Junior Diana Meakem provides us a fascinating reflection on one of the breakout sessions in the Fall 2012 Honors Guild Conference. Reagan Sutterfield, an agrarian and a writer from Englewood Community Church in Indianapolis, delivered a talk titled “Feasting and Fasting” during the conference. Here are Diana’s thoughts:
Reflection On “Feasting and Fasting” by Ragan Sutterfield
“When we eat a meal, we’re participating in a concert.” I have always felt this way about meals, but have never been able to articulate it. I appreciated the many facets to Ragan’s talk, the way he intertwined literature, theology, and agriculture. It was particularly apropos because he talked a lot about how God made everything to be connected, even though we often pervert that.
Ragan talked about soil, how we were made from it, how we return to it, and how we as humans are dependent upon the soil. I’ve done a little gardening growing up (I love growing basil and making pesto from it), but I had never thought about how special, complicated and life-giving soil is. The soil affects what we eat.
After that, Ragan talked about how we eat, and spent a lot of time talking about fasting in particular. Fasting has always been a tricky topic for me. I know Christians have done it for centuries, but have struggled to understand why or how fasting should be done. Ragan spoke of fasting as “a kind of mourning,” as a holding out for something better, anticipation. He addressed, too, that fasting is not about manipulating God, which has been an underlying theme behind most of what I grew up hearing about fasting. I like the idea of fasting as waiting for something better. As Christians, that is a huge part of how we are called to live—on the earth, but not of it, waiting eagerly for the redemption of the world (Romans 8).
In fact, Christianity is a religion based on waiting. The Jews waited thousands of years for the Messiah, and now we wait for His return. We’re called to wait in other areas of our life, too: we’re called to wait on the Lord, called to wait until marriage for the consummation of sex. Fasting, a discipline of waiting, can teach us about delayed gratification in other areas of our lives. Most things worth doing can’t be done by clicking a button, and it would be good to have a discipline to remind us of that.
Ragan talked about the historical rhythm of the church fasting on Fridays, always remembering the death of Lord. Then Sunday is always a feast day, remembering his resurrection. In between feasting and fasting is ferial eating, a more normal eating. Observing these disciplines, or a version of them that I could maintain (like eating only fruits and vegetables Friday for breakfast and lunch) might be a lovely way to embrace a historical, sacred rhythm in my busy life.