To the editor:
Lent is a season of the Christian calendar which comprises the 40 days (not counting Sundays) before Easter beginning with Ash Wednesday. It is meant to represent the 40 days, which Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting and being tempted by Satan. It is used as a time of remembrance, repentance, preparation and self-examination/reflection.
We begin by being marked with ashes to remember the frailty of human life and our eventual return to the dust from which we came; we end by the greatest and most important celebration of the entire Christian year — Easter.
In the “old days” people would spend the time of Lent fasting — which is the practice of abstaining from all or some kinds of food or drink.
Today the practice of fasting has come to represent any sort of “sacrifice” from things as far ranging as food to giving up Facebook or disconnecting from all electronics. It is customary not to fast on Sundays as each Sunday is a mini-celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and Mark 2:19
“19 Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.”
Some may notice that the first meal of the day is called breakfast — which comes from two words; break and fast. This was when the fast was to be broken and you returned to your normal routine.
This is also why many churches will end the Lenten fast time with a breakfast, which immediately follows the Sunrise Service of Easter.
While the act of fasting is not meant to be announced and openly celebrated — Matthew 6:16-18 “16 “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” — in today’s society I believe it is helpful to share with other brothers and sisters in Christ that we are doing this together. I think that it is important to note that you are not facing this challenge of fasting on your own. And, it is helpful to hold one another accountable — reminding each other when we falter and sway.
Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on Feb. 18 — I am encouraging all of us to take time to this year to fast. For some this may be giving up some sort of food — perhaps giving up red meat, or sodas, or sweets, etc. For others it will be giving up watching television or movies. For some it may mean giving up time on the computer or messing with their phones during a specific period of the day. The point of fasting is this — willingly giving up something that is seemingly vital and important to us in order to give our time over to God and remember that we rely on Him alone; Deuteronomy 8:3 “3 He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”
I would then encourage us as we fast to take some of the time we save from giving up whatever thing we are fasting from, in prayer. Freeing ourselves from the “needs and desires” of this world to be in communion with God who provides for our every need.
So, what will you give up this Lent? What are you willing to abstain from for 40 days as you prepare for the celebration of Easter?
This is meant to be a time of great holiness and spiritual clarity.
I hope that all of you, those fasting as well as those not, will join me in praying for all those everywhere who are seeking a closer walk with God through the act of fasting this Lenten season.
I also invite those who are willing to share in the comments below what they will fast from — not to boast, but to hold each other accountable and to encourage one another in our walk. I will begin…and know that I will keep each of you in prayer as we walk together this Lent.
Rev. K. Thad Decker Jr.
Halifax & Union United Methodist churches