To My Friends and Loved Ones,
As war continues to rage in the Ukraine with threats being made that are much more global, we find ourselves in worry and fear … as we continue to see the effects of prejudice in so many violent forms in our own country … as we experience the harm brought to immigrants and refugees in the name of law and order … as we experience the effects of poverty brought on by collective and individual greed, I ask you to join me in prayer and fasting this Ash Wednesday as we begin this Lenten journey together.
Fasting is hard for me. I’m more of a Shrove Tuesday kind of guy who tends to be afraid of the emptiness. Fasting during times of stress is not easy for a guy whose go-to response is stress-eating. And yet … and yet … there is a time to fast and let myself feel the emptiness that is emblematic of the suffering of so many in our world.
Two things about fasting:
First is how we experience the hunger and the grumbling stomach that nags at us and beckons us toward nourishment. This becomes for us an opportunity to stand in solidarity with those who have the same beckoning, yet for whom there is no table set for them. There is no table full of food. There is no table fellowship. There is only hunger and loneliness.
As we witness the violence in Ukraine, we see how quickly people who had jobs and routines surrounding their daily lives became refugees and found themselves longing to be filled with nourishment and safety … to find their way to a table of hope. Be in prayer for the Ukrainians who are suffering so much right now. Further, pray for the Russian soldiers who are conscripted to serve in a war that they know is unjust and who are struggling or surrendering or facing punishment and death on either side of the line … for the Russian citizen who is looking for a way to demonstrate in a country where demonstrations are not tolerated.
Pray for the many around the world who are part of wars that are largely silent to our ears. These are wars that involve genocide where entire communities are wiped out simply for who they are. These are wars that involve human trafficking as women and children are used and abused in a global pandemic of sexual violence. There are wars on our own shores that unfold in our homes and on our streets.
There are wars of words where people are systemically marginalized and harmed daily by words that sometimes find their way into unjust laws.
Fasting is a way of practicing empathy with those who suffer.
The second key thing about fasting. When I let myself experience emptiness, it becomes a way for God to fill me up. When I am full of food … of wealth and security … of myself … there is less room for God. When I am empty, I come to the realization that God is the source of all provision and I learn to make room for this God who seeks to fill me up.
So as we journey into Lent, will you join me in a day of fasting and prayer as we stand in solidarity with all the suffering of the world and lean into the God of hope and deliverance? My prayer is that you will.