Archive for February 20th, 2012

Fasting for Change

Dear Kindred in the Spirit,

Lent is almost upon us. Ash Wednesday is … well, Wednesday, when we begin considering the last 24-hours of Jesus’ life, how that time changed the world, and how it continues to change us.

In my last newsletter/blog entry, I ask “Are you hungry for some change this Lent?” I’m hungry for lots of things, which is part of the problem. And it’s the long list of things I’d like to see changed in the world and in my life that overwhelms, so I’m trying to narrow my focus to some incremental change that might actually benefit from my attention. Some adjustment that might be achievable. Some conversion that might take hold and stick beyond Lent. This Lent, I’m looking for a “fast” or change that might actually have a lasting impact…. I’d rather not give something up (like chocolate) for the sake of giving it up, just so I can change back after Easter (or earlier).

St. John Chrysostem offered this ancient wisdom on fasting in the 4th century:

 Do you fast? Give me proof of it your works.
If you see a poor man, take pity.
if you see a friend being honored, do not envy.
Do not let only your mouth fast,
    but also the eye and the ear and the feet and the hands
    and all the members of our bodies.
    Let the hands fast by being free of avarice.
    Let the feet fast by ceasing to run after sin.
    Let the eyes fast by disciplining them not to glare
        at that which is sinful.
    Let the ear fast by not listening to evil talk and gossip.
    Let the mouth fast from foul words and unjust criticism.
For what good is it if we abstain from birds and fishes
    but bite and devour our brothers?

In preparation for Lent, I’ve been re-reading Margaret Bullitt-Jonas’ book “Holy Hunger: a journey from food addiction to spiritual fulfillment” which offers this wisdom about looking inside and trusting the spirit’s guidance there to nudge us in the direction of the change that is needed:

All too often we look outside ourselves for what we are hungry for since we live in a culture that is all too ready to tell us what we want and to create a climate of craving.
We are card-carrying members of a culture that urges all of us to eat, shop, buy, acquire; for there in the material goods around us, in possessions and commodities, prizes and grades, accomplishments and lovers, doughnuts and ice cream, surely we’ll find what we’re looking for, our heart’s desire.

What change would you like to take on?
The National Council of Churches invites folks to take on a carbon fast. When you sign-up, beginning Ash Wednesday and throughout Lent, participants will receive a daily message with the day’s suggested carbon-reducing activity. When possible, this will include a quantitative measure of the carbon reduction resulting from the activity. Each daily message will also have a section suggesting a weekly focus for congregations. One of the past year participants said, “It’s one of the smartest things I’ve done in my 85 years, my electric bill dropped by $78 a month.”

The other blog I’ll be relying on to companion me through Lent is by my friend and artist, Jan Richardson. We’ve used her artwork and books as a guide before, and she has a new set of art/reflections out this lent at the painted prayerbook.

What change are you hungry for? Let us know on facebook or just drop me a line at pastor@elumc.org



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