OK (I say to myself) it has been a long time since your last post. A really long time. Why now? Well, because this is the first day of Lent and I what to share a brief thought about Isaiah 58. OK, go for it.
I was thinking about people who are displaced from their homes. They often wander and find refuge where ever there is some form of shelter. In Haiti thousands of people still live in makeshift tents following the earthquake of January 12, 2010. In the Sudan people bundle up their possessions in a blanket, place it on top of their head, and begin to walk through the desolation until they arrive at a place of makeshift shelter.
During World War II the Jews of Europe where removed from their homes at gunpoint, placed in rail cars, and unloaded at death camps. Our own Native Americans were marched for hundreds of deadly miles to arrive at a new 'home' that would never really be a residence of peace and place.
The people of Israel had been in exile. They were removed from their promised homeland and taken away to become foreigners and aliens. Ultimately they were able to return to a home that was now rubble. God met them there and gave them some clear instructions through the voice of the prophet Isaiah.
He said things like do not fast to please God while you oppress your own people. Do not take pride in your own outward holy behavior while people are naked and hungry. Return to your homeland where you will be restored but bring with you a heart of social holiness.
Bring a heart for the poor, food for the hungry, and the gift of freedom for the oppressed. Do this and you will be engaged in an acceptable fast that will please God.
Isaiah 58 speaks to be with a powerful reminder that Lent is not just about my own piety. It is not about how much I pray or how often I engage the Scriptures...at least not exclusively! Because if I only pray and study but have no active compassion for others...my Lenten fast is like dust in the wind. It will blow away and disappear into the atmosphere until it is nothing but a speck of dust in the eye of a refugee somewhere around the world. A speck of dust will never feed a starving person.
John Wesley would say, without social holiness there is no holiness at all.