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Journey to Jerusalem Day 1

Ash Wednesday, February 17 Isaiah 58:1-12
1 “Cry aloud; do not hold back;
lift up your voice like a trumpet;
declare to my people their transgression,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
2 Yet they seek me daily
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that did righteousness
and did not forsake the judgment of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments;
they delight to draw near to God.
3 ‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
and oppress all your workers.
4 Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the Lord?
7 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 him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
11 And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in.

God has always desired the heart of His people, not the superficial obedience to select rules, while ignoring others. Can you hear God’s desire in this passage? God wants us to care about what He cares about: justice, mercy, generosity.
God wants your heart. Yet it is no easy thing to conform your heart to the will of God. It is easier to “check a few boxes” of religiosity. It is easier to read my Bible, than to let the Bible change my mind and habits. It is easier to give a few dollars to someone on the side of the road, than to actually care about their well-being. It is easier to go through the motions at church, say all the right things, than to humble myself before a holy God. It is easier to fast from a certain kind of food, than to be as giving and self-sacrificing as this text describes.
How can we get God’s heart? How can we want to do His will? As usual, God supplies us with everything that He demands of us. Philippians 2:13 “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

We say a prayer each Sunday that also sums up the thought that God changes our hearts—the Collect for Purity. This Lenten season ask God to work in you to give you His will and His heart. Perhaps every time you say the Collect for Purity on Sundays, do not go through the motions. Use is as a prayer to sincerely ask the Holy Spirit to give you the heart of God.

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord.
--Collect for Purity, BCP 2019, p. 106