Lent is an intense season of the church year for most of us, the time when we’re called to be most thoughtful. Lent is the time when we’re most likely to examine ourselves and renew what we call our “spiritual practices.”
Like many of you, I have tried all sorts of Lenten spiritual practices through the years. Things have worked best when my spiritual practices have been physical practices, too. Things have worked best when I’ve had other people alongside me.
This year I will make a genuine effort to fast, and I’m asking you to join me. I don’t mean giving up chocolate or ice cream. I mean really going without food altogether for a while.
For myself, one day a week – either Wednesday or Friday – I’m not going to eat until the evening.
And I am taking the money that I would have spent for the meals I’m missing and giving it to some organization that works on global hunger or climate change.
My thinking is this: I am almost never really hungry. When I miss a meal, I snack until I get to the next one. But lots of people are really hungry all the time. It will be good to experience even a little of what they experience, and to remember them in my prayers when I notice that my stomach is feeling empty.
I’m giving the money away because life is actually becoming harder for people all over the world. Climates are changing. Farmers suffer as the rains become more unpredictable. Fishermen suffer as the ocean warms and the reefs die. I don’t just want to debate why this is so and then let my nice life go on untroubled. I want this change in the world to cost me something tangible, too, and I want to struggle against it.
There are lots of ministries that can make a great difference with a small amount of money: ELCA World Hunger, ELCA Malaria Campaign, Lutherans Restoring Creation, Creation Justice Ministries, Bread for the World. They would love to have our partnership, and they would love to have our prayers, too.
Lent is one of God’s good gifts to us. We don’t turn to spiritual practice as an attempt to give back cool things to God. But a fasting that puts us more deeply in touch with the life of the world around us, and that tugs this world even a very small distance in God’s direction – this would be a blessing.
Standard warnings apply. No one should fast who is pregnant, frail or ill. Don’t fast if that would interfere with medication you have to take. Always drink plenty of liquids. But join me in this fast if you can.
May you find this Lenten season to be a blessing for you.
The Rev. Richard H. Graham
Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
* The original version of this message was distributed to rostered leaders of the synod on 3/2/14.