By The Rev. Carlton Kelley
The Christian Church, most specifically the catholic and liturgical portions of the church, are churches that embrace discipline for the sake of building up Christ’s Body. We are made disciples of Jesus Christ by the disciplines we keep. These disciplines, most especially in the sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Eucharist, keep us sound and whole, centered and focused on our head Jesus Christ. Apart from these foundational disciplines there is very little that would make us distinctly Christ’s Body, the church. There is little that would make us recognizable as a peculiar people who are the vanguard – the foretaste of the kingdom – of Jesus Christ to the world.
Out of these two foundational, disciplining sacraments grow the practices of prayer, study, reading Holy Scripture, good works, and, most neglected of all, fasting. We recall that Jesus fasted from food from an extended period after his baptism to dwell more deeply in God’s will for his life. By putting aside the legitimate needs of the body, we are given the ability to focus on what God might have us to do for our good and the good of the church and the world. Fasting acts as an intensification of our desire. We deny ourselves in order to give more to a particular concern to which we believe God is calling us.
On May 18, 2017 the Presiding Bishops of the Episcopal and Lutheran Churches issued a joint invitation to our members to pray and fast on the 21st of every month until the end of 2018, the end of the current Congressional session. The purpose? To raise our awareness and to cry out to God that hunger ceases and has no place in a land of such abundance. We remember that everything we have is a gift to be distributed with equality and justice. The 21st of each month was chosen because this is when many families run out of food.
“We fast to fortify our advocacy in solidarity with families who are struggling with hunger. We fast to be in solidarity with neighbors who suffer famine, who have been displaced, and who are vulnerable to conflict and climate change. We fast with immigrants who are trying to make a better future for their families and now face the risk of deportation. We fast in solidarity with families on SNAP (food stamp program) who often run out of food by the last week of the month.”
This fast is a worthy discipline for the 150th anniversary year of Grace Church, a church that God has richly blessed! We are blessed to live in an area of amazing beauty and abundance. Would that more could share in this bounty! This is a material and spiritual gift we are able to give to generations to come.
If you are unable to fast from food because of medical reasons, spend extra time in prayer and study or give up another activity that is meaningful to you. Blessings to us all as we fast and pray on the 21st of each month.