Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
At the start of Lent we often make a promise to give up something; usually chocolate sugar in tea or coffee. Having done so we then continue with our lives in the same old fashion. But is this what God wants? The prophet Isaiah addressed the question many years before the birth of Jesus. He quotes the people as saying: 3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ and goes on to give God’s response as:
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.4 Your fasting ends in quarrelling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Isaiah 58:3-4 NIV.
So it seems clear that God wants more from us than simply giving up something which is quite easy to go without. If we simply stop eating chocolate but carry on our lives as before, then who are we pleasing? Obviously we might get a rather nice warm feeling having made the effort, and we may feel a little healthier. But who else benefits? If we look at Isaiah 58 again we find that a fasting more acceptable to God involves ‘loosing the chains of justice and setting the oppressed free (58:6)’, ‘sharing your food with the hungry and providing the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe them’ (58:7). In other words we are called to give something back to our community, to our world. To do otherwise could be considered simply self - serving, some might say hypocritical.
So the question this week is: What effect will your Lenten practices have on your neighbours, your family, your church and the world in general? How will they benefit from your efforts; will they notice any difference? If not, why not?
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time employment for a number of years