On Sunday I had a message from Bishop Moses of Maridi Diocese South Sudan saying:
“Pray for Archdeacon Wilson Misa of Manguo Archdeaconry whose family has lost everything in a wildfire this week.”
Sparks from a wildfire in the bush landed on the thatched roofs of several houses. The roof blazed and fell into the house burning it from the inside, leaving a blanket of ashes where furniture and clothes and life had been.
From the outside some of the walls of the houses don’t even look scorched, but on the inside the ashes speak of how much has been lost and destroyed.
Verses 1-5 of Isaiah 58, are a scorching diatribe against God’s people Israel. It seems that their lives are full of attitudes and actions that bring loss and destruction to themselves and their communities, yet outwardly they diligently practice their religion thinking that they are pleasing God!
Ash Wednesday invites us into a time of reflection on the ashes of our lives, the things we have messed up, the people we have hurt, the good that we have left undone. Today God reminds us of the ashes on the inside, that in these coming days of lent we recognise weakness in ourselves. For when we see ourselves clearly Christ’s suffering becomes our relief, his resurrection our only hope and joy.
As we have begun this season of lenten reflection we remember those whose lives are literally in ashes: Archdeacon Wilson Misa and his family and the families of 15 people killed in a bomb attack on a church in North Kivu Diocese, DRC, and 76 others who were injured in the blast visited by Bishop Isesomo last week. Praying for and standing with the global church is the type of fasting that God directs his people towards:
“If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, 10 if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. 11 The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.”
Isaish 58 v 9b-11