For the past two and a half years, I have been pastoring Hope United Methodist Church, a growing church that has a history of less than 10 years. There is a mixture of worship experiences within the church. Some come from a liturgical background while others come from little or no church background. Hope is a come-as-you-are, let’s study the Bible and get our hands dirty being the church kind of church (at least I pray we are). While we have band-led worship, don’t wear robes, or have an acolyte- the seasons of the Christian worship calendar are important to me as I plan worship.
Lent, perhaps, is my favorite. Here is why.
Lent is 40 days (not counting Sundays), beginning on Ash Wednesday (Feb. 13 this year) and ending on Easter Eve, where we experience a different rhythm to our spiritual lives. It is a season of introspection, self-reflection, and seeking to identify with the suffering of Jesus. This is preparation for our Easter celebration that Jesus is not dead- that he has risen. Therefore we have hope that our sin, pain, and brokenness will one day be healed and we will rise with Christ.
But that’s Easters…
In Lent, we practice spiritual disciplines that helps us become more aware of the Holy Spirit in our lives, more aware or our need for grace, more aware of the costly gift that Jesus provided for us on the Cross at Calvary.
One of those disciplines is fasting. Fasting is abstaining from food (or something else) for a set amount of time for the purpose of prayer, confession, and penance. It is important to remember that fasting should be coupled with prayer and/or the study of Scripture (or another discipline)- if not, fasting becomes dieting!
It’s pretty common for people to give something up for Lent. Some of my favorites that I’ve heard over the years are skydiving, bull riding, and my friend who gave up giving anything up for Lent. Fasting is supposed to help us to identify with the suffering the Jesus endured, then the activity, item, or habit that we abstain from should cause us a little discomfort. Each time we feel the discomfort (hunger pains, the temptation to get on Facebook, headaches from a lack of caffeine), we are reminded to pray- giving thanks to God for Jesus and the suffering He endured on our behalf and to ask God to refine our lives to be more like Jesus.
We also recognize that every Sunday is Resurrection Sunday and that we don’t fast on Sunday because we celebrate the resurrection. Again, this doesn’t make Sunday a “cheat day” (for all you dieters out there), but we enjoy what we’ve refrained from to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. And after all our fasting, Easter Sunday becomes the ultimate celebration as we recognize that Jesus is alive- and that we can find life in Him.
Are you fasting for Lent? What has been your fasting experiences? Anything that God revealed about yourself as you fast during Lent?