January 12, 2018
Last week I shared an invitation to adopt a rhythm of Wednesday fasting and Sunday feasting. The response has been incredible. Those willing to share this spiritual practice now number in the hundreds! Many people joined in fasting from food this week. Quite a few families and young people have discerned that Wednesday is the day to skip screen time and focus on prayers and people instead. Beautiful. I’m hoping we can be just as creative in following the Spirit’s guidance in enjoying a Sunday feast.
I’m going to use this week’s blog to address a few recurring questions that I have been asked. Here are the top three:
1) “If I were to start a fast in January, what am I going to do when Lent starts and I’m supposed to give something up?”
Answer: If you’ve adopted the feast/fast rhythm in January, you are already ahead of the curve. In other words, Lent began early for you in 2018. Don’t feel the pressure to “give something else up.” However, when Lent begins—on Valentine’s Day this year, BTW—you may find that your current practice gets enhanced. Similarly, when Easter Sunday arrives, you may find yourself so well practiced in feasting that the momentum of that Holy Day carried you to a whole new level of celebration.
2) “I’ve never fasted before, is it weird or unnatural?”
Answer: Quite the contrary. Fasting is a practice that is not just part of the Christian tradition, but is found in virtually all human cultures and religious traditions. I have also found fasting to be a natural, instinctive reaction to grief, loss, and deep difficulty. There have been times in my life when the trouble has been so severe that my body refused to eat for days at a time. Perhaps you have reacted this way when you heard news that a friend or beloved member of your family was near death or had died. In moments like this, our body leads our mind to channel all of our energy away from physiological processes and into matters of the heart and spirit. This is a beautiful way of understanding the impulse to fast! Even when thing are going splendidly, we can CHOOSE to fast to inspire our prayers and help us rechannel some of our physical energy into matters of the Spirit. It’s especially beautiful when this is done for the sake of others.
3) What if I don’t feel like feasting on Sunday? Is it hypocritical to celebrate when my heart isn’t totally in it?
Answer: No, that’s not hypocritical at all. Feasting is a discipline. There are all sorts of disciplines and good behaviors—for example: exercise, proper diet, showing up to work on time—that we frequently don’t feel like pursuing. But we do these things anyway because we know they are the right thing to do. I like to call this “good hypocrisy.” Good hypocrisy is doing the right thing even when you don’t feel like it. Sunday feasting can often be that way. Sunday WORSHIP can often be that way. Many of us have rotten weeks all the time. Some of us live in a state of chronic illness. But there is a deeper reality worth celebrating on a weekly basis. It’s this: God’s love came down to us in Jesus. He lived; he suffered and died; he rose from the grave to live and share life with us. Jesus is even now preparing the eternal feast in which we will enjoy God and each other for eternity. I choose to believe that this reality transcends and trumps whatever I might be going through on any given week. Jesus lives. Jesus loves. That is worth a weekly feast.
Grace and peace to you, friends, as you celebrate the feast this Sunday!