Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Least of These in Lent

Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving the three pillars of Lent. 

Ministry in the Cook Islands
During this pre-election time I think it would be great if we could fast from politics;-)  Don't get me wrong, the election is important, but is seems to me that with all this bipartisan bickering that the (re)elections become the focal point and not the good of the people.

This past Monday the gospel was :
Matthew 25:34-45
Jesus said to his disciples: "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.  And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?' And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.' Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.' Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?' He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.'

These are the directions from Jesus to receive eternal life.  How are we doing?  How are we welcoming the strangers/foreigners among us?  How are we caring for the sick with no medical help? What about the imprisoned? 

I heard just today that 50% of those imprisoned in MD will return to prison.  The study done concluded that the people don't have help transitioning back to regular life and are often without resources such as housing and employment and end up back in trouble.  There was a group in MD lobbying for assistance for those leaving prison.  Instead of "ex-cons" they called them "returning citizens." I was impressed with how the one label expresses long-lasting judgement and the other of respect and a new beginning.

How will your prayer, fasting and almsgiving reflect the type Jesus challenged us to?  Let me close with a reminder from Isaiah 58:

Is this not, rather, the fast that I choose: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking off every yoke?  Is it not sharing your bread with the hungry, bringing the afflicted and the homeless into your house; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own flesh?  Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

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