I grew up in the liturgical church with all its various seasons and rituals. Familiarity had bred contempt in me and I saw little personal value in these traditions. As we began Up Town as a fresh expression of church I thought I was finally going to be liberated from ‘the ball and chain’ of my liturgical past.
“Not so fast!” the Lord seems to say. My friends of the Street Hope community are fascinated by these seasons and rites and their interest drags me back to take a look at old things and see them for the first time.
The latest conversation was about Shrove Tuesday and Lent. An especially warm conversation arose over the idea of fasting or ‘giving up things’. We realised that even for those who barely subsist there were things which we could give up in order to honour God and focus attention on Him. The verses though that became the crux of our conversation was Isaiah 58:6 and following.
“Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free.”
One of the guys asked a great question “How do we do that?” We would certainly like to play a role in loosing chains of injustice and setting people free but we ourselves are bound up in ways and ensnared. How can we be part of the answer? This became the discussion point. Together we came up with two ways to address this question.
1) We can help move toward answering the question by trying not to be part of the problem. To us this means God is calling us to treat people fairly, indeed, more than fairly God is calling us to live generously toward others. That old song “Jesus Bids us Shine” reminds us of our responsibility in our small corner. We realize that we cannot end all injustice but we have a part in not furthering injustice. I often tell the old joke (a groaner) “I went to the doctor and said ‘Doctor it hurts when I do this’ the doctor replies ‘Well don’t do that!’” Good advice!
2) As a community we can become a sign that living in the new way of the Gospel is good. We can in our own little way point toward a better way. James writes about how little things like: tongues, sparks, and rudders can have out sized effects. Could a hokey little community which decided to follow their leader, Jesus, not have an effect? Is this not in line with the teachings of being salt and leaven?
The upshot of the story is we decided that this was our fast for this Lent and on.