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Notes from the Lay Leader - Lent '23

Isaiah 58:4-11: (God speaking): You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free… Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them?... If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always…

We are approaching Lent, with its ideas of sacrifice to prepare for the coming Resurrection. Fasting is one way, temporarily giving something up is another. Again, I wonder what it is that God would like us to do. We can do as we often do, and give up candy, or coffee, or social media for Lent. At least for me, that has me focusing more on MY sacrifices than on doing the work of God. I don’t eat much candy, so giving it up for six weeks isn’t that big a deal. No coffee would just make me grumpy, and no social media would just make me jumpy.

As Pastor Jeremy keeps reminding us, we should focus on keeping the main thing the main thing, and that’s working to establish the kingdom of God. Here, in Mecosta County. Now, in February, March, and April 2023 and onward from there.

As Isaiah would say, NOT by making an empty gesture, NOT by pointing out what we are currently doing: I come to church (most) Sundays. I donate. I pray. I read the Bible and the Upper Room for a few minutes each day. I even fast. How are those things working to establish the kingdom of God? When I am tempted to say that God isn’t speaking to me about what to do, am I sure it’s God who is messing up? Maybe I’m not listening.

In a passage from a book whose title I don’t remember, the author wrote about the seven times each day that Benedictine monks and nuns paused for prayer. One of the times was at midnight, when they had been in bed for a few hours (no electric lights in the Middle Ages!). The author of this book suggested that, when we wake in the night, we should practice waiting quietly to see if God would speak to us. I’m old enough now that I usually have to get up in the night at least once, and if not, we have an ancient cat who thinks it’s important to get up in the wee hours and howl for a couple of minutes. I have tried waiting quietly. I don’t always RECEIVE a message from God, whether he sent one or not. But sometimes I do.

You’ve noticed that God and I haven’t established the kingdom of heaven on earth (yet). But we are working on it. Think about how you can help with this during Lent. Form an intention and try to carry it out.

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