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What is the best party you’ve ever been to? What made it wonderful? Was it the food? The playlist? The company?
2022 brought some of the best parties I’ve ever seen.
And they were more than parties…they were intentional, delightful, and smattered with Divine encounters. Because when a party is given to God, it becomes more than a party. It becomes a feast.
Historically, feasts are one of the places where God met most often with His people. Because, as we see in God the Father throughout the Old Testament Law and in Jesus in John 2, God is really good at celebrating.
Me on the other hand…not so much.
Confession time: I have been a very serious adult since age four. When it came to Biblical practices like fasting, lament, facing the darkness of the world, I was first in line.
But when it came to feasting, I had quite the learning curve ahead of me.
I have spent more than one lavish gathering, looking around the room wondering what the heck we’re all doing here. Wondering if it’s wrong to celebrate when there’s so much suffering in the world. Wondering if there’s room for me (the real me, wounds and all) at this table.
So, in His mercy, Jesus enrolled me in the next season of my life: “Feasting & Fasting 101” (and lemme tell ya, it was a whole lot more fun than “Cry out to God While Eating Baked Goods Over Your Sink 101” that I took back in 2020).
Feasting and fasting are both ancient forms of worship that stretch throughout your Bible.
When God set aside His people and delivered them from slavery, He established their culture and their calendar with days of fasting in repentance and feasting in fellowship (Exodus 12, Leviticus 23, Deuteronomy 16).
Both were present and necessary in order for God to bond with His people. Both are still necessary to bind communities to one another and draw them nearer to God.
The table of God is the only table I know where sorrow has a seat next to joy. It is the only place where I can find peace in the presence of my enemies (Psalm 23:5). It is the happy ending we look toward in the hereafter (Revelation 19) and our safe place in the here and now (Luke 15:22-24).
We happen to be on the edge of one of the global seasons of feasting and fasting in the Christian faith. Over the last few years, I have been actively observing this season, and for 2023, you are invited to join me in some of my favorite moments on the Church calendar.
Fasting: Preparing for Easter
Traditionally called “Lent” the fifty days leading up to Easter clear away some of the gunk that has built up in our hearts over the year. And this year, those fifty days begin February 22, 2023 with a day known as “Ash Wednesday.” Lent is not intended to be a hyper-religious, self-punishing contest. It is simply a time to get quiet, listen for God, and remove some of the distractions of our every day life.
Ideas for Observing Lent:
- Attend an Ash Wednesday Service
If your church observes Ash Wednesday, go check it out! If your church doesn’t observe Ash Wednesday, get curious and find a service in your area! Step outside of your comfort zone and remember that as the Church, we are family. Some of your family members worship in a way that is different, and we can learn a lot from one another! (If you don’t have an Ash Wednesday Service available, Cambridge University has an excellent one on Spotify.)
- Set Aside a Distraction for Fifty Days
Traditionally, this is called “abstaining” and it literally means that you give up something (that’s not necessarily wrong) from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday (people usually take a break each Sunday during the fifty days and enjoy whatever it is they have given up for one day a week). Many people set aside social media, screens and devices, entertainment, or a particular habit. The purpose of this is not to create a huge blank space in your life, but to fill that space by drawing near to God. Whenever you want to watch that show, play that video game, or open that social media, take a walk with God or just sit on your couch and talk to Him.
Fasting is inextricably connected to food. While “abstaining” could be anything, fasting means giving up a particular kind of food or choosing not to eat for a set amount of time. Don’t get this confused with diets such as “intermittent fasting.” Fasting is to a spiritual purpose because we depend on food. Fasting allows us to realize our own fragility and humanness while clearing our mind from distraction. Jesus practiced fasting, and if the Son of God needed to quiet His stomach long enough to hear the voice of His Father, we should follow suit.*
- Find Community
This stuff is hard alone. Not only can fasting be a challenge, I find that I face more spiritual attack and more spiritual revelation during the lenten season, and that means we need support! Find a believing friend who would like to go through this season with you and check in with each other, pray for one another, and seek the Lord together.
