Saturday, April 2, 2011

True Fasting (cont'd)

12 Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in. 13 If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs; 14 then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

According to Isaiah, true fasting is not about one’s self, but about a perspective that seeks what is beyond oneself, which looks toward the other and toward God.

Monday, March 28, 2011

True Fasting (cont'd)

Isaiah’s passage on true fasting continues:

9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, 10 if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. 11 The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. (Isaiah 58:9-11)

Somehow our world works best when we look after each other. There is a counter-intuitive transformation that results when we begin to confront the oppression in our midst rather than ignore it, especially when we realize that we ourselves can be the oppressor. We often place yokes on others, point our fingers and speak things that work contrary to love as we grasp for help and healing. But until we give up trying to take life and light for ourselves we will never realize our ability and purpose to actually be it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

True Fasting

Isaiah 58:6-8

6 Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? 8 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

Isaiah 58 juxtaposes two different kinds of fasting. The first is fasting as an exterior event which seeks to lift the inner ego up. The second is fasting which becomes exterior action because one forgets the inner ego. The difference is that one type seeks one’s own interest; the second type seeks the interest of the other. So again, we ask together, what does it mean to truly fast?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I've been doing a little reflecting on Isaiah 58 lately.

We do this thing called a daily rhythm here at the university where we hold hands before meal time, listen to a reading together and then pray. Sometimes most of us are focused and are able to think about the reading, sometimes most of us are not and catch ourselves groaning over the content or presence of another reading, and sometimes some of us are just content to hold another's hand for a moment before we eat another meal.

I've had the scary privilege (... perhaps?) of choosing the readings for the last few weeks as our current booklet is a little outdated - as it turns out the Lent of a few years ago just does not line up with this year's... only off by a few weeks. hah. So, I've not only been pulling some readings together for our daily rhythm, but I have also been trying to orient these reflections in a way which engages with Lent, even if simply. I thought that it could be good to put down some of these rhythms on my blog:

Isaiah 58:3-5 (NRSV)

3 "Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?" Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers. 4 Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. 5 Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?

As we continue in this season of Lent together, Isaiah 58 provides a poignant counterpoint to the action of fasting in which religiosity is criticized and the question posed: what does it mean to truly fast?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Riding on the Wheels of Inevitability Will Not Get You Anywhere

I read a recently posted quote from a blogsite I try to follow from time to time (the blog is called Inward/Outward). The quote finally stood out to me today after I re-read it, and it actually convicted me as I was reflecting on how I want to use my time over the next couple months.
Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of those willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter From Birmingham Jail (April 16, 1963)

I have just returned back to St. Stephen NB after spending ten days with Rose and her family in Saskatchewan. My time with her (which was so great in so many ways) was removed from my regular role and community in St. Stephen allowing me to take a breather, to gain a little perspective and hopefully refresh my attitude as I intern here at the university.

This quote gives a subtle critique of a habit I have: passivity. The criticism seems most applicable to me in my actually acting upon ideas and actions of value and seeing them to fruition. I looked up the definition of passivity:
1. the trait of remaining inactive; a lack of initiative
2. submission to others or to outside influences

I often live in the ideal and have pretty good ideas of what I would like to invest myself in, but I find it unfortunately easy to let my idea's be kiboshed by small discouragements - time, inexperience, fear of failure and/or fear of people. It becomes easy to live in a state of engaging only the interest and not the substance of these ideas, to entertain the good ideas but only do what is necessary to get by. This passive submissiveness to my investment in activities of worth not only affect me, but sabatoge my potential for creativity, my ability to be an effective co-worker with God as well as my capacity to be a conduit for positive social change in my local and global community.

It hardly seems that any significant social change in history happened with little effort. Change almost always requires effort, a cost, a sacrifice, either individually or collectively. "Human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability", and I will venture to say that this is true of individual growth. We do not learn to live until we are actually willing to lay down our lives, even if it is bit by bit.