Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps 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… (Isaiah 58:6-7)
As Isaiah 58:6 alludes, Lent is traditionally a season of fasting. This annual 40 day season of Lent aligns with Jesus’ 40 days of fasting and temptation in the desert at the beginning of his earthly ministry. The spiritual intention of fasting has long been a tradition of Christians (and other religious traditions) rooted in the formative practice of self-denial for spiritual formation/perspective. While I believe that fasting can indeed facilitate this kind of spiritual purification, far more often when encountering fasters, I instead see people fixating on what they’ve given up for Lent, rather than the practice of giving something up becoming a vehicle for spiritual formation. For this reason, I regularly suggest to worshipers that taking something on during the season of Lent (like a new spiritual practice) often facilitates this spiritual intention of Lent better than giving something up.
At Cross of Hope we are planning to take on a missional theme to focus our Lenten reflections together following in the theme found in the continuation of the Isaiah 58 above. A number of years ago we focused on watershed issues during Lent found within the Stewards of Creation year long theme, but it feels time now to turn our focus to a uniquely human experience: homelessness. During the season of Lent we will be exploring the Faces of Homelessness together on Wednesday evenings. Tom Struwve and I have been working hard to create an all new Lenten Evening Prayer service around this important theme, tying together threads of the Biblical solidarity with the homeless, refugeeism, human trafficking, spiritual homelessness, the experience of the working poor, and many other faces of homelessness in our world today. Throughout Lenten Wednesdays we will be blessed by a variety special speakers to help us more directly explore issues of homelessness facing our community, including Freddy Toran with Street Voices for Change, David Frei director of Anoka Family Promise, Heidi Reis founder of Stepping Stones, Stefani Lekkas – one of our own congregational leaders who has experienced homelessness, and more.
In Jesus Christ we see the power of God at work with and for people living at the margins of society. While local/state/national governments of the world today certainly do provide some services for the poor and homeless, it has always been the work of the church to care for those living in the margins. That call to care for the least of these is still central to the mission of the church in the world today. We may not be ready to open the doors of our homes to the homeless (as the Prophet Isaiah instructs), but God clearly is. While simply inviting homeless into our hearts and minds in prayer this season of Lent may indeed be only a small step, it is still a step in the right direction, a step that may lead to the beginning of a new journey…
Image courtesy of Seattle’s King5 News – artist(s) unknown