Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loosen 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.
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
So, here’s an honest pastor moment, Lent was not my favorite season growing up. My parents, who dictated my faith formation, always had me and my siblings abstain from luxuries like candy, soda, and television. I’m sure if I grew up a child of the 2010’s, my tablet would be put away for this 40-day sentence of Christ centered love. In truth, I didn’t feel any closer to Jesus during Lent than I did any other liturgical season, so I saw Lent as something to be endured until Easter relinquished me from the bonds of my first world problems. You’re probably thinking that as I embraced adulthood and my call to the Office of Ordination, God Almighty bestowed upon me an epiphany that transformed the errors of my youthful heterodoxy. Alas, such epiphany never came as
I resent fasting now more than ever now that I am older. The stakes of my problems and
appreciations have increased with my age. I’ve come to realize that if fasting wasn’t bringing me closer to God, then it was useless, and I shouldn’t conform to it simply because my religion tells me it’s the proper thing to do. Instead, the fast I choose is taking on consideration for others by actually listening to what they need, even if I cannot provide what I want to give them, or worse, feel they should need. I think that was the point of the Meet the Pastor sessions I held over the past few months. I wanted to meet people on 1-on-1 basis in a controlled environment, and what many of you need is flexibility. So, instead of taking the easy route of abstaining from vices of subjugation, such as gummy bears and too many hours on YouTube, the fast I choose is communal empathy. I do want to get to know you, my dear Church, only this time, I promise to do so on your terms. Mistakes will be made and misunderstanding will ensue, but all will be well so long as Christ is at the center. Perhaps, this season, you’ll choose to give something toxic up, like alcohol and Facebook message boards. Perhaps you’ll take something positive on, like volunteer work or walking recreationally with a friend. Whatever you choose, I pray that it brings you closer to Jesus. He’s a pretty great guy who wants you to do well. I sincerely thank everyone who took the time to participate in the Meet the Pastor sessions. I have enjoyed getting to know you using this particular forum, but I think it’s run its course. I am always available for conversation either at the Church office or some other avenue. May God bless you all during this Lenten Season.
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm on your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May the God who loves us all hold you in the palm of His hand.
An Old Irish Blessing
In God’s Abiding Love,
The Reverend Jeniffer Tillman, M.D.