Spending our Way to Asceticism

Scripture Focus: 2 Corinthians 5.15
And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

Reflection: Spending our Way to Asceticism
By John Tillman

Ascetics are the new cool kids. How do we become ascetics in a Western consumerist culture? Spend more, of course. 

People, even non-believers, universally recognize fasting as a marker of spirituality. Fasting is perhaps one of the least understood and most abused spiritual disciplines. Richard Foster said, “Because of the secularization of modern society, ‘fasting’ is usually motivated either by vanity or by the desire for power.” The power many are seeking is not power over sin, but power over the bathroom scale. We are not looking to make ourselves fit for Heaven as much as we are looking for ways to fit into the suit we wore a few years ago.

Many “fasts” involve paying for or partaking in perplexing, complicated, and expensive diets, foods, powders, and gadgets. This consumerist approach helps fasting fit into the American spiritual narrative of moralistic self-sufficiency. Even atheists can virtue-signal their dedication to self-improvement by going on a partial fast, eating far less of far more expensive food.

I am prone to stumble into cynicism about societal/spiritual trends such as these. So I want to be careful not to step too hard on anyone’s attempts to seek God through a discipline of fasting. Just because some fasts have a trending hashtag or have been of financial value to grocers and the sports nutrition industry doesn’t mean they have no spiritual value. After all, sticking to an expensive plan as a part of a fast is adding a financial level of sacrifice to a physical level of sacrifice. Who am I to judge? Fast on, trendy-fasters.

But I pray, for myself and others, that as we continue through Lent that no matter what kind of fast we choose, fasting will be more to us than a religious/dietary stunt. 

I pray that our intentions will be not for a good result in our dietary health but a God-result in our spiritual health.

As we continue fasting this weekend, let us pray this prayer from a previous post on fasting:

May we be more thrilled by gaining a better connection to Christ than by losses on a scale. 
May our lack aid us in leaning into Christ’s sufficiency. 
May our hunger lead us to read from His holy Word. 
May our pangs of emptiness lead us to make more room in our hearts and lives for the Holy Spirit and for the community of his Holy Church.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning; so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life. — Psalm 85.10

Today’s Readings
Job 35 (Listen -1:33)
2 Corinthians 5 (Listen -3:14)

This Weekend’s Readings
Job 36 (Listen -3:04), 2 Corinthians 6 (Listen -2:31)
Job 37 (Listen -2:27), 2 Corinthians 7 (Listen -2:58)

Read more about Binging on Fasting
We misunderstand fasting to such a level that we have co-opted the concept to create new opportunities for consumption.

Read more about Fasting “Better”
As fasting has grown fashionable…It’s easy for it to become just another spiritual competition of one-upmanship and comparison.

Let’s Take a Walk

Scripture Focus: 2 Corinthians 5.6-7
Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

Reflection: Let’s Take a Walk
By Jon Polk

The classic KJV translation of 2 Corinthians 5:7 is frequently quoted, cross-stitched and memorized: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

Jews used this word walk as an idiom relating to how you live your life. We utilize a similar idea when we talk about our “Christian walk” or our “walk with God.” Our lives ought to be dependent on our faith, not on what we can see or comprehend.

Contrary to the popular phrase, faith is not about taking a “blind leap” but rather making steps towards God, following the path he lays out before us. Paul refers to confidence twice in this passage, implying that faith is not blind hope but is grounded in our trust in God.

Faith is confident movement towards the path that God has ahead for us. We may not see the path, but we have faith that the path exists. We may not see beyond the first step, but we take the first step in faith. We may not see all the reasons behind what God is calling us to do, but we have faith that he leads us as he does for a purpose.

On his first journey to China, the great British missionary Hudson Taylor traveled aboard a sailing vessel. As the ship neared the coast of New Guinea, the winds died out for a number of weeks. The ship began to drift dangerously towards the shore, at risk of running aground on the coral reefs leaving the crew to the mercy of the natives rumored to be cannibals.

The captain came to Taylor in desperation, asking him to pray for God to send wind. So Taylor and a few other men began to pray for a breeze. As they prayed, he went up on deck and asked the second mate to ready the mainsail. Initially, the mate resisted, not wanting to appear foolish in front of the crew, but Taylor insisted and he finally agreed. In the ensuing moments, a strong wind indeed came upon the ship and sailors scrambled all over the deck as the wind kicked in.

When you raise the sails in your life before you can even see the wind, you’re walking by faith.

So go take a walk. Not a walk based on what we can see in this earthly life but a walk by faith into the adventurous life God has for us.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught the crowds, saying: “The light will be with you only a little longer now. Go on your way while you have the light, or darkness will overtake you, and nobody who walks in the dark knows where he is going. While you still have the light, believe in the light so that you may become the children of light.” Having said this, Jesus left them and was hidden from their sight. — John 12.35-36

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 16 (Listen – 4:03)
2 Corinthians 5 (Listen – 3:14)

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Read more from Jon Polk: Faith of the Flawed
The purpose of this passage is to demonstrate how ordinary people overcame difficult situations through their faith in God.

Read more about Light for the Next Step :: Readers’ Choice
God’s word, most of the time, provides one-step-at-a-time light. A lamp for our feet forces us to engage with where we are, not look only at distant destinations.

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