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Wanna Be Startin’ Something? — Ash Wednesday

February 14, 2018

United Methodist Bishop LaTrelle Miller Easterling has graciously given me her personal  permission to share this with you, and I again thank her.

As we begin this Lenten season today, Ash Wednesday, may her words lead us to a practice that helps us have a Holy Lent —

Fasting is biblical, cited time and again as a practice used by people in any number of circumstances to align themselves with the will of God. Jesus fasted and called upon his disciples to fast.. Throughout time and tradition, fasting is the most universally applied discipline.

John Wesley believed so strongly in the spiritual power of fasting that he refused to ordain anyone into Methodist ministry who did not fast on Wednesdays and Fridays.

For those who are new to fasting, it is important to note this practice is always accompanied by prayer. It is an exercise of penitence and sacrifice that builds self-control and demonstrates our reliance on God. “Man cannot live on bread alone, but by every word spoken by God,” Jesus said. Fasting draws people into the heart of that statement.

While abstaining from food and drink, except for water, from sunrise to sundown is a traditional method of fasting, there are many variations on this practice. Some people add juice, others revise the time period, some fast from things other than food – like television or spending money.

It is also possible to adjust a fast to, for example, eat only one meal per day; or eat a limited diet abstaining from animal products, alcohol, and sweets; or from sugar or snacking.

When we fast, we reorient ourselves away from the things that distract us and place our focus on God. The intention of fasting is not deprivation, but to place our hearts in alignment with God’s will. As David wrote in Psalm 69:10, “I humbled my soul with fasting.”

For anyone with any health concerns, it is always necessary to consult a doctor before fasting.

This Lent, the intention of the conference-wide fast is to take people out of the realm of the physical to focus their attention on God and to shift attention from the immediate things that demand our energy and attention to who and what God is calling us to be.

Daily Themes for Lenten Fast

For those who need a focal point in their fasts, the following daily themes are suggested. The first focuses on a social concern, and the second on a ministry area. For example, if you pray on Tuesday, read Tuesday’s focus and pray about one or more of the things, let it enter your thoughts; during mealtimes, devote time to reflecting on this; and when you’re hungry, lift these things to God’s attention and ponder how they might influence your daily life and ministry.

Monday – Immigration. Pioneering new faith communities – for our churches, for expressions of the Gospel being lived out in people’s lives, for new beginnings, and for the places where God’s presence is keenly needed or felt.

Tuesday – The Opioid Epidemic. Advocating and acting – for those who are hurting, in need or facing trials; for the places where darkness has overcome the light; for immigrants; for justice and God’s shalom.

Wednesday – Homelessness. Building Generational Bridges – for children, youth and young adults experiencing joys and challenge; to find meaning, a sense of community and love in every season.

Thursday – Gun Violence. Living Abundantly – for those who are sick or tired in body, mind or spirit; for hope to be born or rekindled; for health and wholeness; for people to thrive and live in the abundance of God.

Friday – Racism. Leading Boldly – for those in leadership in the church and world, for our communities, nation and global community; that people may be fully alive in all that God calls them to be.

Saturday – The Future of the Church. Awakening Faith – for the heart of each person, that they may more fully know God; for our churches and a revival of discipleship; that we each may become living prayers.

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