I have always “given something up for Lent”, an ancient Christian practice that is supposed to create awareness in me of my various needs, especially my need for God.
I am usually acutely aware of my needs. So this year for the second time, I also decided to take something on, take on a new practice. And since Jesus recommends it (Mark 9:29) – and since John Wesley urged it on Methodists (General Rules) – I took on fasting.
Fasting doesn’t have to do with not eating, though that’s the typical way people ordinarily fast. Fasting is an intentional act of surrender: I give up something I like – for me it’s been some meals, some fun reading, and a few other things – and I give that time and energy to God, either by devoting the time and resources I would otherwise be using to prayer and some work of justice, or by simply sitting quietly and contemplating what “sacrifice” means.
Jesus said that we ought not fast looking “gloomy like the hypocrites” (Matthew 6:16), so I thought and prayed a while before writing this. But taking on fasting has given me a new appreciation of the intention that sacrifice requires – and from that appreciation a deeper appreciation of what God did for us in Christ Jesus. It is also wonderfully freeing to not worry about some of the things that usually consume a part of every day. And voluntary fasting reminds me of all my sisters and brothers in this world who are forced to do without the necessities of life, things from which I am not fasting.
We are at mid-Lent and so I thought sharing something of my own personal Lenten work would be interesting. I’d welcome any reflections of thought you have about your Lenten life and discipline.
May the Lord guard and guide our fast so that we can come to Christ’s Table in Easter joy. (Sarum breviary)
Grace and peace,
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