Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What's It All About

This may offend some people but after considering that, I decided to go ahead anyway. Once, I saw an article or a news story on the suffering of Palestinians. It moved me so much that I immediately looked for a way to send money to help with food/water/shelter/etc. I picked an Islamic organization and sent them fifty bucks.

Now I'm on their email list and get their publication in the mail. Of course. I was irritated, but the magazine I got this month focuses on Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting and prayer. I'm familiar with Ramadan and even get daily prayer points from a Christian organization on how to pray for Muslims during Ramadan (hey if they're praying and fasting, can't we attempt to do the same?).

I was taught years ago about prayer and fasting in church. There's a whole chapter in Isaiah, chapter 58, which focuses on fasting. It's great instruction, and it's pretty blunt:

3 'Why have we fasted,' they say,
'and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?'
"Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.

4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.

5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD ?

It's funny because it pretty much nails me. When I fast, I know I'll be grouchy that day. Things will get on my nerves that normally wouldn't affect me. Why? Because I'm hungry! Because I'm trying to be spiritual, dernit, and you're aggravating me in the process!

This morning I got up and thought about Ramadan, and decided I'd read through this magazine and see what THEY have to say about why THEY'RE fasting. Here are a couple of excerpts:

"Ramadan, the ninth lunar month in the Islamic calendar, marks a special time for over one billion Muslims around the world. It is a time for reflection, devotion, and self-control. But the experience of Ramadan is about more than just skipping meals. Whether it's done through a solemn prayer, a helping hand, or a considerable contribution of wealth, Ramadan is truly a test about reaching within to provide for those without."

"Ramadan is the month of mercy and compassion. But it is also a month that helps bridge a relationship between rich and poor."

So that's what good Muslims are supposed to be doing for 30 days. And what are good Christians called to do when they fast? I return to Isaiah:

6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
"If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.

11 The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.

12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

I think Muslims are on to something. God doesn't seem to care much for people who give up food and pray, and then turn around and yell at their kids, argue with their spouses and grab to be first. He wants us to share with the poor, help fight injustice, and set the oppressed free.

How do I do that?

Well I went to samaritanspurse.org and donated to their hunger relief fund. I shared the brownies somebody gave me as a thank you gift. I have $6 I found in my pocket and if anybody asks me for money, I'll gladly give it. The opportunity hasn't presented itself yet, but it is only 2:30pm and there's plenty of daylight left. I've got half a dozen heavy coats and jackets sitting at home, waiting to be given away, and my coworker just told me she knows a pastor friend in San Antonio who collects coats for the homeless. I begged her to let Jennifer know I have some to give her. Mission accomplished!

There's lots for me to learn but that's what I've done so far. I write this to encourage anyone who was willing to read this thing to do as I have tried to do. Let's pray and fast, and then share what we have, and help those who are oppressed in whatever way we can. Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

Three Walters said...

Awesome blog Rachael!!!

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