The Oasis - April 14, 2021
Author: Rev. Eric Dupee
April 14, 2021
April 14, 2021
Rev. Eric Dupee
In the Muslim faith, the month of Ramadan began yesterday. I think that is why I have fasting on my mind. Here are a few thoughts on fasting from Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. In the Christian faith, we emphasize fasting in the season of Lent. Lent reflects the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness where he fasted 40 days. In her book Fasting: Spiritual Freedom Beyond Our Appetites, Lynne M. Baab writes, “Christian fasting is the voluntary denial of something for a specific time, for a spiritual purpose, by an individual, family, community or nation.”
She believes fasting is about freedom: the freedom to make time for the things that are most important, the freedom to draw closer to God. When we fast, we demonstrate that we are not slaves to our habits. We can change things. We can try new things.
Ramadan is a month in which Muslims abstain form food and drink from dawn until dusk. After the sun sets, Muslims will often break the daily fast by sharing a meal with family and friends. However, Ramadan is about more than just fasting. It is a time of self-reflection, doing good deeds, and avoiding destructive habits like smoking and gossip.
Over the years, I’ve experimented with various types of fasts. I have done a number of 3-day fasts. I also like to engage in intermittent fasting. I believe there is spiritual benefit to going without for a time. My hunger causes me to reflect on God’s provision. It produces gratitude for how much I have and usually take for granted. Therefore, it causes me to draw closer to God.
However, whenever I think about fasting, I try to recall the words of the prophet Isaiah of the Jewish tradition. Speaking for God, he said, “Is not this the fast that I choose; to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin (Isaiah 58:6-7)?”
It appears that if it comes to a choice between acts of personal piety and justice, God chooses feeding the poor, caring for the homeless, and freeing the oppressed. When those activities become the focus, Isaiah promises, “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard (Isaiah 58:8).”