Feast and Famine

I suppose I should not be surprised how many more people celebrate Mardi Gras than “celebrate” Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras after all fits perfectly with our culture’s love of excess. I know I certainly did my part to eat lots of bacon at our Mardi Gras party at SLC!
In my 20’s I made one of the most fun road trips of my life, when four friends and me piled in a car and drove from Minnesota to New Orleans to see what Mardi Gras was all about. Mardi Gras has evolved into a great party with beads and parades and other things I won’t mention. It is great fun to celebrate with friends. To feast on good food and to laugh and enjoy the earth’s bounty.
However, it has struck me this year how hollow feasting is when there is never any fasting. Mardi Gras is about cleaning out the fat in your house as you approach the season of Lent, where we take 40 days to live on less as we prepare to celebrate Easter.
But how many of us will be undergoing a fast after the feasting?
I sometimes even wonder if we even understand what it means to fast. I suppose we understand it with regard to dieting. We know that you need to eat less to weigh less, though that certainly doesn’t mean most of us are able to do it. Dieting fasts are to help us be more healthy or to look better. Those aren’t the goals of a spiritual fast. They might happen, but they aren’t the goals.
At our SLC Mardi Gras party, I taught the kids about Lent by taking a really messy drawer and asking them to find some small items in it. They could find a few, but not all of them. We then talked about how if you clean out the clutter of the junk drawer it makes it easier to find what you are looking for.
I think that is the spiritual reason why we fast. To clean out clutter in our lives so we can focus more on Jesus and his love and forgiveness in our lives.
What clutter do you need to clean out of your life? Sweets? Alcohol? Too much TV? Too many activities?
Even if you didn’t decided to “give something up for Lent,” it might bear thinking about what that thing is that clutters your life and keeps you from thinking about the most important things.
I wonder if Lent arose in the church because there is something deeply human in us that knows that only after a fast does a feast truly satisfy. Jesus started his ministry only after fasting for 40 days and nights in the wilderness.
It isn’t easy, and we certainly have mixed motives of what we are doing most of the time, but it is worth consideration. It fights our society’s push for continual excess that is everywhere around us. And it teaches us that Jesus will bring new life out of our hollow emptiness and death. That is after all what we will celebrate at the end of these 40 days.

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