The advent of the Lenten season, Ash Wednesday, is less than a week away. At the starting line of the journey to Easter’s empty tomb we are marked with ashes in the form of a cross that remind us that we are dust and to dust we shall return. Then for the next forty days we wander and wonder with Jesus through the wilderness of deprivation and temptation.
In the throes of being deprived of food, the first temptation put before Jesus was “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” Satan recognized the power of food: when it is scarce there is weakness and vulnerability; when it is abundant there is strength and resolve. Just as food nourishes the body for physical strength, so too it delivers spiritual strength for the journey of faith.
We feast before and after Lent to remember the power of food to sustain, bind, and deliver us. We fast during Lent to remember that in the absence of physical and spiritual sustenance we are weak and ever more vulnerable to temptation. Next to the cross, the most powerful symbol in the Lenten journey is food, most especially bread.
And so food and bread will mark the Lenten journey of faith at Hanover. This Sunday after worshiping in grand Mardi Gras spirit we will gather around abundant tables of food from and for the soul. On Wednesday evening we will feast on pancakes, with a repast of ashes for dessert. Each Wednesday evening thereafter we will break bread, dip it in simple soups, and hungrily study the sustaining word of God through spirituals. Three times in our journey we will bring our own brokenness to the Lord’s Table to receive His broken body. The Sunday after Easter we will feast from tables that overflow with fellowship at the annual Deacons’ Luncheon.
For followers of Jesus food and faith go hand in hand. Where and when food is scarce we are called to follow the Jesus of justice, for the crime of hunger is only superficially physical; its deeper debilitating pain is spiritual. Where and when food is abundant we are called to recognize and receive God’s grace with humility and gratitude. In such moments we are offered the blessing of our Christ that binds and sustains community.
As we prepare to enter the season of Lent may God bless our feasting and our fasting, that through them we would be sustained in – and delivered from – the wilderness.