Lenten Formation: Daily Reflection 1

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?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.
Isaiah 58:6-9, NRSV

If giving something up, or adding something to, our daily living is good for Lent; shouldn’t we be doing it all the time? I have wrestled with these questions. I’ve had the cynical attitude; but I have discovered rich layers of meaning and formation through Lenten encounter. Each experience of Lent leads me more deeply into the next. It is not simply the “giving up” or “adding to” that makes Lent meaningful. In fact, we must be careful not to let fasting and almsgiving reflect self-righteousness or self-centered privilege. –Janné Grover, Lenten Formation

Reflect: 

  • If you have chosen to fast for Lent, spend some time prayerfully considering your fast so far. What are your intentions for fasting? What are you noticing as you engage in this ancient spiritual practice?
  • Spend a few moments considering your social, economic, and religious “location” in the world. When is your expression of faith from this location potentially self-righteous or a reflection of privilege? What does it mean in your life to carefully discern faithful response?
  • How are you invited into the deeper layers of meaning and formation during the Lenten season? Prayerfully read the text above from Isaiah 58:6-9. What is God’s invitation for you in this text?

I Cannot Go to Bethlehem

By Susan Oxley

I cannot go to Bethlehem.
Life moves too quickly.
The press of people blocks my way.
In the noise and confusion, the clutching of hands, I feel no angel wings.
You who are caught in the maddening whirl of activity, trapped in a crowded inn,
Peace. Be still. God comes to you quietly, in a stable, singing in you his new song.
Let your heart be a listening hillside, and the brush of angel wings will follow.

I cannot go to Bethlehem.
There’s too much sorrow and despair.
Grown people turn away, unfeeling, uncaring. Death reigns supreme.
How can I believe in a Baby? I hear no announcement of good news.
You who brood in sadness, by the echoing chasm of grief,
Remember the one who comes and abides. God With Us, Emmanuel.
Touch Him in your winter loneliness, hear him as a shout against despair,
Until, transformed by grace, your griefs become your joy.

I cannot go to Bethlehem.
Doubts and questions bar my way.
Fear whispers from all sides.
Journeys require faith—don’t ask me to go. I hear no songs of faith.
You who search and doubt and journey,
The Word has been shaped by love, spoken in fire, captured in flesh.
Traveler, have faith in beginnings and believe in preparation beyond knowing.
Kneel in the whispers of the mind, in the doubts of the night, and hear faith being born.

I cannot go to Bethlehem.
Inside, there is darkness, cold silence, empty echoes.
The voice I hear is only your darkness speaking to my darkness.
Without light, I can’t find the way. I see no stars to guide me in the night.
You who live in darkness, prisoner of the winter that knows no spring,
The people of echoes and silence have seen a great light!
Believe in a brightness that is beyond you, surrounding, invading, within you.
This Advent, let us all go to Bethlehem, and find our kneeling places.

Spiritual Practice: Spend a few moments in silence, breathing deep and listening within. Where do you find yourself reluctant? Where do you find yourself hopeful? What are the strongest movements within you at the beginning of this Advent Journey? What is the state of your heart as you make this journey?

Click the image above for a free Advent Spiritual Retreat resource.
Click the image above for a free Advent Spiritual Retreat resource.