Solidarity with the Poor
by Darren Rouanzoin
Begin with prayer (5 minutes)
Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting (around a table, on the couch, the floor of a living room, etc.). Have somebody lead a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together.
Read this overview
At the time of Isaiah’s prophetic ministry, the community of God was known for their intense spirituality – a personal, self-centered faith that neglected the kind of just community that God was looking for. Isaiah confronts the community of faith about “fasting” to remind Israel of their identity and vocation. In some ways, Isaiah redefined fasting with his words: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isaiah 58v6-7)
What Isaiah presents is another dimension of fasting as a spiritual practice: fasting as standing in solidarity with the poor. When we choose this fast, we choose to allow our bodies to feel hunger and this hunger becomes an act of solidarity with those who are hungry by no choice of their own. We align our bodies to connect with those suffering. We choose to unite our hearts to those experiencing injustice of all kinds: systemic poverty, slavery, hunger, homelessness, racism, debt, etc.
This fast becomes a Practice that trains our heart in compassion and unites us with our brothers and sisters around the world. When we as a community are moved with compassion and work to alleviate the injustices within our city, we reflect God’s heart and character to the world. This kind of fast is very simple and has been practiced for thousands of years within the Christian tradition. Caesarius of Arles, in the 6th century, says, "Let us fast in such a way that we lavish our lunches upon the poor, so that we may not store up in our purses what we intended to eat, but rather in the stomachs of the poor." With this fast, the invitation is not only to give up a meal, but to use the money you would normally spend on feeding yourselves to feed those around you.
Read over this coming week’s Practice as a Community (15 minutes)
Here’s the Practice for tonight and this coming week:
• First, mark out a period of time this week to fast. Again, we recommend that your Community fasts together starting on the night you meet and goes through lunch the next day – somewhere between 12 and 24 hours – but it’s up to you.
• Set this fast as a time to “cry out in prayer” on behalf of those suffering and experiencing injustice in Portland and around the world. Perhaps choose to do a prayer walk in your city, going to the places within it you feel led to pray for and walk around, asking God for his kingdom to come and will be done in our city as it is in heaven.
• Calculate the money you would have spent on food, coffee, La Croix, beer, wine, etc. and give that money to those in need. Scot McKnight says, “What we give up in food when we fast can be converted to gifts to the poor; what we give up in time not spent eating can be converted into time spent relieving injustices.” Perhaps calculate what you’d spend on yourself and give that money to someone in need that you encounter during your day. Or put your money together with your Community and give it all to a cause or organization.* This fast will train you to give quickly and trust the Lord; it teaches you giving without strings attached. Another suggestion is to decide as a Community to fast together and on the night your Community meets, to serve together somewhere in the city.
* If you live in Portland, consider giving to Lift Urban Portland – an organization providing food to low income residents of NW and downtown Portland.
Work through these discussion questions (10-15 minutes)
- Fasting as a response to local, national, or global issues can bind us as a faith community. What issues of justice or social concern so move you that you could respond with a personal fast?
- Are there ways that this concern could be spread into a community solidarity?
- As you see it, what are Portland’s biggest issues of justice? How might your Community begin to pray and work towards undoing injustices in our city?
Close in prayer
If you’re not eating this evening, you will have a lot more time to pray. Take as long as you want. Perhaps start by reading a Psalm together and then spend some time asking Jesus to turn your affections to him. Ask him to reveal the areas in your city that need justice and begin praying into those.