Too Mutch

...a safe place to dance with ideas, play with theology, and re-create a life implicated by God

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Lent--Fasting (from myself)

I have declared this year of lent a "year for learning." Like many things in life, it is much easier to learn WHILE DOING it rather than just reading or talking about it. Today, I was reading (now that we are in the middle of Lent) about fasting, prayer and almsgiving. It was cool, but I have to admit, I'm lagging way behind now!

Fasting, prayer and almsgiving are not merely "rituals." They are exercises. And when you exercise, there are all sorts of additional/extra purposes and benefits. We exercise for a stronger cardiovascular system, to lose weight, to gain muscle, and to look HOT. Well, fasting, prayer and almsgiving are like exercise. No, they won't make you HOT, but do they have additional purposes and results.

Here is how Robert Webber breaks it down...
Fasting from food is a symbol of the discipline it takes to turn away from sin.
Prayer is the actual experience of turning to God in dependence.
Almsgiving is the symbol of virtue we are taking on to replace our sin.

So, the whole exercise of fasting, praying and almsgiving is a physical and outward symbol/exercise that is to be paralleled in our own growing spirituality. This is where I hit a wall this morning. I've decided to fast from coffee during a way of remembering my mortality and the looming of the cross to come for Christ. I also have recognized that it is a symbol for my need to give up sin in my life...

And here's the problem...I don't really think I have any. Maybe that sounds conceded or heretical. That's just because you can't imagine being perfect! No, I realize that I have all sorts of sin and that I am twisted in my soul. I know it. But rarely do I FEEL it. Rarely am I overwhelmed by it. I should be, but I'm not. And so, when I read this morning about giving up something...depending on God...and replacing it with some virtue, I froze. I realized that I had NOT pointed my finger at anything specific that I need to give up/change/etc. I had spent all my time thinking about what I'd give up (food, coffee, etc.) and NO time on how my spirituality was suffering because of this or that sin.

So, here's my go at it. In addition to fasting from coffee, I'll be fasting from myself. I suppose that's a bit of a challenge, since I'm ALWAYS with myself. But, I'm going to try to NOT be so committed to soothing my own getting what is best for making myself appear to be something I'm not...etc. Next year, maybe I'll be able to spend some time thinking of something more specific. We'll see. But for the rest of Lent (and hopefully beyond), I'll be thinking less of myself and more of others. Except, of course, on Sundays--where I will be drinking strong coffee of MY choice for MY benefit wherever I want to drink it!!!!!

Any other fasting folk out there?
You can send your almsgiving directly to my home address!


At 1:27 PM, Anonymous raptor said...

Great connection between fasting from food and giving up sin. That puts fasting in a different perspective for me. What Webber book are you reading? You say prayer is the experience of turning to God in dependence. I think the connection between prayer and fasting is so strong because fasting is also the experience of turning to God in dependence, realizing our sustenance can be gained in some way other than through food (taken from the ultimate fasting experience in Matt 4:4). This is why I think fasting from food is more powerful than fasting from most other things. Any way I hate fasting from food.
Here's a question about fasting. If the church fathers and mothers have proven the value in it, why is it not mentioned more often in the NT? Jesus mentions it a couple times, though he's not hugely excited about it. Acts mentions in a couple times. But,I don't think Paul ever encourages it in all his admonitions. Why not?
If you want more help with killing your ego, I suggest you watch again that Chris Farley SNL gig where he's interviewing celebrities and periodically slaps himself saying, "I'm so stuuupid."

At 1:38 PM, Blogger Greg said...

good question raptor. Perhaps it is not mentioned more by Paul, b/c the the primary community of the New Israel at that time was poor and marginalized. Becoming a Christian in the 1st/2nd Century meant lots of new hardships, including economic suffering. So, maybe it wasn't a disciple they needed as much as we need today given our affluence. That's just a guess.

I'm reading from webber's Ancient Future Time. In this book he re-teaches us the significance of the church calendar and it's usefulness in our spirituality.

At 3:43 PM, Anonymous travelinglite said...

I am wondering if differences in personality give us a disposition to "see" sin in our lives differently --or see it at all? For instance, I am pretty serious-minded and I don't have to think very long to make a comprehensive list of what I need to give up for the kingdom. I notice that easy going types or comedial types tend to give themselves more room to embrace what they might be better off releasing.

I would have more difficulty deciding what I would give up as the symbol i.e. coffee, food, sex than what sins I need to give up.

At 10:59 PM, Blogger Greg said...


hmmmm. I wonder if "serious minded combined with a serious list of sings" isn't some sort of personality talk for being a fundy?

(note the humor from the more comedial type).

I wonder, if you knew me, what you would say I should be giving up?

I agree on the personality thing, though I'm not totally sure why yet. I've been reading on different personality types and could see why some would be more inclined to notice or see certain things about themselves. However, some will see things when they aren't there, while others will miss things that are. So, it really may not be all that helpful!

At 4:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fundy? Maybe, but God has lists too e.g. These six things Yahweh hates, yea seven are an abomination...Prov 6

What should you be giving up?....Whether knowing you or not, I can't imagine making suggestions about what others should give up. That would be a Holy Spirit thing. God's ways are so much higher than mine which is to say that any list I would come up with would fulfill my agenda at some level rather than God's kingdom agenda.

At 7:25 AM, Blogger DawN said...

great post!


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