew lint was something we cleaned out of the dryer filter.
When I returned home that day I made a beeline for my mom to find out why I could still eat candy during Lent and my friends couldn’t have it until Easter. Her explanation was that Catholics believed they were giving up something for Jesus. Then she said that we didn’t do that because Baptists believed that no one had anything to give Jesus that could compare to the gift he gave us by dying on a cross for our sins. I had to admit that no candy for a few weeks was not equal to dying for the world. But, even my second-grade mind thought that there must be more to Lent than not eating Hershey bars.
Now that I am older and have participated in the Lenten season about a dozen times I think that this time of the liturgical year is about being reconciled to God, no matter what has happened. Whether you have committed a grave sin or whether something terrible has happened to your life that you had no control over.
In Isaiah there is a blue print for how the Jews are supposed to live to keep God=s favor, including feeding the hungry, freeing the oppressed, clothing the naked etc. The prophet says that their fasting is not acceptable to God unless they are doing these things. In the Psalm David, after committing both murder and adultery is begging God to cleanse his heart and make it white as snow again. In the letter to the Corinthians Paul enumerates the many trials and tribulations he and others have endured in order to be reconciled to God. In the gospel of Matthew Jesus himself entreats his people to pray in private and to keep an orderly appearance when they fast so that these practices do not become a hypocritical show.
As we begin the Lenten season of 2022, it is my prayer that we all find the practice, the fast and the discipline to which God leads us. Perhaps we can fast from worry and feast on God’s promise; fast from criticism and feast on encouragement; fast from doubt and feast on faith.