Saturday, February 27, 2010

Fasting

Fasting during Lent is a time-honored practice for many churches, as most of us probably know, but sometimes in some places it seems to have become rather perfunctory--"What are you giving up for Lent?" The mere action of giving up something is not the point. God is not impressed with sacrifice if no thought goes into it!

Consider the following:

Isaiah 58:6-9
This is the kind of fast day I'm after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
cancel debts.
What I'm interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You'll call out for help and I'll say, 'Here I am.'


What an interesting pasage. We clearly see God's heart for people--his most valued creation. Those of us who avoid any hint of something called a "social gospel" might want to read that passage more than once. Fasting is not about being pitiful, or pious, or twisting God's arm, so to speak, to do something you want done. It is, rather, a time to consider our hearts, our behavior towards others, to renew the lost art (for many of us) of hospitality, to give, to forgive debt, to see homeless people as people, to truly be present in the lives of other.

Matthew 6:16-18 When you fast, do not put on a sad face as the hypocrites do. They neglect their appearance so that everyone will see that they are fasting. I assure you, they have already been paid in full. When you go without food, wash your face and comb your hair, 18 so that others cannot know that you are fasting, only your Father, who is unseen, will know. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you.

So much for sharing what we are giving up. :-)

Several years ago I decided to do some fasting during Lent. I had fasted, on and off, for a long time, but never as a sort of pre-Easter disciple. I used materials from churches more traditional than my own. The experience was meaningful as it helped me focus, find time to spend with God, and emphasize my spirit instad of my physical body. I do not think the body is bad, by any means, but it is so easy to be aware of it and its needs and desires--I mean it is so present with us. Our spiritual life is much easier to put out of our minds.

Perhaps you have never fasted before, or perhaps you are a veteran of this spiritual practice. There is something for all of us. I recently found these suggestions and found some familiar and some new ideas.

SUGGESTED FAST ITEMS:

(Courtesy of D. Maddelena)

Food: Meats, poultry (eggs too), fats and oils, soft drinks, 2nd helpings

Alcohol

Coffee (try tea or some other low-caffeine drink if you get headaches)

Dairy (milk and cheese)

Solid foods (only drink water or juices)

Junk foods (chips, snacks, salty food), candy (plus refined sugar in general), and dessert (great for kids—very meaningful!).

Media: TV, movies, computer, email (set an auto responder), Internet, magazines, radio, the phone (leave your cell phone off when appropriate), handhelds, video games, and other technology

Other Things: You may want to fast from certain relationships, or people in general, choosing instead to walk only with God for a period. You may also fast from social events, parties, or clubs, if you regularly go out of your way for that kind of gathering.

Days: Leave it all behind: leave junk food, TV, cars, noise, and all the media and messages of the culture. Pack the very minimum (water, warm clothes, etc.) and find a trail, a mountain, or a beach, and feast on God.

Imitate Jesus, who took whole days to walk alone in the wilderness fasting and praying.

Use the time you would spend eating to do something else with God. The same goes for fasting from media, or any other kind of fast.

Give God the time and the room that he wants. God wants to fill you up, wants to bless you. If we are constantly pouring other stuff into our heads or stomachs, there will be little room for God.

If you are going to join me in this spiritual disciple at some time before Easter, let me know and I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.



God, help us to be wise about what we do (and do not do) and when and how we go about it. Help us to love and pray and laugh and live with abandon. May it be the kind of fast that you have shown pleases you, one that is about others and doing what is right. Amen


2 comments:

much2ponder said...

Wholly purple!

SingingOwl said...

Changed to purple after Ash Wednesday. I'm getting downright liturgical.