Today’s Word: ‘FASTING’ as in… the season of Lent, sometimes understood as a fast, is bookended by two feasts.
The feast on the front end acknowledges that life, as we know it, is coming to an end. Shrove Tuesday marks the end of “life as we know it” at least for the moment.
The feast on the far end acknowledges that death, as we know it, is also coming to an end.
Put another way, Easter marks the beginning of life as we can know it, do know it, will know it, as resurrection comes to life within us more and more each day, each moment. In between Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday and Easter, the season of Lent offers us an opportunity to observe the discipline of fasting. In our modern consciousness, fasting might most readily be understood as a preparation for lab work where we would go for twelve hours without food consuming only water before a member of the medical community draws blood for testing.
For centuries, people within the spirit(ual)ed community have practiced fasting by going without food in order to heighten the awareness of their need for spiritual support. Hunger does that: it heightens the appreciation of one’s need for food.
A powerful image of the season of Lent is the desert. Mark’s narrative of the life of Jesus doesn’t take long at all to show Jesus going from the waters of his baptism in the Jordan River directly into the desert. For forty days and forty nights (a powerful ‘wilderness’ image), Jesus faces his own hungers. During that wilderness time, Jesus turns away from the normal systems of support that protected him from feeling his vulnerabilities so that he might trust God for sustenance.
During Lent we spend forty days in our own deserts “doing without” so that we too, might trust God for what we need.
Fasting gives us a taste of life as we know it coming to an end, so that death as we know it can bring us back to life and more life; back to resurrection.