Recently our superintendent in the North Central District, Michelle Cobb, shared with me her plan to invite the pastors and laity of her district to join in fasting during the season of Lent. I want to extend her invitation to our entire Indiana Conference. Fasting is an important tradition which we have often overlooked and seldom used, but it has been an important spiritual practice for centuries, and for John Wesley and the early Methodists in particular. Here is Michelle's invitation, which I extend for all of us:
A Lenten Invitation
On Wednesday, February 18, 2015, Christians from around the world will gather to participate in Ash Wednesday services. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten Season, a 40 day period when Christians enter into a time of self-denial in preparation for Easter. As we approach the Lenten Season, I’m extending an invitation to you, clergy and laity, to join me in a Lenten Season fast. We would practice the John Wesley fast. This fast begins Thursday evenings following the evening meal and ends on Friday afternoon. We would begin this weekly fast on Thursday, February 19, 2015 and end on April 2, 2015.
Fasting is one of the spiritual disciplines that Jesus implied that His disciples would practice (Matthew 6:16-18; 9:14,15) and a discipline that John Wesley identified as a “means of grace”. John Wesley defined “means of grace” as “outward signs, words, or actions, ordained of God, and appointed for this end, to be the ordinary channels whereby he might convey to men, prevenient, justifying, or sanctifying grace”.
According to author Steve Harper, Wesley believed that fasting contributed to one’s spiritual growth. John Wesley stressed the connection between fasting and prayer.
I have two reasons for inviting you to share in the John Wesley fast with me. First, the fast presents an opportunity for us to return to a practice which is to help strengthen us spiritually. Second, the fast presents an opportunity for us to prayerfully seek from God ways that we can become more outwardly focused as individuals, as a District and as a Conference. Laity and Clergy, your participation in this time of fasting is designed to complement any Lenten study or activity that you and/or your congregation might possibly undertake during this Season.
Note: Remember to always consult your physician before you begin any fast.
I am adding my invitation to that of Michelle. I plan to participate in the Lenten fast, and I invite you to join me. As with any spiritual practice, we only get from a practice that spirit which we put into the practice. So if you can't fast with joy and anticipation of God working in your life, then don't do it. But if you are open to an adventure which could deepen your sense of "hunger" for the presence of God, then please join us.
No matter what, make the upcoming season of Lent a time of spiritual focus and preparation for a joyous Easter.