Growing up as a boy in a Catholic home I participated in Lent. I didn’t really understand it, only that I had to “give something up” during this time. My normal vices of choice were either candy bars or soda pop. I did appreciate them more when they were returned to me but I missed the purpose that Lent could bring. Like Advent, Lent can be a time to open the doors of our hearts a little wider and understand our Lord a little deeper, so that when Good Friday and eventually Easter comes, it is not just another day at church but an opportunity to receive the overflowing of goodness God has to offer.
Many that leave the Catholic and Lutheran traditions also leave the practice of Lent. We should not, however, leave the practice of fasting behind.
Matthew 6:16-18 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Jesus said “when you fast” which seems clear that it was a practice that was expected and served a purpose that Jesus did not nullify because some, such as the Pharisees, practiced it with wrong motives. The purpose, as Alex Gee suggests, is “not about changing God. It is not a mystical exercise to gain God’s approval. Fasting is not about changing my world, but about letting God realign my heart toward His purposes.”
There are times in the life of even the most seasoned Christian where we reach a state of “dullness.” We may feel apart and unrecognized by God. The gnawing of the Holy Spirit tells us that we are to be vital, but yet we feel so ineffective. This has happened to me periodically. Sometimes it came through tragedy like when my first wife died in a car accident. Other times I felt the weight of great responsibility that was too much for me to bear such as when I contemplated marrying again and being a dad to six children (four more than I was used to). I was desperate for an answer or affirmation from God. I prayed. And then I fasted. What was interesting was that God did not enlighten me with an answer, instead he revealed to me a better question. I was struck by His question for me which was, “Mark, how can you serve Me best?” Huh? “Ok, Lord, that is the more important question.”
As a church community we want to pursue this question as well. How can we best serve the Lord. I believe it is time to receive this practice as a church body so that we can seek God’s will and direction for CLCBC. This may lead to a realization of unconfessed sin against someone or God, a “staleness” of our own or corporate prayer life, a prompting toward the lost, or a push to better know our brothers and sisters. We are proposing a 21 day fast that will begin on March 11 and end on Easter Sunday April 1. The pastors and elders will provide more opportunities to learn about fasting and how to engage in this biblical spiritual journey.
God bless you as you seek the Lord.