I turn on my blinker and prepare to make the left turn from Hedding onto Bascom Avenue. As I make the turn, I pass the newly remodeled gas station on my left, which has its own small Subway.
The last part of Awakening Church’s Lenten fast, which starts this coming Sunday, is eating beans and rice as our only food. The discipline of fasting meals or abstaining from rich foods, like Daniel did in the king’s court (Dan. 1:8-14, 10:3), is a common practice and spiritual discipline observed by the early and contemporary Christian church. Fasting teaches us what Lauren Winner calls, “the simple lesson that I am not utterly subject to my bodily desires”. As a spiritual discipline, fasting reminds us that our bodies and our physical hungers should not control us. Above all, it makes us rely on Christ. Practicing fasting and spiritual disciplines, during Lent, focuses our hearts and prepares us for the ultimate celebration of Christ’s resurrection on Easter morning.
As I continue down Bascom, through light traffic, I come to the stoplight at Naglee. To my left, is our favorite breakfast place, Bill’s Cafe, and to my right is Mountain Mike’s pizza. As I drive further from the Rose Garden, I come to Valley Medical Center. On this stretch I pass a series of fast food options: Wendy’s, McDonald’s and Taco Bell.
Abstaining from foods reminds us that Christ came to do more than meet our physical needs. He called himself the Bread of Life; he is the ultimate source of spiritual nourishment. Jesus said, “This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:50-51 ESV). Whenever we take communion, the bread and the wine together represent Christ’s body, broken for us, and his blood, shed on our behalf. His physical body was broken to reconcile us to himself and bring our spiritual fulfillment.
I always remember the turn for Del Mar Avenue because of the sign for Sam’s BBQ. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Kansas City, where BBQ is abundant? I turn left off of Bascom and then right onto Del Mar Ave.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 870 million people worldwide do not eat enough to be healthy. That’s almost one in seven people worldwide. UNICEF reports that under-nutrition contributes to 2.6 million deaths of children under five each year. Hunger is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. It’s also extremely concentrated to a few countries in the developing world. The UN World Food Programme states, 98% of hungry people live in the developing world. In other words, hunger and malnutrition are most prevalent in the very countries where inexpensive staples like beans and rice might be the only available options.
I turn left into Del Mar High and try to find a parking spot. My route from home to church is 2.8 miles. Along this route, I pass 15 restaurants as diverse from one another as a pho place and a diner, a pizza joint and a McDonald’s. I pass one gas station, a family market, and two bakeries. On one car ride I take every week, across 2.8 miles in San Jose.
The beans and rice fast provides us with an opportunity, not to feel guilt about the abundance to which we are accustomed, but to be grateful to the God who is the ultimate provider of all our needs, both spiritual and physical. What if we take this time to ask how we might be blessed to be a blessing to our neighbors? What if, in our excess, we use this time of hunger and discipline to identify with the experience of the hungry millions? What if we ask the Father to break our hearts for what breaks his? What if we invite the Holy Spirit to be present in this fast and listen for responses that we can take?
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