What Matters?

Rev. Dean Lueking

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. 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? 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. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.  (Isaiah 58:4-9)

Surgeons who perform intricate operations often go nonstop for hours without eating. We don’t think of them as fasting while they go about their crucial work. Of course not; they’re intent on saving lives. Food comes later. 

In these pandemic-burdened days one thinks as well of nurses, retirement home care staff, faithful family members and all who work overtime in caring for others. They’re not fasting. They’re doing what is called for. 

Fasting in the sense of making points with God has been rightly denounced in our Lutheran tradition. But fasting in the Isaiah 58:4-8 sense (“loosing the bonds of injustice, sharing bread with the hungry, housing the homeless poor”) is exactly what is needed here and everywhere. 

Prayer: Blessed Lord, teach us to fast from the sin of self-indulgence so that we may feast upon your grace and not grow weary in well-doing.  Amen

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