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On Fasting

“Will you recommend fasting or abstinence both by precept and example?”  This question is one of the traditional questions asked of every person who is about to be ordained an elder in The United Methodist Church.  Of course, the answer we give in response to this question is, “Yes”.  So today, I would like to commend fasting to you.

This week the jurisdictional conferences begin the important work of electing bishops to serve in The United Methodist Church, I would like to urge you, my United Methodist brothers and sisters to spend some time, perhaps even  a day or two, in prayer and fasting as we intercede for those who are making these decisions for our church.

Fasting is an often neglected spiritual discipline in our church these days.  And I have to say that this fact dismays me.  My experience has been that God HONORS fasting and prayer.  The status quo is disrupted and GOD STUFF starts happening.  I don’t quite understand it, but I can testify to it.  I wish I could tell you that God will always answer your prayers the way you want them answered, but I can’t.  Sometimes nothing seems to happen and sometimes something different than you expect happens; but often something amazing begins.

Whenever I commend fasting to friends and colleagues, I invariably hear protests.  “I can’t fast”, the friend says. “I’m on a special diet.”  My answer to that is simple…you have an incorrect view of fasting.  It is possible for almost anyone to prayerfully fast.  Please note that I said PRAYERFULLY—that is the key.  Fasting needs to be led, and directed by the Holy Spirit.  It is gracious, not overly arduous.  It begins with prayer and serves to remind us to pray throughout the day.  I am diabetic, so when I fast it no longer means giving up eating.  For me it may mean giving up meat for a day, or a week.  Or sometimes, I choose to give up watching television and/or abstaining from using my computer.  Once I gave up reading and sound (tv and radio) for a day; and frankly, that was one of the most refreshing fasts I have ever experienced.  That day, I simply walked along the river, observed nature, and listened for God’s voice.  I made some space for God; and I believe I heard God’s clear message.

This is not a sermon or a deep theological reflection.  It is a call to fast. I would simply like to adhere to my ordination vow as an elder in the United Methodist Church by commending fasting by both precept and example.  Please join me sometime this week as you are able and as you are led.

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