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A Modern Twist on Lenten Fasting

Lent is a season of fasting, prayer, repentance and drawing closer to God. We are all called and encouraged during this season to be intentional about seeking God. Just as our experiences of the divine occur in a plethora of different ways, so too should our Lenten practices represent that same diverse range.

For generations Christians around the world have fasted for during Lent. Even today fasting is very meaningful for many. For extremely devoted followers of this practice, this usually means daytime fast from food.

For others, it means refraining from meat, sweets, soda or other favorite foods. Some people fast for the 40 days of Lent (which excludes the Sundays) while others fast from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday. Many find that they connect to Jesus’ suffering for 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness and later on the cross as they face denial of their own physical needs and wants. I’ve heard people reflect that in giving something up during the season of Lent, as they miss that food or feel the pangs of
hunger, their minds turn to God.

For those of us whose faith is about seeing the face of Christ in another human being, fasting sometimes comes up short—maybe it feels isolated. This feeling has led some to reverse the practice and, instead of giving something up, to add a Christian practice into their daily lives for Lent. Sometimes this means adding a daily prayer for someone in need of healing or sharing an act of love each day. For some, an addition such as this—rather than subtraction—is what deepens their faith because it helps them connect and relate to the people around them.

For those of us whose faith is expressed in acts of social justice and advocacy there is still another practice to consider this Lenten season. Since 2011 the United Church of Christ, along with many ecumenical and environmental partners such as the Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light, has put a different spin on the traditional Lenten fast and encouraged people and churches to participate in a “carbon fast.”

“Living as we are at a time when our actions—along with the actions of only a few generations—have threatened Creation as we know it by the excessive burning of fossil fuel, it is fitting to engage in a spiritual discipline of fasting from carbon,” said Rev. Jim Antal
of the UCC Massachusetts Conference.

This type of fast encourages everyone to reduce their carbon footprint by intentional changes on a daily basis. One day maybe it means giving up the car and walking or taking the bus. It could mean switching to local produce. Another day maybe it means unplugging all the electronics when they are not on or maybe it means unplugging for a day and choosing a book or board game over the computer, television or iPad.

Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light created a calendar with a carbon fast for each day. It’s available here.

As you continue along your Lenten journey, may your daily devotions, prayers, study and fasting—however you choose to live out these practices—deepen your relationship with God. Amen.

The Rev. Kristen Curlee

March 2015