Pulling a Fast One

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Then Jesus looked up at his disciples and said, ‘Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.’  — Luke 6:20a, 21a

Empty plate Wikicommons Jean Fortunet

I used to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, the two “fast days” appointed in the Episcopal Church. This was before I became a parish priest with multiple liturgies scheduled on those days. No one needs a fainting priest imposing both ashes and their own carcass upon worshippers at the communion rail. So I gave up my bi-yearly fasts in the name of self-preservation and parishioner protection.

I obviously don’t share this in a moment of holier-than-though piety. Sharing by-gone spiritual disciplines isn’t exactly a point of pride. And it’s odd to mention fasting in an Easter reflection because fasting is so…Lenten. Yet we can’t fully embrace the feast of this Easter season unless we have fasted in some sense.

While it’s more popular and perhaps even spiritually healthier to “take on” a spiritual discipline during Lent, I still do like to “give up” something food related. I may not be fasting on the appropriate days but these mini Lenten fasts do help me connect to the larger message of Jesus’ deprivation in the wilderness and make Easter that much sweeter.

Well, “sweeter” is a relative term because it’s not a sweet tooth that causes me to stumble — it’s the salt. I usually give up the things I love to snack on like Fritos and tortilla chips and popcorn. In the grand scheme of things, giving up salty snacks is not a great cross to bear. But it does help me focus on my appetite for things that keep me from fully focusing on God. And that’s really the point here.

Hunger in the context of spiritual fasting helps remind us of what really matters. This isn’t a holy diet plan but an intentional moving toward Jesus. What is it in your life that keeps you from the love of God? Fasting isn’t just for Lent. Neither are spiritual disciplines.

This week’s author is the Rev. Tim Schenck, rector of the Episcopal Parish of St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, Massachusetts and creator of the wildly popular Lenten devotion Lent Madness. When not tending to his parish, drinking coffee, or blogging at Clergy Confidential, he’s likely hanging out with his family that includes his wife Bryna, two teenage sons Benedict and Zachary, his dog Delilah, and a ferret named Mimi. Friend him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @FatherTim.

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