Fasting together

This suggestion was given to me just before the potluck yesterday. Some folks have impeccable timing! Here’s the suggestion: the church should fast together. For those of you not up on your church words, fasting is not eating, on purpose, and for a reason. It is something hardly to be mentioned when we’re not ten yards from the dessert table, and when the pulled pork is ten yards the other direction! What a moment for recognizing the truth, though. We are truly surrounded by food, and our minds revolve around food all the time.

Meanwhile…

  • “Some 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. That’s about one in nine people on earth. The vast majority of the world’s hungry people live in developing countries, where 12.9 percent of the population is undernourished.” (UN World Food Programme)
  • And meanwhile 48.1 million Americans are “food-insecure,” (feedingamerica.org) including too many here in Albion.
  • And meanwhile, our souls are flabby, in need of spiritual exercise. We are spiritually starving even when we are presented with weekly spiritual food, when prayer is always a thought away, when study and meditation are free of charge to anyone. We follow after an incredible tradition of spiritual discipline, from Moses to Ezekiel to Jesus, to Perpetua, Ambrose, Benedict, Francis, Teresa of Avila, Hadewijch, John Wesley, Anna Howard Shaw, and on and on.

We are quick, perhaps too quick, to say that fasting is not for everyone. I am clearly a poor practitioner. But some people should not fast: pregnant women, the infirm, those whose blood pressure or sugar are too low to be safe, or who are suffering with disease that threatens their well-being.

I am doing what the prophet Joel recommended: “Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD.”

Fasting is a focal time to cry out to the Lord, and to join our spirits together more profoundly in prayer. We need to run together, and not give ourselves excuses. This fast is not for the benefit of First United Methodist Church: it is for the benefit of God, who receives all the glory. This fast is not only for people of First United Methodist Church: it is for all who hear the call to give ourselves completely to God, to listen and respond.

The tricky thing about beginning a spiritual exercise is a lot like physical exercise: the more we do it, the more positive we get about doing it. What started off seeming like a hard challenge becomes merely our beginning point. When we know that we have come closer to God’s will; when we notice that we have reached a spiritual turning point in our community and our church. I believe that we can begin our spiritual exercise of fasting with two days at a time, every week, fasting until 6 p.m. Some of you will be ready for whole days immediately. We can work our way to wherever God calls us.

I hope you will tell me how it’s going. Report in on your spiritual exercise regimen, and let’s talk about what the Lord is showing us day by day. Let us be a spiritual church!

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