Holy Lent, Holy Life: Fasting

Matthew 4:1-11 I feel like I’m not supposed to preach about this. Today I want to share with you about the spiritual discipline of fasting.  But Jesus had clear words about how we are to fast:  “…when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:17-18). I want to share with you my journey with fasting… I want to tell you what I’ve learned from the past 9 months, attempting to fast one day a week.  And it feels kind of… wrong… because saying it in a sanctuary or putting it on a blog isn’t exactly keeping it “secret.” But, as William Law has pointed out, if we took Jesus’ instructions literally it would mean the only people who could fast would be people who lived alone (found in Spiritual Classics).  Sometimes it’s OK to talk about when we fast, and I’m hoping this is one of those times. So… let’s talk about fasting. First, some definitions.  Richard Foster gives a good working definition: “the voluntary denial of an otherwise normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity.”  Note that fasting is “for spiritual purposes.”  A fast is not a cleanse or a weight-loss trick or a way to kick a bad habit, but a means of connecting to God.  A fast can also take many forms.   It can be a complete fasts (nothing but water), a partial fast (giving up just one item), or even...

Bragging Rights

1 Corinthians 9:16-23 Today I want to indulge a little show-and-tell with three of my prize t-shirts. First:  A Wilderness Trail “Trail Blazer” t-shirt. I earned this t-shirt when I was seventeen and finished my fourth week-long hike with Wilderness Trail.  I was super proud to be initiated into the “Order of the Black” and learn their secret handshake (yes, there really is one; but if you want to learn it, you’ll just have to come to Wilderness Trail). I couldn’t wait to wear this when went I went back to school in the fall.  “What’s that shirt for?”  “Oh nothing – just backpacking 150 miles, that’s all.” Next:  A “2015 Co-ed Softball Champions” t-shirt.   This shirt was awarded to us at the end of a glorious season with our Andrews UMC team.  Despite a rash of injuries affecting pretty much every player over the age of 35, we managed to beat teams that were younger and had heavier hitters. Needless to say, I take a special pleasure in wearing this shirt around town.  And finally:  A Duke Divinity School t-shirt. Those who know me might think the Duke Divinity shirt was a recent purchase, since I’ve been working on my Doctor of Ministry at Duke.  But I didn’t buy this shirt as a student; my mom bought it in 2003, telling me I ought to get my doctorate from Duke one day.  (Side note:  Duke didn’t even have a “Doctor of Ministry” program in 2003; some people just have a knack for always being right.) A few weeks ago I sent a “final” draft of my thesis...