Sunday, March 12, 2006

What I'd like Christians to give up for Lent

There are times in my life when another person captures the cry of my heart much better than I possibly could have put in words. This is one of them.

Rick Luoni, a newly-minted Episcopal priest from San Francisco, wrote this over here at a new life emerging. He is always insightful, always straight-from-the-heart, yet this time he just wrote the words of my heart for all to see. I have included the entire text of his post here, because it's way, way more inspired and true than anything I could possibly write tonight.

If I could, I would pay to have this read in every Christian church in the nation this coming Sunday. To me, it captures the heart of Christ's true work for the Church - more than 90% of the sermons I've heard, more than The Passion of the Christ or the Left Behind series, more than many Christian writers, and (except for Billy Graham) more than virtually every single so-called "evangelical Christian leader" I've heard in the last 10 years.

I wish I had written these words - but thank you God, for your servant Rick.

Do you want to know the true secret to transforming the world in the 40 days of Lent?

This morning while meditating on Isaiah 58 I discovered the secrets to fasting "Yahweh-style."

It seems that God is looking for a different kind of fasting than those things we normally give-up during Lent. Take a look at the Isaiah text.

"This is the kind of fast day I am after." (Isaiah 58:6)

1. To break the chains of injustice,
2. Get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
3. Free the oppressed, and
4. Cancel debts.

"What I'm interested in seeing you do is" (Isaiah 58:7)
1. Sharing your food with the hungry,
2. Inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
3. Putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, and
4. Being available to your own families.

Notice what's missing?

The "me-centered" spirituality. We may be loved individually but it was never intended to remain personal.

If you do this here are the results you can expect of fasting Yahweh-style:

"Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The GOD of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, GOD will answer. You'll call out for help and I'll say, 'Here I am.' "

"If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people's sins; if you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, then your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go. I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places - firm muscles, strong bones. You'll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry." (Isaiah 58:8-11)

Imagine if we fasted from poverty, exploiting workers, oppression, homelessness, broken families, debt, blaming victims, and picking on other folk's sins... imagine what this world would look like.

Apparently the kind of fasting God notices is when we fast from those things that rob people of their dignity and humanity.

There you have it - fasting Yahweh-style.

I think I learned something new about fasting.
How 'bout you?
Lord God, as this man of God has written, let it be with me today. May we stop judging and condeming and labeling each other long enough to actually start building Your kingdom here on earth. In this season of Lent, let us not give up TV or chocolate or bourbon, but help us simply give up deciding who is going to hell and who deserves heaven.

Loving God, let us stop worrying about how we are going to further split the body of Christ because "they" don't believe as "we" believe, or worrying about who wants to marry who, and let us start taking action about who is going to feed and clothe and comfort and bring justice to those who need it. Help us stop worrying about the so-called "seven texts" long enough to focus on two Great Commandments and one Great Commission.

God of all power and might, let this begin - and let it begin with me.

1 comment:

Poor Mad Peter said...

Amen, Steve man.