True Fasting Week 03
For many, this past year has included plenty of times where our heads have been bowed, and we’ve felt like lying in sackcloth and ashes. Many have experienced separation from loved ones, and losses of many different kinds; from social life and trips out, to hugs with older relatives. Many have also, sadly, lost loved ones to the pandemic. It’s not entirely surprising that our heads are bowed, and we’re not quite feeling ourselves, and that’s OK!
However, in Isaiah 58, the people are challenged as they adopt postures of sadness and mourning, not due to their circumstances, but in an effort to please God. It’s right that we bow the knee before the Lord and offer sacrifices of a contrite and repentant heart, yet God doesn’t want us to adopt these postures for piety’s sake, and here, Isaiah suggests an alternative kind of offering.
“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?
‘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?”
Many of us have battled with the challenges of lockdown, and have experienced struggles through it. As the prisons team have witnessed, this has been exacerbated for those in custody. Many prisoners have spent much of the last 12 months confined to their cells for the vast majority of the day, often with someone they don’t much like, in order to contain the virus. Prison staff have worked tirelessly to mitigate these effects, yet mental health has deteriorated and pastoral needs have exploded.
It’s not just those in prison though, who need to know a spiritual freedom (their physical freedom will come at the appropriate time, as determined by the legal system). Many of our neighbours, colleagues, friends and family also need to know the freedom that is only found in Christ, as they too battle the effects of the pandemic; health concerns, home-schooling, financial worries and bereavement.
As the prisons team continue to minister to those in a physical prison, I wonder who we know who might be in a spiritual prison right now? Who is the Holy Spirit prompting you to draw alongside in order to loose chains, untie cords and bring freedom to? As it says in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free”. Let’s go then, and bring some of that freedom to the world around us, in Jesus’ name.
Written by Tim Mycock