Fasting

This is my radio devotion for Friday, March 5, on KCNI. Thanks to KCNI for airing weekday devotions from the pastors of the Custer County Ministerial Association.

Do you want the world to be a better place? Are you a little skeptical of God or God’s presence in your life or the world?

Good morning. This week, as the season of Lent takes off, I want to explore some concrete ways to experience God’s transforming presence in our lives and the world.

This week, we’ve been exploring a few of the meaningful practices Jesus teaches near the end of his Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 6. I’ve been drawn to these practices and the Sermon on the Mount because they’re things we can implement in our daily and weekly lives through which God can move in our hearts, our relationships, and the world. As we’ve talked about watching our temper, giving, praying, and forgiving, each of these has an intensely social or relational side; however, today, Jesus turns intensely toward our hearts. 

And when you fast, don’t put on a sad face like the hypocrites. They distort their faces so people will know they are fasting. I assure you that they have their reward. When you fast, brush your hair and wash your face.  Then you won’t look like you are fasting to people, but only to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Mt 6:1, 16-18).

In this passage, Jesus invites us into the heart of God through fasting, so that we can live transformed and transforming lives. When we think about fasting, which is an especially Lenten practice, we often think about giving up something. Maybe we’re giving up food for a day, or for certain hours of the day. Maybe we’re giving up a particular thing – like sugar or caffeine – for a certain season of our lives. These are the most common ways to think about fasting.

But when we give up something, fasting can serve as a “call to prayer” whenever we feel ourselves hungering for that which we’ve given up or fasted from. Further, fasting reminds us that we are finite and always in need of God’s grace for strength, wisdom, and grace. And, fasting helps us change our relationship to the things we’ve given up.

For example, I’ve begun fasting on Fridays by giving up all food until supper time. I find myself, especially in early afternoon, feeling especially hungry. When I feel this hunger, I treat it as an invitation to pray for God’s sustaining presence. I’m still working on being more disciplined in this, but this is part of spiritual practices: we practice them. Finally, fasting has helped me inspect my relationship with the food I eat, and my reasons for eating these foods. Sometimes, I’m not hungry, but I want to eat something sweet or salty. At these times, fasting helps me to pause and say to myself, “Am I hungry, or am I stressed, or bored, or something else?” In these ways, fasting deepens my awareness of my need for God, deepens my devotion to God, and helps God continue God’s work of growing and sustaining my health.

Today, I invite you, if you are physically able, to consider if God is calling you to the practice of fasting. Perhaps it’s giving up a single thing, or a single meal. We can start small. And then, whenever you find yourself wanting that thing, turn your heart and mind to God, God’s care, and God’s calling toward whole-life health.

May God guide us closer to Godself, closer to our best selves, and closer to God’s kingdom this weekend and this season of Lent. May it be so.

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