*NOTE: I DO NOT recommend fasting for minors, those with conditions such as diabetes, hyperglycemia, or hypoglycemia, pregnant women, those with eating disorders, or those who are unable to separate fasting from the concept of dieting, If you are fasting from a chemical that causes dependence, such as caffeine or tobacco, find healthy ways of weaning yourself off this substance. Cold turkey will hurt you.
Feasting: Celebrating Easter
While fasting comes first, feasting is right around the corner! In America especially, we tend to let holidays pass us by. (Because we’re emotionally exhausted and burned out by the holiday industry, but that’s another blog for another day.) If there is anything worth celebrating in this world, it is the arrival of Christ to rescue us (Advent) and the rescue itself (Holy Week).
Lent prepares our hearts for the grief of Good Friday and the celebration of Easter, but what do we do practically? How do we observe these holy days? Here are some of my favorite ways to celebrate:
Ideas for Observing Holy Week
Tracing the patterns of Scripture is like following a genius piece of music. Themes rise and fall at the perfect moment, reminding you of the greater journey. When God redeemed humanity, He did so during an ancient feast, one that reminded the Jewish people that God was their Deliverer. Passover sets the stage for Easter. Always has. Always will. So if you have the opportunity, attend or host a Seder dinner. This helps us to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, right before He went to the Cross.
- Rediscover Holy Week
Throughout Church History, Easter wasn’t a day. It was a week! And the days of this week bore significance and a different way of looking toward the Sunday that would bring our redemption. You can learn more with this great walkthrough from Trinity College, Melbourne.
- Find a Good Friday Service
Many churches hold services where we, as a community can go and grieve the agony of Jesus on the cross. Other churches will leave their doors open all day and allow passersby to sit in the silent sanctuary. Whether you observe in community or by yourself, take time to sit and consider the suffering of our Savior.
Ideas for Celebrating Easter
- Get Fancy
When something good is happening, humans do things like…getting dressed up, decorating their homes, and lighting candles (it’s quite adorable actually). This has nothing to do with being “acceptable,” and everything to do with reminding yourself that you’re celebrating. It doesn’t have to be formal or stressful or expensive. Wear your new pair of shoes or your favorite shirt, buy those $.99 tea lights for your table. Feasting and fasting is about embodying celebration. So get creative!
- Invite Friends
Every year I unlearn more of the door-to-door gospel-pitching and I relearn the imagery of evangelism in Scripture: it is an invitation. That friend of yours that has been on the edge or on the margin, bring them along to your party. If they won’t set foot in a church, have them over for dinner.
- Eat Good Food
Whether you cook up a feast, or take the family out to dinner, just as fasting should not be separated from food, feasting should always include it! The image of God’s family around the table is a sacred one.
Friends, this is so much more than just some fun ideas for you to do with your kids or a way to find fun during the dreary winter months. It is the way we learn to hold the tension of joy and pain. Death and resurrection. Blessing and cursing.
Being human is journey of great heights and depths.
We try not to get the bends on the way up to our delight. We try not to let our world catch fire as we fall back through the atmosphere to our sorrow. But there is hope.
The palm of God is wide enough, deep enough, and high enough to span the human experience.
And that is where I have made my home.
And I am surrounded daily by those who have no such home. You see, in the stunning feast imagery of the Scriptures, Christ is the Master of the Feast, but the Church is the hostess.
Christ created the party, built the venue, fashioned the table, paid for everything. But it is His Beloved, inspired by His Spirit, who sends the invitations. It is His Bride who prays over the guests list. It is His Church who goes into the highways and byways to let people know that there is a table full of friends and plenty of food. That they don’t have to hide their wounds, because we have matching scars of many shapes. Because all of us were invited at some point, and it saved our lives.
We live in a world that is numbing out to both joy and grief. When we feast and fast, we enter into both willingly.
You are invited to join me for the season ahead. I’ll be walking through it with my community and you can be part of that community digitally. Let me know in the comments below how you want to celebrate this year! You can follow along in my social media and newsletter as I follow the footsteps of Jesus from the table to the cross to the empty tomb.
Be well, beloved.
There are so many more celebrations to come in 2023 (too many for a blog post)! So each of these celebrations has been carefully nestled into my 2023 calendar, and you can get the download code delivered to your inbox when you subscribe to my newsletter.
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