Everything you wanted to know about Christianity
at the Anglican Parish of the Otways
Please join me each week for our reflections
of sermons conducted during our church service.
Plus, occasional splashes of humour and epiphanies!
With much Love and Blessings
Rev. Jenny Brandon
LENT BEGINS ASH WEDNESDAY, ENDS 40 DAYS LATER
BEFORE EASTER SUNDAY
AS we begin our Lenten discipline this year,
there is always a danger that we will go about
our spiritual disciplines out of pure habit
rather than out of a desire to grow closer to God.
Why have we fasted if you are not aware of it?
Our Old Testament reading (Isaiah 58)
addresses the problem of hypocritical fasting,
and the principles here apply to all spiritual disciplines.
Uniformity of worship can sometimes obscure
the sincere from the insincere worshippers of God.
There is no doubt as to the presence of outward conformity
in the opening two verses of our chapter,
but there is an underlying irony in the phraseology.
God's people are seen and heard to be “crying aloud,”
but have yet to discover their transgression.
They behave as if their righteousness was not in dispute,
and yet they have forsaken the ordinance of their God
There is a difference between praying and “saying prayers.”
It is the difference between engaging with God,
and acting out a sham.
This is the root of the word “hypocrisy,”
and as Christians we must be wary of it.
When you fast, stop looking sad like hypocrites. They put on sad faces to make it obvious that they’re fasting. I can guarantee this truth: That will be their only reward."
They make every appearance of fasting,
but their hearts are not right.
They only want the praise of men,
And truly they have the reward they desire!
When we are only going through the motions of true worship
it is easy to blame God when things go wrong.
“We did our part,” we say,
and we presume that therefore God should do His part.
We want to find fault with our covenant God,
yet it is He who finds fault with us. (Isaiah 58:3).
The fast day, He accuses, is no different from any other day.
We treat it as we do the Sabbath,
working (Isaiah 58:3),
doing our own thing,
finding our own pleasure and speaking our own words
There is ongoing strife and debate, exploitation
and argument, just like any other day (Isaiah 58:4).
God knows the difference between true worship
and false, true fasting and false.
True repentance is a gift from God,
and an insincere person may well fall short of
finding it even though they seek it.
No amount of grovelling and genuflection
will hide the inward nature of a hypocrite (Isaiah 58:5).
True fasting will lead the liberated soul
to seek relief and liberty for others (Isaiah 58:6).
After all, the gift of forgiveness
is a gift to be shared (1 John 2:1-2).
This is basic to the gospel,
where deliverance is proclaimed to the captives (Luke 4:18).
True fasting will give out bread to the hungry,
shelter the outcast, and clothe the naked (Isaiah 58:7).
This is “pure religion and undefiled” (James 1:27).
These things will make the difference between the righteous
and the unrighteous on the day of judgement (Matthew 25:31-46).
When our approach to God is sincere,
then we will enter into the fullness of the covenant blessings
for which we yearn.
There is light and liberty,
health and healing,
righteousness and sanctification,
and the LORD will go before us and be our rear guard
When our “religion” consists in more than outward rituals,
and our deeds follow our souls in pity to the poor,
then the LORD will guide us, provide for us,
and make our land as a watered garden (Isaiah 58:10-11).
This is a spring from which not only do
we draw water for ourselves,
but we shall have more than sufficient for others also.
There is a promise of blessing for those who keep the true fast,
repent and walk in God's way.
Their children shall rebuild the old waste places,
and they shall dwell in the paths of righteousness.
They will reap the benefits of heavenly citizenship
even whilst they are still here upon the earth (Isaiah 58:14).
Then at last they shall enter into the fullness of
their salvation in the glory hereafter.
So let us examine our hearts this Lent
and draw near to God with humility,
in true worship and repentance,
seeking a changed heart and new life.
The Lord Be with You!
About the author
Rev. Jenny is an ordained Priest of the Anglican Diocese delivering services at Anglican Parish of the Otway churches every week.
With great depth of knowledge and a spiritual practice that shows she walks her talk and has taken her to the far reaches of N.T. Australia working with indigenous youth and elders.