I'm hungry. I have chosen to fast on Mondays for Lent which means for me no food from Sunday dinner to Monday dinner. Fasting on Mondays are a first for me in this discipline (a long-held Catholic, Protestant and Wesleyan (e.g., United Methodist ) tradition), and it’s throwing me out of my rhythms since I always like to begin the day and week with a good breakfast. Now it’s pushing noon and I have the munchies.
I am starting to notice with greater interest those Tostito chips and salsa in the pantry, and that jar of peanuts, and those graham crackers – all of which would do nicely in quelling the hunger. Then I remind myself – they can wait.
They can wait, as can my hunger; but what then steps to the fore in place of the chips and crackers, and on what can I refocus my hunger? In sharing these questions and the concept of fasting with our youth, I referenced Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry following his baptism. Those 40 days of fasting and hunger and prayer and scripture recitation forged his identity and grounded his eventual three-year mission. He faced squarely the human hunger for food, status and power and subjugated them to his desire for God. To the Tempter, Jesus said finally, “Worship the Lord your God and serve only him” (Matthew 4:10, NRSV).
That was the point I hoped to make with our youth: that when we discipline our most base hunger – that for food – then we are empowered to discipline other hungers for other things, other temptations – video games, shopping, alcohol, pornography, anger, prejudice, tobacco, gossip, focus on self. The question remains: for what are we disciplining our hunger?
Jesus’ answer to the Tempter again helps us - a truly meaningful and prioritized relationship with God – the God who is the final solution for all our hungers. My hunger for the Tostitos and salsa and peanuts and graham crackers remind me that it is finally God who satisfies – who is my strength and salvation – the life-changing, sanctifying grace in my life. It’s why John Wesley fasted two days a week and encouraged the Methodist Christians to do the same.
I'm still hungry, but now I am reminded on Mondays to hold up my hunger pray that it be more and more for God and for God’s will in my life. At the same time, I pray that hunger for God also be the hunger of UPUMC. After all, we are United Methodists, and this is what we believe.
May yours be a holy Lent.
Matthew B. Gaston
Lead Pastor, firstname.lastname@example.org