I respectfully decline to fast in Lent. I fast from time to time and God knows (literally) that some fasting for an overweight middle aged man is a good thing. I find fasting to have great value for sharpening the senses and focusing the mind. I always fast before a presentation, a sermon or consulting in a situation in which there is conflict which I need to mediate. But in general, fasting in the 40 days of lent has never made much sense to me.
Perhaps if there were less fasting, bowing, scraping, genuflecting, and spiritual posturing; there might be more kindness. And although I am not sure what I think of seasons of fasting, I am quite sure I am in favor of seasons of kindness.
What if we fasted from mean speech? What if we fasted from sleep deprivation? What if we fasted from spending all our money on ourselves and in these forty days gave 50% of our income to Episcopal Relief and Development? Perhaps, having by giving 2 or 4 or 6 or 10 thousand dollars away to those who are suffering in this month, we would feel the squeeze on our budgets and be able to really take a step towards beginning to think about the possibility of trying to identify with the financially poor.
When I lived in Haiti as a missionary in the years after the Duvalier family fled for France, I noticed one thing more than anything else. I noticed that these people who loved me so much and took care of me like I was precious cargo – my Haitian friends were all so kind. Sure, they got angry at the injustice of their island having been raped so that we could have slaves, sugar and mahogany, but still they were so loving and kind. They smiled all the time and laughed from their gut more often than I inhaled.
I often close my eyes and sit in the church thinking “What would Jesus think of all this?” If I were to walk, holding Jesus’ hand, through the church and through our services and into our daily lives as we spend our money and our time, what would Jesus think?
I do not want to hear stories of fasting. I want to hear stories of an appreciation of abundance and the sharing of it.