Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Real Fast

Isaiah 58:1-12
Here we are at Lent again. And this year I have to say that while I knew I needed it, I wasn't in a hurry to get started on the Fast. I even admitted to a congregation where I was preaching that I was eating everything that wasn't nailed down in advance of the Lenten fast. Somehow, I think that probably was not the best physical or spiritual decision. But my own lack of moderation does bring me to this Lenten season with the useful reminder that I need to fast to get me off of the treadmill of self-destructiveness.

The truth is that I had been eating everything that wasn't nailed down for months. The approach of Ash Wednesday didn't really change my eating habits; it simply made me aware of them. Even before the beginning of my Lenten fast, the self-evaluation that Lent brings was already at work to help me see how out of control I was. Thank God!

What I am praying for, then, in this season is that the analysis will go deeper than the issue of what I eat or don't eat. I am praying that just as the Lenten fast has already broken the chains of overeating, especially desserts, that it will also reveal and break other habits and attitudes that keep me from the best that God has for my life and for my relationships in community.

This is the point of the text from Isaiah in which God makes clear to self-indulgent people that abstinence from certain foods and other comforts is not a real fast, or at least not the fast that pleases God. The real fast happens when our awareness goes deeper and our behavior changes. If we fast but do not see, then what kind of fast are we really on? If we fast while we quarrel, then who does the fast really bless? Our choice to go without is not important if it is not accompanied by a will to make sure that everyone has what she/he needs. Our willingness to starve ourselves for a day or even forty means little when we are inattentive to the people who are starved daily because greed and injustice.

I am praying that this Lenten fast develops into a real fast that heeds the call to get right with God, our neighbors, and ourselves. Thank God!