Friday After Ash Wednesday, March 3, 2017
Rev. Jenni Ovenstone Smith

Scripture for the Day

Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day,
and oppress all your workers …

Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?

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?

I hear the words come from my mouth before I can step back and think … on Ash Wednesday, the fast day of fast days: “There is no one there! Shouldn’t they especially be open at this time, when people get out of work?” It is 5:05 pm. I have just picked up a tired, coughing child with flushed cheeks: no fever, no clear illness, no obvious sickness to warrant a word to the doctor on call. But we have upcoming plans to travel for an overdue family visit, and if the coughing and sneezing are more than allergies I would like get my son in to see someone first thing tomorrow, to begin treatment and get relief right away!

But it is 5:05pm, and our doctor’s office is closed for the night. The receptionists, nurses, nurse practitioners and the physicians have gone home. They are tending to their families, running their errands, possibly preparing for their evening Ash Wednesday worship or other commitments, perhaps wondering if their coughing children are developing more than just allergies.

They are not working in this window of time between pick-up and evening services when I am off?!

I realize that Isaiah’s words about what kind of “real” fast the Lord desires – loosing bonds of injustice, freeing the oppressed, breaking every yoke – speak strongly to the dark places of brokenness, pain, injustice and suffering in the systems and institutions of our country and world that I, along with every baptized person who “strives for justice and peace among all people” is called to recognize, name, and work to undo.

Today, however, they also make me think of another type of yolk and oppression I place on others without thinking; a quieter, more insidious, and ever-increasing one: In our digital, Amazon-prime, Siri/Alexa age of constant connectability, 24 hour customer service, online ordering, pop-up help chats, and immediate answers to, I have grown accustomed to stores being open just about all the time and service being available when I “need” it.

Before I forced myself to reflect, I was surprised and -- I confess -- annoyed (okay, truthfully I was for a time even indignant) that the lovely team at our pediatrician's office was not at work when I needed them.

When I had time for them.

How do my practices and internal expectations, whether fasting or feasting, serve my “own interests?” How do they “oppress workers” … particularly those who do not have the flexibility to choose the jobs and hours they take to care for their families? How do they reveal a tendency to encounter others in transaction rather than relationship? How will I practice my Lenten fast in ways that allows others theirs?


Last Published: March 2, 2017 5:39 PM