Summary: A sermon for Lent.
“Investing Ourselves in God’s Own Passion”
What are you like when you are hungry?
Do you get feeling a bit grumpy?
There used to be a Snickers commercial where the main character would be in a really foul mood until they were offered a Snickers bar, after which the tagline was: “You’re not grumpy when you aren’t hungry.”
And it’s true isn’t it?
We tend to act differently when we are in need of a meal or a snack.
Some people describe this condition as being “h-angry”—when your hunger causes you to be cranky and snap at others.
This is also what’s known as the hour between 5 and 6 p.m.--if you live with a toddler.
Generally speaking, we all think of hunger as a problem that needs to be fixed as soon as possible, do we not?
On the flip side, though, some people of faith, down through the ages have used the sensation of hunger to bring a deeper sense of spiritual awareness to their lives.
Lent, is often thought of a season where people fast.
While fasting from food has been the most common kind of fasting, in recent years the idea of fasting has moved to giving up things—such as technology, Facebook, or a favorite t-v show.
And there is nothing wrong with this.
It can, if done in the right Spirit, bring us closer to God.
The problem in our Scripture Passage from Isaiah for this morning is that the people were fasting, but for all the wrong reasons.
They were doing it so that God would reward them, kind of using God like some magic slot machine or being like: “Okay God, I’ll do this for you, you do this for me.”
“I’ll scratch Your back with my fast, you scratch my back with blessings.”
But Isaiah says, “That’s not what it’s about.”
What they are doing is not done in selfless love, it is done for selfish ends.
And, quite frankly, it makes them cranky.
In verse 4 it says, “Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists…”
But it’s also because they are going through the motions of religion, but forgetting the most important things, mercy, grace and love.
Isaiah says, “On the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers…
…you cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.”
Their worship, their religion and particularly their fasting is self-serving and hollow.
They are pretending to be righteous while allowing injustice to occur, or even participating in it themselves.
Isaiah is reminding them that fasting and worship, is not about going through the motions.
It’s not about play acting and fancy shows.
It’s about how they live in the world.
In other words, their worship of God, even their fasting, should make them hungry for something more—breaking the chains of injustice, setting the oppressed free, sharing their food with the hungry, providing the homeless with shelter, clothing the naked, showing compassion for others by what they do.
After all, true worship of God is how we care for the most vulnerable in our midst.
This is an important thing to be reminded of in a time when the church is so often defined by what we are “against.”
And by our quarrelling and fighting over who is in and who is out.
The world sees through this hypocrisy and, rightly, wants nothing to do with it.
In Matthew Chapter 25 Jesus tells us that when He returns “All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate [us] one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”
The sheep are gathered on the right side of Christ—the side of approval and honor, and the goats on the left side—for condemnation.
And the criteria for judgment may be astonishing for some of us.
Jesus doesn’t ask anyone about their creeds or their standing in the community.
He doesn’t ask them what denomination they are.
But instead: “What have you done for the family down the street?
Ever make any visits to the local jail?
The hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, the naked, the physically afflicted, the oppressed, the poor…
…what have we done or not done for them?”
The clear message is that God so intimately identifies with human beings that to care for another person is to care for Him.
To ignore another is to ignore Christ Himself.
And you know what?
Here in Isaiah, God is saying that TRUE WORSHIP—true Fasting is to “doing away with the yoke of oppression and with the pointing finger and malicious talk…”
True worship is “To spend ourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed.”