Facebook & Fasting: A Sacramental Life

I grew up in a great church, but there were some things I didn’t really understand.  Like the church calendar.  The only thing I really got as a kid was the whole advent thing – primarily because I had to watch my younger brother and sister as kids fight over who would put up the December 24 ornament on the homemade advent calendar Mom made.  It almost came to blows sometimes…and you wanna watch out for my sister. She can hold her own.

But outside of advent – Epiphany, Lent, Pentecost…none of those really made any sense to me.  If you had put me under durress, I probably would have been honest and said that Pentecost was for those weird people with the Holy Spirit  (I was wrong), all I thought about Epiphany is that it was a good idea (I was ignorant), and Lent was what those “cathlicks (in Flannery O’Connor style)” did.  And people were always giving up stuff for Lent (I was uniformed).  In college, some of my catholic brothers gave up drinking, smoking; one gave up pornography, etc.  I saw it as a time to give up vices for a short time in order to pick them up again later after Easter.

Plus, I grew up a good evangelical kid – and I was told that we weren’t under the law, we were under grace. And we didn’t have to do those things anymore – we could be free in Christ.  So, all that other stuff was just extra.

So because of my experience, I had a pretty lame understanding of some of the deepest wells of spiritual disciplines available – particularly during the lent season.  Introduced to these in a small Vineyard Church plant in Hyde Park, and fleshing them out through becoming a Presbyterian has helped me understand some of the rhythms of the church calendar, and the power of sacramental theology – that is, an embodied spirituality. Augustine called the sacrament a “visible sign of an invisible reality.” 

I want to be careful and not think of sacraments simply as symbols – they aren’t.  Gordon Smith helped me understand this.  Think of a wedding ring.  Ask a married person, and that isn’t just a symbol. It brings them back to the moment when they put on their best clothes they ever wore, looked at their spouse, and realized this was who they wanted to spend the rest of their life with.  It’s not just a symbol – it reflects a deeper reality. 

If we think of persons as having primarily one of three centers of intellegnce, residing in the head, heart, and gut (look at the Enneagram for more on this) most of our spirituality in the Evangelical subculture focuses on the head and the heart.  We have amazing theologians who have written billions of words that help us understand more about God.  We have beautiful music and art that gives strong emotional reactions that help us be in touch with the feelings inside of us.  But for those who have intellegence in intution, the gut, there is a different kind of spirituality that typically connects well: embodied spirituality.  Sacramental spirituality.  We feel it, and our will is brought to the forefront and we meet God in a different way.

So in recent years, I’ve developed a fondness for the eucharist/communion/Lord’s table that I’ve not had before. It means a lot to me.  I enjoy Catholic mass because it centers on the Eucharist – not the head sermon, not the heart music.  It focuses on the body sacrament – a visible sign of an invisible reality.  

Lent seen as giving up a vice is incomplete to a sacramental spirituality.  It makes fasting a means to an end – where, as Scot McKnight says, fasting should be a response to a divine moment.  Grieving, really.  Grieving to respond to sin in our lives, broken relationships between us, and injustice all around the world. We are embodying the reality of our planet, and we use fasting to tell our bodies how the world hungers for righteousness and justice.

So here’s how I’m working this out in my life: I’m abstaining from facebook for Lent.  Sorry to my friends, but I’m realizing that as much as I want to think I’m indepenent of what others think of me, I still play to the crowd sometimes.  I got in the Facebook game at first because a student who didn’t return my emails said only his professors communicated through email.  I didn’t want to be seen in the category of curmodgony old professor, so I caved.  Now it’s a part of my routine, and even too much so sometimes.  After reading Al Hsu’s recent blog and Newsweek, I was further convicted and realized it’s time to take a break and abstain from Facebook for a good while.

I will make an exception on Sunday, because in the Lenten tradition, Sundays are times where you celebrate.  And I will spend some time on Facebook for Sunday to reconnect with the friends I so dearly love.  But I don’t want to be seen for my status update or my pithy comments – I want to be known for my character and perhaps abstaining for a time will be helpful for my soul.

I’ll also be fasting once a week, each of those days spending time identifying with the oppressed of another continent.  Using fasting as a sacramental response to the injustice of the world will help me remember that it’s a privilege to choose what and when I eat, and the freedoms I have aren’t to be taken for granted.

This is the most extensive preparation for Lent I’ve ever made – so I hope for it to be an enriching experience where I feel the absence of something for the sake of grieving the loss, and clinging to God in the process so that my heart, mind, and body may be fully in tune with reality – a sacramental life.

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4 Responses to “Facebook & Fasting: A Sacramental Life”


  1. 1 Robert February 27, 2009 at 1:15 am

    When I was growing up Lent was about the sacrifice, so that you could (in a small way) share in the experience and feelings Jesus’ 40 days and nights. Feel the constant tempation and know that you can resist. It has become a weird New Year’s Resolution thing, which is unfortunate. Though the vices are probably the hardest things to give up. I write that like I am some practicing Catholic or something. I think that if you participate in the tradition in the true sense then it can be a valuable exercise. But it should come from the right place – not becuase you were looking for an excuse to give it up anyways. I think this was one of the few things I really got in the Church.

    And this is another point that has troubled me, maybe I grew up in some hardcore church or am mis-remembering my schooling – but what the heck is this “Sundays off” garbage? You give something up for Lent. You don’t get days off, did Jesus get a day off in the middle? Did Satan come in on Sunday and say – hey man here’s some lemonade, you look thirsty? Weak.

    Anyways, hope you don’t sacrifice blogging also.

  2. 2 andybilhorn February 27, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    From Wikipedia (as if it is authoritative at all):

    When observing fasting or abstinence during Lent, regard must be paid to the fact that Sundays are Feast Days, so the fast or abstinence may be broken. If one counts the days from Ash Wednesday to the day before Easter Sunday, excluding the Sundays, one will see that there are forty of them, corresponding to the number of days Christ spent in the wilderness.

    No, blogging is helpful for me…lots of reasons. Most of all, it gives me a chance to process what’s going on the inside out.


  1. 1 Why Lent? Embodying Longing « Less is More Trackback on February 18, 2010 at 5:10 pm
  2. 2 Lenten Reflection: Peeling Paint. Bureaucracy. Nasal Blockage. Carefully Taught. Bathroom Tours. Rent Free. « Less is More Trackback on February 26, 2012 at 6:33 pm

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