Great Plains Daily Devotional for 2/21/2023: Isaiah 58

Today please be in prayer for

Argonia UMC
Mayfield Federated Church
Wichita West District
Medicine Lodge UMC
Wichita West District
Mount Hope UMC
Wichita West District
Pratt: First UMC
Wichita West District

Today's Lectionary Text

Isaiah 58

 Shout loudly; don’t hold back; 
    raise your voice like a trumpet! 
Announce to my people their crime, 
    to the house of Jacob their sins. 
They seek me day after day, 
    desiring knowledge of my ways 
    like a nation that acted righteously, 
    that didn’t abandon their God. 
They ask me for righteous judgments, 
    wanting to be close to God. 
“Why do we fast and you don’t see; 
    why afflict ourselves and you don’t notice?”  
Yet on your fast day you do whatever you want, 
    and oppress all your workers.   

Today's Devotional

Today is Fat Tuesday – or Mardi Gras or “Pancake Day,” depending on your preference. Maybe you are watching to see whether the ladies of Olney, England, or Liberal, Kansas, win the decades old Pancake Race. Or perhaps you are enjoying a Mardi Gras party this evening or looking for the coin in the King Cake. Maybe you aren’t observing the day at all. 

No matter how we may or may not observe this day, we all have one thing in common. Today we stand on the precipice of another Lenten season. Throughout many centuries traditions of revelry and celebration have evolved around this last day of ordinary time. So much so, that it is easy to overlook the original purpose of the traditions – such as making pancakes to use up the last of the animal fat in one’s house before Lent begins because animal products were not eaten during the season of preparation for Easter. 

Lent was once more strictly observed by Christians than is true today. Fasting was a primary component of the observance of Lent. Many people continue to make fasting from certain things – frequently food or drink that we truly enjoy – a part of their Lenten observance. In recent years, though, I have been seeing lists of different things from which it is suggested we fast. For instance, fasting from using hurtful words, bitterness, anger, or injustice.  

I am intrigued by the concept of fasting from injustice. Isaiah 58 describes a people who fasted to show themselves as righteous yet treated their servants unjustly even as they fasted. The prophet calls them out, announcing their sins. 

Thousands of years after Isaiah was busy prophesying, we still have issues with injustice in our world. There is evidence of injustice everywhere we turn – hunger, homelessness, racial and gender inequity, lack of access to basic human needs, to name but a few. All too often it seems there is no remedy for any of it. Yet each of us has a part to play in addressing the unjust systems of our world. We may not be able to eradicate such systems on our own, but we can make a start. 

This Lenten season, I pray that each of us will find at least one aspect of injustice that we can make a part of our Lenten fast. What might that look like? Perhaps giving up an hour of some activity to which we look forward so we can prepare or deliver meals at a soup kitchen – or to work with a literacy group helping someone learn to read. Or, give up a grudge you are holding against someone and take steps to be reconciled to them. Might we be able to fast from speaking and simply listen to what another person needs to say? 

There are many possibilities. If we make fasting a part of our Lenten practice, can we make a fast that is more in line with the teachings of Jesus than simply giving up candy or soda – something that will make a difference beyond our personal comfort? Something that will bring justice a little closer in our own corner of the world? 

-- Robbie Fall, retired elder

Prayer for Reflection

Show us the fast you desire from us, O God, that we may address injustice in some small way. Amen. 


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