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The Pastor’s Offering: A Liberating Fast?

Dear Ones,

What a wonderful experience it was last night to gather with about 25 people, including one visitor, for a contemplative Ash Wednesday Service. Together, we remembered that we are made of earth dust and stardust. We remembered that we are finite beings but that we are also touched by the Infinite. We remembered that we are flesh and blood beings, but we are also filled with the Divine Breath, the Holy Spirit.

It is this same Spirit that affirmed Jesus as a beloved child of God at his baptism. And it is this same Spirit that led him into the wilderness where he was faced with the temptation to believe and act on lies about his identity and his calling and purpose in life. In this way, Lent is a season to walk in Jesus’ footsteps and enter into the wilderness of our own lives. This wilderness may take many forms. Its terrain may be physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and/or societal.

The wilderness was a place where Jesus experienced physical hunger and the temptation to satiate this hunger in ways that would require him to grasp onto egoism and power. Jesus’ experience of hunger in the desert is one of the reasons Lent has become associated with self-denial in the form of fasting or “giving something up” during this season. 

As a young child, I remember receiving a little bank with an image of a person from a poor country on it. The invitation was to give up buying something for myself and put my money in the bank to help my neighbor. This principle was foundational for me. Lent was not just about giving something up but also about embracing actions that were life-giving and positive not just for me but for others.

As I got older, I was introduced to the idea of fasting from food as a spiritual practice during Lent. The idea was that fasting would help me be more attentive to my spiritual life.  Although I gave fasting a try a few times, I have to admit that I was not very successful. The only thing fasting made me attentive to was my growling stomach. 

Fasting has not been on my list of Lenten “to dos.” But a few months ago, I received an email advertising a book with the intriguing title, A Different Kind of Fast: Feeding Our True Hungers During Lent by Christine Valters Paintner. 

Paintner notes that fasting is not just about food or even about just giving something up. Rather, fasting is about letting go of the habits and practices that distract us from being fully present to our true hungers and the hungers of the world around us. Fasting in this sense can create interior space for us to be able to embrace habits and practices that are life-giving and in keeping with kin-dom values. 

This book became the foundation for our Lenten theme and our weekly themes as described below. Two contemporary prophets and mystics, Cole Arthur Riley and Trisha Hershey, will join us on the journey. I will say more on Sunday and in the weeks to come about their books, which I have been reading alongside Paintner. I look forward to going on this journey with you.

Click here to access the Lent 2024 page, with weekly themes, book titles, and the link to Rev. Lacey’s Lent Devotional which is closely tied to the themes we will be exploring each week in worship.

Many Blessings,
Rev. Laura


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