Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash and Fast

Isaiah 58.6:
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?

Today, people around the world are giving up things for forty days (not counting Sundays, of course). It's the lenten fast, when I've heard people promising to give up everything from chocolate to porn.

It's not a tradition I grew up with. In my rural, Texas upbringing, Roman Catholics did things like receive ash and give up things for lent. We were Lutheran.

I picked up the habit in college, I guess, or came to understand it was a tradition with broader observance than I had been lead to believe. And for a time I took on things, according to a fashion of the moment. I took on extra reading, or extra writing, or other such tasks that might serve me spiritually.

Centuries of all this giving up and taking on . . . and here we are in a time with such gaps between the super-wealthy and the crushed-by-poverty. The words of Isaiah haunt us as we live in this disparity.

Poor people are in prison on nothing more than hearsay and rumors, mostly for lack of adequate counsel.

Megalomaniacal antics of "stars" occupy us more than the dying hungry.

Political uprising is applauded or decried depending upon the profits to be made.

It's all so overwhelming. How do we fast from such a culture?

Yet, this, I believe, is what Isaiah is calling us to. A fast from the culture of prisons for those too poor to defend themselves adequately. A fast from a culture that turns its collective head toward every outrageous comment and flashy explosion, literal and metaphorical. A fast from a culture that follows the flow of money, right down to the polluted waters of political abuse and bloody profit.

How do we fast from the way we move in the world? How do we give up our worldview and understanding of our place in it?

I honestly haven't a clue.


Let us choose this fast. A fast from the bonds of injustice. A fast from oppression. A fast from a yoke too heavy to bear.

As we learn to do without injustice and oppression, perhaps we will learn what it is to be in the world but not of it.

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