The Question of Fasting

 { Mark 2:18-22}

I admit it, since most of my spiritual autobiography is  from a Protestant Christian tradition, I really don’t  understand the discipline of fasting. I know that Roman Catholic & Eastern Orthodox Christians fast during Lent{ and , correct me if I am wrong, but I think the Eastern Orthodox Christians also fast during Advent}. But I’ve never been good at fasting from food & do not even make a pretense to fast from food. My body needs three square meals per day.

Now, with Lent coming up I will admit that I do  abstain from the use of alcohol{ consecrated wine used at Eucharist is the execption, of course} cussing & chocolate during Lent. But this is as far as my physical body will let me fast.  During Lent I make an effort to  show penitence in other ways. I cannot skip a meal every day during Lent & I accept this as part of how God  created me. Some folks can fast  every Lent, but I am not among them.

One of my Presbyterian pastors had a great concept about Lent.  Rather than { or as well as} subtracting something from our lives during Lent, she asked the congregation of which I was a part at that time to make an effort to GIVE BACK to the community by doing more service-related projects & helping those in need, show more loving-kindness to your family,  increase your prayer life, ect. She  created paper leaves  & on the first Sunday of Lent, invited the congregation to  take these ” leaves” home, & each time they GAVE BACK , to write their act of compassion. During the Children’s Moment at the Presbyterian church throughout that Lenten season, she invited all of us to add our ” leaves” to the  barren tree. By Easter Sunday, that formerly barren tree was ” brought back to life” with the  recordings of the congregation’s  acts of loving-kindness.

The Reverend Dr Martin Luther King, Jr, whose Nativity we Americans  celebrate today, was a fine example of working towards bringing our world closer to shalom.  But there is still so much that we  Christians need to do to further Dr King’s vision of total  equality & justice for all people.

Out of my limited collections of memories from my life as a Protestant, this is one of the most positive. The ” Giving Tree” was a very physical reminder of what we are all called to do as Christians. We are called to help our sisters & brothers who & when they need us the most, to spread loving-kindness & acceptance for all God’s people. We Episcopalians are all about outward & visible signs of an inward & spiritual grace & that Lenten practice at that Protestant church is still an outward & visible memory which I still carry with me to this day.

So for me, fasting is not merely about abstaining: it is about increasing my service to others, starting with my family & parish & hopefully broadening that   sense of being an instrument of shalom to my community .  As Lent approaches, I will ask myself What Can I, Sarah Beth, give?


The Nativity of Dr Martin Luther King, Junior. 2010

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