I wonder if fasting might serve as a tantalizing appetizer to a richer more nourishing faith? Less of one thing to stimulate desire for more of something else.
For example, I wonder what might happen if we were to ‘do’ less in order to ‘be’ more;
if we were to fast from fastidiously filling every corner of our calendars to create time for contemplation, more expansive communication within relationships, and the ability to react with spontaneous acts of kindness as needs arise;
if we forgot about the momentary fanfare should we be praised for all we do and let the gratification of quiet reward come from less brassy applause: from the Father who sees in secret and who alone knows the significance of seeming insignificance when done in his name with love.
I wonder what might happen if we were to consume less in order to give more;
if we were to fast from unnecessary spending so more could be sent to drill wells, or rescue women and children from those who would sell them into slavery, or help famine ridden areas with irrigation, refugees with the navigation of immigration challenges, warring factions through the initiation of peace negotiations;
if we forgot the pursuit of treasures and let the doing of his will be the untrumpeted measure of our gain as we enter the pain of another to offer his abundance.
Small hidden ways create an appetite for God and precipitate a feast with him where we sit at table in peace with the pieces which shape our lives and share them liberally.
A lenten journey is only a brief retreat from excess in a life long process of paring down internally and externally to live fully in Christ as our wills surrender to his. Yet imagine how leadership practices might change over time if we were to regularly observe the following kinds of fasts; how lasting priorities might be rearranged which would be life giving to ourselves and others.
- from being ritualistic or practicing an empty form of godliness
- from insincerity or inconsistency
- from not really seeing or hearing our neighbour’s plight
- from remaining uninvolved in issues of social justice
- from not becoming personally acquainted with helping the poor
- from not opening our homes or sharing our resources with generousity
After speaking against a false form of fasting, the prophet Isaiah then details the by-products of a true fast. He contrasts a legalistic approach, leaving something out for a short while as an outward show to God in an effort to obtain his favour, and a genuine desire to fervently focus on him so he can fashion us into those who feel the weight of a world groaning under the burden of banishment from the garden and respond with compassion to join the recreating work of God’s Spirit given us in Christ to reflect his glory.
Fasts encourage humility in recognition that it is God who sustains us. Fasts foster banquets of the heart where satisfaction in Christ is the main course which fills our souls.
We serve because we have already tasted and seen that he is good and need nothing other than what comes from him. We follow in Jesus’ footsteps who said, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about’, and again, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work,’ and so he reaches out to bless the woman at the well. (John 4: 32 -34)
Isaiah announces what will happen when we fast with this attitude and motivation.
‘Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.’ (Isaiah 58: 8-12)
I’m fast coming to see there are things in my life that need to be set aside to make room for the blessings he waits to give as an appetite for him increases. You?
‘Lord, we hold so tightly to our resources, to our rationales for certain behaviours, to our sense of self-righteous entitlement at the expense of goodness for the whole. Help us hold fast with you, the host of wine and self-giving bread, so instead of settling for less of you and more of ourselves, we enter the feast of being washed in your love together.
In your gentleness, show each of us from what we need to fast … not to feel a blast of condemnation, but to realize in concrete ways the celebration of life when we live together in this world as you have designed. Amen.’