Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose 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 rearguard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
you shall cry for help, and God will say, Here I am.
The 30-Hour Famine is a worldwide movement of Junior and Senior High School students committed to serving God and fighting hunger. This year students fasted from Feb 26-27, 2010. As they fast, students engage in activities meant to give them a heart for the many impoverished people on our planet who live without enough food, water, health care, agriculture, education or economic opportunity. Students also raise money from family and friends which they use to fight hunger around the world.
It is at times like these that we come to a clearer understanding of just how blessed we are in the United States of America. We have been blessed with many resources that we take for granted—adequate food, clean water, warm clothes, appropriate housing, and access to health care and public education. For many people around the world, these basic necessities of life are not available and many men, women, and children die as a result.
I think that it is particularly apropos during the Lenten Season to fast and pray as we meditate on ways that we can share our abundance with others.
Yesterday, a friend showed me a book entitled, "If The World Were A Village" by David J. Smith. It said that if our world were a village with 100 people living in it, 66 people would not have adequate food to eat each day! Isn’t that shocking? Furthermore, I read online that over 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 cents a day, and 1 billion people lack clean drinking water.
Now you might say to me, pastor, we know these awful things are happening in nations far away and I would say that you are right. But, I also need you to know that poverty, hunger, and homelessness are not just problems of “so-called third world nations,” but they are also problems facing some of the citizens of the United States of America as well.
We know that this is true because census data and aid organizations have informed us that 13% of Americans live in poverty, 49 million Americans live in food insecure households, and over 664,000 Americans are homeless at any given time.
Lord, have mercy upon us!
These shocking statistics make it plain that something must be done, but what? What can one person, or fifty people, or even one thousand people do to help make a difference for the citizens of our world?
Well, first of all we can fast, pray and confess our sin to God. Since the junior and senior high youth have been leading all of us in that effort this weekend we are off to a great start! I know that all of us will continue in these Lenten disciplines in the weeks ahead as we prepare for the celebration of Easter Morn on April 4th.
Secondly, we can observe the Lenten Disciplines of giving alms to the poor and doing charitable good works by following God’s injunctions as found in Isaiah 58. In this chapter God says that in addition to fasting, praying, and confessing, we need to get to work—loosing the bonds of injustice, letting the oppressed go free, sharing our bread with the hungry, inviting the homeless into our homes, and clothing the naked.
I don’t know about you, but it gives me great joy to report that people in Christian churches around the world are doing these thing as well! All you have to do is turn on your television or look on the Internet to learn about amazing ministries bringing relief to those with need.
For instance, this week at my church a mission team will be visiting the Sunbeam Boys Home in Jamaica to serve the people living and working in that location. Senior High School students in my community are gathering supplies in order to assemble health kits for Haiti. And in my state, we are all invited to fill a bag full of non-perishable food products for Minnesota Food Share this coming month!
These are just a few of the many opportunities ministries ongoing in our world which allow us to share our time, talent, and treasure with hungry, thirsty, naked, or homeless people. Whilst many of us are already involved in one or more of these efforts, many more are invited to join!
I love the quote by Margaret Mead which states, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Sometimes it can seem so overwhelming to think of the billions of people in need of aid around the world! But, there is good news, my friends! This is not our work alone. We are partners and co-laborers with God in God’s work of bringing love, care, and supply to those with need.
We know that God loves all of God’s children equally. God proved this when Love gave Jesus to die on the cross to save all of us from our sin and gift all of us with eternal life. We know that God is All Powerful and can do anything, because Jesus did not stay dead, but was resurrected, just as He promised that he would.
Since God was able to accomplish the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God is able to meet the needs of all people--day by day. Even as we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread…” let us remember that we are praying not only for ourselves, but also on behalf of the many people around the world for whom this prayer has life and death implications.
As we pray, let us make up our hearts and minds to do God’s Work with Our Hands. If the hungry are to be fed, it will be God’s ministry through us that accomplishes it. If the thirsty are to receive water, it will be God’s Spirit moving in us that will bring it. If the homeless amongst us are to be sheltered, it will be the Word of God active and alive in our hearts that moves us to make a difference!
It blows my mind, every single day that God allows and invites each of us to partner with God in the work of the Kingdom of Love! If you have not yet found your place of service, I invite you to do so today; I know that you will be blessed beyond measure.
Finally, in addition to fasting, praying, confessing, and serving others, let us never neglect to assemble ourselves together on Saturday evening or Sunday morning to worship our God! For Isaiah 58 says that when we do these things, “Then we shall call, and the LORD will answer; we shall cry for help, and God will say, Here I am.”
God, we feel you in this place and we are grateful for your presence.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Won't you pray with me?:
Holy God, thank you that you feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty every day. Please forgive me for the times that I have neglected to partner with you in this important work. Please fill me with your love, joy, and peace that I might share the same with your children. I love you and I want to serve you faithfully. I pray this in Jesus' Name, Amen.
If you have questions about how to become a friend and follower of Jesus, please see the devotion entitled, “Come to Jesus” @ http://bit.ly/JVhaL
To donate money to World Vision, the sponsor of the 30-hour famine please visit http://bit.ly/38GaK4
It's not too late to observe the 30-hour famine with your youth group! A second effort to educate and involve young people will be made on April 23-24th. For more information please visit http://www.30hourfamine.org/