Day 1 of Lent 2020
Today’s theme: True obedience; holy living.
Welcome to the Lent Journey podcast! Today is February 26, 2020, and it is Ash Wednesday. My name is Gina and I’m so glad you could join me today for a Scripture reading, a time of reflection, and prayer as we listen to the Holy Spirit over the next 40 days.
Scripture reading: Isaiah 58: 1-12
Have you had a conversation like this about Lent in years past, or maybe as you enter the Lenten season this year:
“I’m giving up chocolate for Lent. What are you giving up?”
“I’m giving up TV.”
“One year I gave up caffeine. That was tough.”
Lent is the traditional time when Christians spend 40 days preparing themselves to celebrate the resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday.
Lent represents the 40 days that Jesus went to the desert and fasted in preparation to begin his earthly ministry. Likewise, the 40 days of Lent is when Jesus’ followers give special focus to reflecting, repenting, and seeking intimacy with God in the presence of the Holy Spirit. We start on Ash Wednesday, the 7th Wednesday before Easter Sunday. It’s called Ash Wednesday, because on this day, ancient Christians smeared a thin paste of ashes mixed with oil on their foreheads. This outward sign symbolized their inner mourning for sin that brings death into the world.
And so we begin Lent with somber humility as we ask the Lord what needs to change in our lives, so that we know how to obey Him, and enjoy an unhindered, vibrant relationship with God.
In today’s passage, the prophet Isaiah delivered God’s powerful words concerning fasting to Israel:
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
The people were following to the letter the guidelines God had prescribed for their ritual fasting. They were doing exactly what God asked them to do. But something was wrong.
They didn’t obey God in all areas of their lives. While they went through the outward motions of fasting during the prescribed times, in the rest of their lives they failed to fully live into who God had created them to be, and neglected their relationship with God.
6 “Is not this 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
and break every yoke?
God views fasting as a beautiful and intimate act when the rest of our lives are aligned with God’s desires and heart. By compartmentalizing their spirituality, and only following God’s laws on certain days and at certain times of year, the Israelites did whatever they wanted the rest of the time. They fell short of God’s holy standards. In their neglect, they wounded God and damaged their relationship with Him.
It’s a stark warning for us as we enter the season of Lent. Is there a chance we are going about this wrong? Rather than making our own decision about what kind of fasting we will do, perhaps we could first ask God a question: Is the fast we choose the one He wants us to do? Maybe there’s something else He would ask of us, something we haven’t thought of? Or maybe it’s something we’ve been resisting.
Here, Isaiah offers us words of hope. If we surrender to God in every area of our lives; if we invite Him to give us the strength and courage to obey Him in everything He asks of us:
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
On this Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, let us first seek God’s face. That’s what Lent is all about, right? Let us ask what He wants to show us this season. And let us choose to obey Him in this, and in every other area of our lives.
- Is there something God might be asking me to give up for Him this Lent season?
- Is there something God wants me to obey him in, that I may have been resisting?
- How can I seek God’s strength and peace to obey Him in this?
God, often we are so excited to serve you that we run ahead of you and miss out on your instructing voice us. Sometimes we’d rather do things and be busy, like Martha, than sit in your presence and just listen, like Mary. We are so busy doing for you that miss opportunities to obey you in what you really wanted us to do. We miss opportunities to know you better through our obedience, opportunities to experience your love and grace and provision. Help us to pause, take a breath and listen to you, today and every day of Lent. We need you desperately, and we are so thankful to your gentle patience with us. Thank you for your son Jesus, and your forgiveness. We love you. Amen.
I hope we’ll be together again tomorrow for another day of scripture reading, reflection and prayer in our Lent journey.
Read a story about a couple who realized they were trying to obey God in ways that felt comfortable to them. Find out how God showed them what He really wanted them to do.
To find out more about the Eurasia Region Church of the Nazarene, visit www. eurasiaregion.org.
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