At work we’ve had some friendly disagreements about the way we look at Lenten fasts (Lenten Fast = fancy Christian word for choosing to sacrifice something from Ash Wednesday to Easter. It may be an abstention, like from a favorite food, or it may be a gift, like offering your time to a cause.)
Yes, this was a real conversation at work. Yes, we are that nerdy. Have I mentioned I’m really liking this new role? But I digress…
At least two of us fast through the season without breaking the fast on Sundays. At least two of us insist on breaking the fast for Sundays. I fall into the latter group, for two reasons. One is objective, the other subjective.
The objective reason for breaking your fast on Sundays is math. Lent is a 40 day fast. Christians are big on the number 40. Jesus spent 40 days in the desert before launching a public ministry. The Israelites wandered 40 years before inheriting the land God promised to them. We like 40.
From Ash Wednesday to Easter is actually not 40 days, though. It’s 47 days. Because of Sundays.
The subjective reason for breaking your fast on Sundays is hope. Originally, Sabbath was observed from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, closing the week with rest and worship. When Jesus returned to life on a Sunday, his followers changed their Sabbath worship from Saturday to Sunday, in honor of the resurrection. We worship on Sundays to celebrate the resurrection, both past and future. Each week we remember Jesus’ victory over sin and look forward to the day it is fully eradicated in this world.*
When we break a Lenten fast on Sunday, we do it to celebrate the resurrection. (This is also the reason many people choose not to observe a fast during Lent at all. That, and a caffeine addiction.) Sundays always celebrate this, even during Lent, because it is a tangible reminder that the darkness in this world does not win. Eating that chocolate is a little taste of heaven.
Of course, I have a bias. I want every celebration of the resurrection I can get my hands on. I want Sundays. Because I don’t want to go through this life full of grief, stunted by sadness and the reality of loss. I want to lean into joy, hope, healing, restoration, wholeness–things we know are coming because of what God has done for us.
And they aren’t just coming someday. They are available now. That’s the power of Christ in us. And when I forget that, as I am inclined to do, Eater reminds me, Sunday reminds me, and breaking the fast reminds me.
*Of course, it is not that important that the Christian community worship on Sunday specifically. Saturday night service, Wednesday midweek, Friday house church–whenever it falls, the point is to rest, honor God, and lean into the truth that Christ has died, is risen, and will come again. As Rachel Green said, No I don’t want you to buy me a hat I’m saying I AM a hat. It’s a metaphor, daddy!