1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Isaiah 55:1-9

We eat something on our summer canoe trips that I think only makes sense if you’ve been there: Yard-O-Beef. You can get ordinary summer sausage at the store, but it’s only the same if you’ve cut it into pieces with a Swiss Army knife. Preferably a Swiss Army knife that has previously been used to clean a northern. Something about this, and the combination with some peanut butter and M&Ms, is apparently irresistible. Okay, I should say it’s irresistible in the Boundary Waters or on Crown Land in Canada. What can I say, things just taste better in the wilderness. Or, as they say, hunger is the best cook.

Of course, I’m talking about intentional hunger. I’m not talking about forced starvation or psychological conditions that take away our ability to control how we relate to food. Really, I’m not talking about hunger at all. This is about food, possessions, people, control – any of the things we have plenty of. So if this can’t be about food for you, try and think about another kind of hunger. Being in the wilderness is about deliberately giving up some of those things for a while.

In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul refers to the Israelites’ wilderness journey. This was a time of hunger and feeling lost, but God was always present with them. As Paul describes, Christ himself was a rock flowing with water for them in the wilderness. However, the way of the wilderness is to show us that God is always unlike our expectations, and so the people turned to “gods” who were more familiar to them: feasting, carousing, and grumbling.

There’s not a deep tradition in the Presbyterian Church of retracing that wilderness journey during Lent. We don’t require you to keep a Lenten fast, and I don’t tell you how to do it – by eliminating meat, chocolate, or whatever from your diet. It’s good that I don’t. No one of those is going to be a true fast for all of us. True fasting is to listen to your hunger. It’s breaking free from the pattern we fall into of meeting every need we perceive just because we have the technology to do it. It’s remaining hungry long enough to find out what we’re really hungry for.

Maybe it’s hard to imagine, as some of us still worry about how to balance our budgets and care for our families, but Christ is already with us in this wilderness. The key is to listen through your hungers and thirsts to hear what you really desire. What does it feel like you’re hungry for? What kind of food? Drink? Activity? Don’t satisfy it just yet. Find a way to put it on hold for some specific time, until you know your hunger deeply.

Hunger sharpens in time. Sometimes it changes its content completely as you sit with it. Your hunger may show you something very different from what you originally wanted. That’s a blessing of the fast. We may find that we felt hungry for something we had too much of to begin with. More importantly, we may find that we were truly hungering for something we didn’t even know about.

Fasting may even change your image of God. The world is crawling with “gods” who want to satisfy your felt desires for their own profit, but God wants to satisfy your real hungers. These aren’t necessarily your surface needs and desires, but they’re the deeper hungers that you couldn’t name at first. What God finally provides is food and drink you can’t put a price on, because it’s a free gift from God. It’s here at this table for us to share, and it’s among us to give away in Christ’s name.