Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Considering Lent: Further Questions

On Sunday Pastor Dave and others advocated for practicing Lent and fasting as a spiritual discipline. Dave gave Biblical encouragement for pursuing God in this time, Pastor Austin gave historical background of the practice of Lent, Jon Anderson shared his personal experience with fasting, and Pastor Chuck recommended some good resources which will be available as devotionals for study this season. If you would like to hear this sermon it will be available at: http://westchestercares.org/media.php?pageID=6

After the service, we realized that other questions might be popping into your mind when considering doing a fast this Lent season.

Here is just a quick recap of the main points of this season:
-Lent is 40 days starting this Wednesday (Feb. 10), Ash Wednesday, and ends Easter Sunday (Mar. 27).  The 40 days do not include the 7 Sundays of the season, but it is optional to practice the fast on those days.
-Traditionally participants will choose something of daily significance and abstain from that for the duration of the season and replace that with a focus on prayer and seeking the Lord.

Q. Is giving up chocolate or soda an appropriate fast for the lent season?
A. Many of the areas of fasting are going to be personal in nature, so there is not one thing that is appropriate for everyone. What the pastors would encourage is to take something that you would recognize daily. If you love your chocolate after dinner or your diet coke with lunch then it would absolutely be appropriate. If you are someone who could go days without realizing that you had a soda, then fasting from it during lent may be less significant.
            Be aware that no matter what food item you would abstain from, there will always be the temptation to consider weight loss, health, and physical appearance. We live in a culture that highly values these things, but this season should be a striving after God and not as a New Years Resolution part 2. With this we would encourage you to enjoy and celebrate with these items on Sundays as a way to remind yourselves that this is a fast, not a diet.

Q. Who should I tell about my fast? What if I’m in a situation where I need to tell a group?
A. Another temptation to be aware of is the desire to announce to the world the fast you are doing. With that being said, there are times where your silence could be more harmful than telling people. If you are married, for sure enter into this season with your spouse for encouragement. If you are single, find a trusted friend or two who will be praying for you in this season. If there is a change in your diet (ie. Fasting from meat) then people who are preparing meals for you will need to know that.
            I’m sure there will be times that come up where more people will need to know, but try and avoid drawing attention to your fast as much as possible. One example may be—if you are avoiding meat and you are out to dinner with a group of friends, you can easily order a salad or vegetarian meal instead of drawing attention to it.

Q. Does the fast have to be food? When should I not do a food related fast?
A. While fasting from food is by far the most common, I would say there are instances where food might not be right for you. If you have a special diet you need to be on, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if food creates problems due to an eating disorder or other body image issues then doing a food fast during lent could end up doing more harm than good. The goal, after all, is to be able to pursue God in this time, so don’t make it harder than it needs to be.
            Many people these days are finding fasts from social media and technology to be most beneficial. Staying off of facebook, twitter, instagram, or other platforms will immediately create a space where you have more time to read your Bible and pray. Other ideas are fasting from watching TV or movies after dinner. Take a time in your day where you would normally have background noise (TV while eating or cooking; radio/ music in your car) or when you would be staring at your computer, phone, or tablet, and instead spend that time in quiet prayer and reflection.

The options for fasts are plentiful, but find the thing that is right for you. Something that you will remember daily, avoiding seeing it as a diet, and aim to glorify God not to exalt your own abilities.

If you have any other questions please email the Pastors. We are praying that this would be a profitable time of pursuing the Lord leading up to Easter.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Considering Lent

In this Sunday’s service we will be discussing fasting and the upcoming season of Lent. Staring on Feb. 10 churches all over the world will begin their observance of Lent. This will also mark the first year that I, Pastor Austin, will be participating. I would like to invite all of you to consider observing Lent this year. Unfortunately just at the mention of a word like Lent many of you may start squirming and even have your blood boiling a little bit.

When I was growing up in the Bible belt as a broadly evangelical protestant—I remember first hearing about Lent when some friends of mine who belonged to higher tradition churches started to discuss what they were giving up that year. I was taken aback because these particular friends showed no signs of the Spirit working in their life and I was doubtful of spiritual growth in their lives, yet they were willingly involving themselves in a spiritual discipline.

Because of this I grew callous at the idea of Lent. It seemed like many people viewed it as a diet—I’m going to eat less sweets or stop drinking coke—or it seemed like people had the mindset of—I don’t read my bible, rarely go to church, and generally don’t carry the personal ethics that scripture commands, but I can look at this thing that I do and convince myself that I’m ok with God.

You won’t find the word Lent in scripture and its not commanded—but I want you all to see it as this—a spiritual discipline. A piece of wisdom of how we can grow spiritually. The idea behind Lent is that we will take the 40 days that precede Easter and give up something that would be common to our every day life. Rather than indulging in that thing, instead commit to prayer and reflect upon our lives being in God’s hands, and that our dependence is upon Him—that we look to Him for life, and Him alone.

It’s a discipline, a way to train our bodies, a way for our bodies to reflect a spiritual reality—and for us to grow closer to God in this time.

So this is an invitation, not a command. A challenge, not a requirement.

Consider taking something regular out of your diet—coffee, soda, meat, etc. Or what a lot of people are finding relevant these days is fasting from social media—getting off of facebook, twitter, or other platforms. Maybe fasting from TV, video games, or maybe even news outlets.

One additional challenge I’d like to give is this: refrain from advertising what you will be fasting from and asking others about their fast. Read Matthew 6:16-18 for advice on fasting.

So let’s remember this: Just because some would do this discipline in vain or out of impure motives, does not make this a bad exercise.

I hope you will all consider participating with me this year in Lent. We will be giving more information on Sunday, but if you have any questions please email me. ahilmer@westchestercares.org

Austin Hilmer

About the Author:
Austin serves on staff at Westchester as Associate Pastor of Corporate Worship