Today is Ash Wednesday. It marks the beginning of Lent, 40 days of preparation before Resurrection Sunday, better known as Easter.
Preparation is the key to Lent. Some people prepare for Easter by fasting from specific foods, imitating Jesus as he fasted for 40 days prior to beginning his ministry.
Some folks fast from bread or chocolate (though fasting from chocolate seems extreme to me), others fast from fast food, sodas or even shopping.
The fasting reminds us to prepare for the coming of Easter and helps us to remember Jesus’ suffering in a small way.
I was reading Isaiah 58 recently and it, too, speaks about fasting.
Through Isaiah, God says that He doesn’t want fasting that is meaningless. If we fast but still exploit our friends or workers, that isn’t what God wants. Fasting means nothing if our hearts are still self-centered, full of greed and anger. God notes that some people end their fasts and begin straight away to fight again. The fasting has not changed their hearts. It was done out of obligation rather than love and a longing to be more acceptable to God.
God says that what He really wants is for us to loose the chains of injustice, set the oppressed free, share our food with the hungry and clothe the naked. And when we do that sort of fasting, then our own healing will come. Our light, Isaiah said, will break forth like the dawn.
Preparing for Easter is good and right. Prepare in whatever way suits you, but do prepare. Often, as we know, the preparation takes longer than the actual event. My friend recently was prepped for surgery for three hours, while the surgery itself took 20 minutes.
A long preparation should be considered normal. Forty days of Lent as we prepare for Easter is not a long time. The truth is that we are all either preparing or failing to prepare for the day of our own resurrection. Everyone lives forever – death is not the end, but a hoop we all must go through.
Some will prepare for their resurrection through reliance on, friendship with and knowing and loving Jesus, while others will prepare in their own way. Jesus said the way to eternal life is through Him, that knowing Jesus is actually preparing for eternity.
Prepare for Easter. Start today. Fast from something and show mercy and love to those who cannot pay you back. But in the midst of that, also prepare to meet God, because we all will someday.
The Rev. David Moore is pastor of Union Presbyterian Church of Los Altos, 858 University Ave. For more information, call 948-4361 or visit unionpc.org.