The season of Lent is approaching, though still several weeks away. (As a kid, when I first heard the word “Lent,“ I thought people were talking about laundry—I soon learned otherwise.)
But one of our readings for this week puts me in mind of that season, because it reminds me of one of my favorite Lenten hymns, “Now Quit Your Care.” Here’s how it paraphrases Isaiah:
“For is not this / the Fast that I have chosen? / (The prophet spoke) / to shatter ev’ry yoke, / of wickedness / the grievous bands to loosen, / oppression put to flight? / To fight, to fight, to fight till ev’ry wrong’s set right? / For righteousness / and peace will show their faces / To those who feed / The hungry in their need, / and wrongs redress, / who build the old waste-places, / and in the darkness shine. / Divine, divine, divine it is when all combine!”
Compare: “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? 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? 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 58:6-8).
According to Isaiah, this is God speaking: Instead of looking upward for God, or inward, look outward. Instead of “giving something up for Lent,“ take on something—promoting justice and kindness. That’s where God longs to meet us.
Part of what brings this to mind is an invitation to join with some friends and associates who are fasting for 24 hours on behalf of workers’ fair treatment and compensation. I guess Isaiah says that’s a fast I’d better not decline.
Instead of looking upward for God, or inward, look outward. That’s where God longs to meet us.