Friday, February 6, 2015


I’ve represented Disciples on the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches’ board for years, and believe deeply in their work. You may know that GMCC runs a March campaign- Minnesota FoodShare- that annually raises over 50% of the food and funds used by Minnesota’s 300+ foodshelves. It’s a huge deal! This year, they published a Lenten daily devotional called Room at the Banquet written by supporters, including one devotion by me. They also invited me to write the book’s introduction. I was honored, and thought you might want to read it. I’ve copied it below. Also, if you want a copy of the whole book, ask. We have 25 available for free.

Lent and hunger belong together; always have, always will. Without understanding or experiencing something of hunger, you miss out on Lent. That connection begins with Christian tradition and scripture. We’ve long linked Lent to the story of Jesus in the wilderness, Christ enduring forty days of fasting just prior to his public ministry beginning. His abstention becomes a template for our own practice. He prepared his spirit by testing his body with hunger, and so might we. Different churches do it differently, but all encourage Lent observers to build more hunger into their lives for a season. Some abstain from red meat on Fridays. Others, similar to our Muslim friends, refrain from eating during sunlight. Many open the practice to personal choice, saying, “We won’t prescribe what to give up. Just give up something.” The subsequent ache acts as a metaphor for our needing to sacrifice to grow spiritually.

As such, the hunger of Lent is more than bodily abstention. What about spiritual hunger too? After all, Jesus did more than fast in the wilderness. Luke and Matthew claim he was tempted, tested, and confronted with spiritual struggle, augmenting his rumbling tummy. Many Christian churches incorporate this facet into their Lenten practices. Some customs are stark and beautiful. In the Episcopal church of my youth, we stopped uttering “Hallelujah” during worship. For us children (and probably adults too), avoiding that lovely, life-giving word was challenging. But when Easter finally arrived, “Hallelujah” erupted from our tongues like champagne bubbles bursting at New Year’s midnight. Depriving ourselves of that praise for six weeks helped us hunger for it, and value it more. Some Christians cover crosses, or icons, with fabric to solemnify their Lenten sanctuaries, to intensify their souls’ hunger for things divine by veiling beauty, for a time.

How very right are those practices, amen?! They remind us that we’re created to hunger for God, to desire God’s presence, to seek God’s ways. We may forget that hunger sometimes, deny it, avoid it, but it abides within us and is true. So when we arrive again at Lent, we can commit again to hunger - or we’ll pray more, or give more to charity, or do something intentional- in order to nurture within us again this primordial hunger for goodness and God.

But this Lent, we also hope you’ll remember that for some – Dear God, for way too many – hunger isn’t just a spiritual, seasonal choice, but a constant, stomach-and-soul-squeezing reality. These children and adults don’t refrain from certain foods; they can’t find enough. So this Lenten devotional includes that struggle too. Because, while we are certainly created to hunger for God’s goodness, we’re also created to hunger for our neighbors’ well-being. Every neighbor. And especially those whose well-being is constantly threatened. Call it charity, call it justice. I call it being Christian. Therefore, I need that issue included in my Lenten devotions.

For isn’t others’ hunger also part of the original Lent story? Jesus fasted, and was tempted, then burst from the wilderness to proclaim God’s Kingdom come on earth, that there’s room at the banqueting table for all. May your hunger for that also deepen this season, as you use the scriptures and writings in the pages that follow to help guide your prayers and meditations. Notice that each week includes a set of action suggestions, that we might be doers of the words of grace we hear.

Or rather…of the words of grace we hunger for. On behalf of our spirits. On behalf of our neighbors’ budgets and pantries. Then we won’t be living by bread alone, but by the very satisfying words of God, the deeply nourishing compassion of the Spirit, the fully fulfilling grace of Jesus, our guide, our model, our companion, our redeemer.

Grace and Peace,
Rev. Shane Isner
Plymouth Creek Christian Church

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