Daily reading: 17 February (Ash Wednesday)
Ash Wednesday - chosen fast.
The daily readings throughout Lent 2020 are taken from the Christian Aid Ireland footprints journey.
'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?'
- Isaiah 58: 6-7 from full reading Isaiah 58: 1-12.
In the 1990s Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse used to play two comedy characters called 'Smashie and Nicey'. They were disc jockeys whose strapline was, 'I do a lot of work for charity, but I don’t like to talk about it.' The joke was that they never stopped talking about it. People can often be suspicious of celebrities who 'do a lot of work for' charity. They wonder whether the celebrity in question might have an ulterior motive to boost their own career in some way.
Whilst this may not always be a fair conclusion to jump to, it shows that people care not just about the giving, but also about the motivation behind it. Is it selfless or is it self-serving?
In Matthew chapter 6 Jesus talks about the right motivation for giving to the needy. Not for glory or for fame. But, because we care and because it is the right thing to do.
Jesus doesn’t say to those listening to his sermon 'if' you give to the needy. He naturally assumes that his followers will care deeply about those in need and so it is only necessary to give them instructions for 'when' you give to the needy rather than to convince them they should.
I think that Jesus’ instructions for giving are exemplified by the many supporters of Christian Aid who quietly, without fuss or fanfare give of their time and money to help others. People who they have never met and who will never be able to say thank you.
People like Faith, from Kenya, whose story is the focus of our Lent Appeal this year. Christian Aid helped Faith’s community to build a dam, which provides water during times of drought, which are increasingly common due to climate change. The water held by the dam allows Faith to plant vegetables and water her trees so that her crops will thrive and she can feed herself and her family.
If you are one of those people who give to the work of Christian Aid, I want to say thank you. You may never see the impact of your giving or meet the people who have been helped. But, Jesus reminds his followers that our Father in heaven sees what is done in secret and the reward will be from him.
May God bless us as we embark on this Footprints Journey of Lent reflections together.
Thank you that you care deeply for those in need. As your followers, help us to have generous hearts and to share with you in the work of caring for the needy and the oppressed. Help us to love others quietly, selflessly and without fanfare. Hoping, not for the affirmation of people, but for the smile of our Father in heaven.
Today's contributor is Rosamond Bennett. Rosamond is the CEO of Christian Aid Ireland. She joined in September 2012 after having worked in the corporate sector for 22 years. She is an elder in Whitehead Presbyterian Church, is married to Karl and has three teenage children.
Something to read
Something to think about
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent and a day of preparing to set aside the next six weeks for considering how we live our lives together with God, a day to consider our own mortality and our shared humanity. From dust we are and to dust we shall all return.
As the threshold for Lent, it can be considered a ‘liminal’ time – a time which can bring change and transformation for individuals and communities. This time might involve a more focused time of prayer, reflection or even fasting.
Standing on this threshold, we are invited to hear the words written in Isaiah 58:6-7
“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?”
As we enter a period of reflecting or fasting we can become aware of what we crave, more alert to the compulsions that control us. From there, we can explore ways of naming these compulsions before God and looking for ways of being free from them. Whilst vital for the deepening of our inner lives we must find a way for this to turn into action or we risk losing ourselves in our own piety. Global change, in the first instance is an inside job, but it must move on from there. Repentance - the U-turn change of direction, must find expression in our lives. Faith must result in action.
May this time of fasting be a time when our senses are heightened so we can see and to take notice of those who are held by the bonds of injustice, those who are held by the yoke of oppression and how may we work with them to loosen and break. That together we might shout out, to not hold back and to fast in a way that makes our voices heard on high.
Something to do
What might you do to turn faith into action this lent? How might we give energy to raise the awareness of the suffering of others?
Something to pray
O God, advocate of all who are oppressed,
You shatter our illusions of righteousness
and unmask our divided hearts,
in order that we might be filled with longing for justice and generosity
and so be made whole.
And as justice and generosity
are true marks of a heart turning towards you,
let our actions as well as our intentions
bear witness for the longing of our hearts.
Today's reflection is by members of the Christian Aid worship and theology collective.
Published on 17 February 2021