Ash-Wednesday

As we begin our Lenten practice today with Ash Wednesday, I invite you to take a moment and to go deep into God’s Word as it comes to us from the Prophet Isaiah 58:1-12.  I opened up the Bible this morning and the depth of the Call within this passage resounded powerfully:

Shout! A full-throated shout! Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout! Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives, face my family Jacob with their sins! They’re busy, busy, busy at worship, and love studying all about me. To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—law-abiding, God-honoring. They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ and love having me on their side. But they also complain,  ‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way? Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’ “Well, here’s why: “The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit. You drive your employees much too hard. You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight. You fast, but you swing a mean fist. The kind of fasting you do won’t get your prayers off the ground. Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after:a day to show off humility? To put on a pious long face and parade around solemnly in black? Do you call that fasting, a fast day that I, God, would like? “This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, God will answer. You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’ “If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins, If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again. (From the Message by Eugene Peterson)

As we begin Lent today how can we as a community of faith:

  • Break the Chains of Injustice
  • Get Rid of Exploitation in the Workplace
  • Free the Oppressed
  • Cancel Debts
  • Share food with the Hungry
  • Invite the Homeless Poor into our Homes
  • Put Clothes on the Shivering Ill-Clad
  • Be Available to our own Families
  • Get Rid of UnFair Practices
  • Stop Blaming Victims
  • Quit Gossipping About Other People’s Sins
  • Be Generous with the Down-and-Out

Wow–that is such a list that Isaiah sets before us!

Just one of the things on this list stops me in my tracks.  I am in need of God’s grace, I am in need of spending deep spiritual time in Lent finding ways to turn my life around and reconnecting with the God I serve and follow.  How is it for you?

This Lenten season I am focused on these words:

I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.

May this be the grace we each cling to in Lent this year–and may we as a Presbytery be about building anew: strong and firm foundations for our future.  

Let us fix everything.
Let us restore old ruins.
Let us rebuild and renovate.
And let us make the communities we serve livable once again.

May God’s Spirit encircle and enrich you–blessing you deeply in this Lenten Season!

About Rev. Shannan Vance-Ocampo

Shannan grew up between the Jersey Shore and Philadelphia and have also lived at various points in Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey and upstate New York. Internationally, I have lived in Scotland, Greece and Colombia. My family is transnational, my husband is an immigrant and we divide our time between the United States and Colombia. You can learn more about Shannan at: https://srvoconsulting.com

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