Rev. Dr. Scott D. Hannon
St. John Lutheran Church, Amherst, NY
When I was a child I walked to school. During warm days I always walked on the edge of the sidewalk just in case there was a dandelion puff nearby. I was a firm believer that blowing away the seeds granted me a wish. On summer nights I was always on the lookout for that first star armed with a wish. I brought my pennies to the mall for the fountain, fought for the wishbone on Thanksgiving, and planned all year for that moment I got to blow out candles on my birthday. I was a child who knew how to wish.
Unfortunately, my wishes never came true. I never got a Power Wheel. Amanda B. never gave me the time of day. The Bills never won a Super Bowl. (The list continues.)
In scripture there is a passage where the Israelites complain because they keep asking God to answer their prayers, but he doesn’t. They say, “Why do we fast, but you don’t see? Why do we humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” They can’t figure out why God isn’t making their wishes come true even though they are doing everything right. Like a child who goes through the motions (kicking dandelion puffs and wishing on stars), they think that following protocol – going hungry for a bit – grants them a wish from God.
God says to them, “You fast only to serve your own interests. You fast, but then you quarrel and fight. That is not the fasting I want.” God continues, “If you want to fast… fast from injustice. And that food you aren’t eating… give it to the hungry.” God invites the Israelites to stop treating him like a vending machine and start participating in his mission and ministry. It is then, God says, “Light will break forth. Healing will spring up. Prayers will be answered. What is shattered will be rebuilt. What is broken will be restored.” (READ Isaiah 58:1-12)
So often our faith is a matter of convenience. We walk on the edge of the sidewalk just in case we see a dandelion puff so we can make a wish. God wants more. God wants us to participate in his mission and ministry and to let our prayers serve more than personal interest and gain.
We are invited to take a break from selfish wishing (no more prayers for the Buffalo Bills—God doesn’t care), so we can engage in God’s bigger plan. We are called to fast from quarreling and fighting, so we can start building one another up. And we are called through God’s unending and amazing grace to boldly live into the future God has in store for us… a future with hope. (Jeremiah 29:11).
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