A Message From The Pastor

From Pastor Bradley Klug

No doubt you’ve heard of the lenten tradition of fasting for 40 days. Perhaps you are in the middle of such a fast. You aren’t alone; indeed, many people “give up” something for lent.

You know how it is supposed to work. The fast is not about abstaining from some indulgence that was bad for you anyway; it is about depriving yourself of something benign, something you enjoy, so that when you miss it you can turn your thoughts and inclinations instead toward God. The idea is that you encounter some difficulty.

This action mirrors the 40 days of fasting from food that Jesus endured in the desert before his public ministry began. He deprived himself of food for so long that he became both physically vulnerable and spiritually heightened. This, of course, is when he was tempted by the devil to turn stones into bread and jump from the pinnacle of the temple.

If you know me, you know that I rarely accept conventional wisdom or go along with tradition without questioning it. In that vein, then, let us ask: if the point of the lenten fast is to share in Jesus’ desert experience, does our giving up chocolate or red meat for 40 days get us anywhere near the level of physical suffering and spiritual conflict that he met during his fast? Is it not rather like reenacting the battle instead of fighting it ourselves?

I am not belittling spiritual discipline; I am merely pointing out that symbolic action does not equate to it.

I think we should try going the other direction. Instead of giving something up, let us take something on: a new habit, an addition to our schedule, a positive change to our behavior. Instead of abstaining from potato chips, spend half an hour a day meditating. Instead of laying off online shopping, volunteer for two hours a week at a shelter.

Isaiah 58:6-7 says this: “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house?”

Long and taxing fasts are not for everyone. Remember, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert. Some of us are called to undertake them, others are not, and this must be discerned. But all of us are called to do what we can to bring peace and justice to the world around us. This lent, rather than looking inward, let us turn outward to love our neighbors as ourselves.