The Relational in Lent (Ash Wednesday)


Ash Wednesday
Isaiah 58:1-12 (Holy Communion Service)

If the word "yet” is not there in verse 1 (Isaiah 58:1) , this verse seems like a model of good religious worship.

There was assiduous devotion, a "day after day” committed daily discipline. Our society gives a lot of credence to such daily discipline. We show a lot of respect to “men of the cloth”, men who lives a religious life, with an outward template seen in the way they dressed and observance of times and seasons.

It also seem like there is delight (“they wish to”). Every box on the checklist is ticked. What could be wrong? Isaiah 58:3-8 onwards points out the inadequacy.

They were religiously right but socially and morally wrong in their daily lives. They exploited workers and sought their own benefits (“pursue own pleasure” in Isaiah 58b can be translated “pursue your own business”). 

This is a solemn reminder - Lent is as much social as it is spiritual. We see this in the life, teaching and ministry of Jesus, contra mundun to the religious people and opinions of his day. Jesus taught on the importance of love, the “greatest commandment” above everything else.

As someone said, " One of the unique features of the biblical faith is that there is no genuine relation with God that is at the same time, not a relation with the brother.”

This Lent, do reflect on your relational life. Think of your own family members. How are you treating your elderly? Or those who are young? How about your friends, classmates or colleagues? If you have a helper in your home how are you treating her? How about the people people we meet; whom we take for granted; such as the security guard and cleaners in your estate? What is your posture towards our wider society?

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