Lent and Hunger – Is There a Connection

Wealth and poverty - Mural Sheffield Tasmania

Wealth and poverty – Mural Sheffield Tasmania

In the class I am currently teaching on Wednesday evenings on spirituality and gardening we are currently talking about what I call liturgical gardening. It is not by accident that Christmas occurs, at least in the Northern Hemisphere where the liturgical calendar was developed, at the coldest, darkest time of the year. The message of the season is: wait for the light and as we move into Epiphany, the season of light, we are all aware of the lengthening days and how welcome the emerging light is. This interweaving of the rituals of faith with the daily activities of life would have been a faith affirming and strengthening part of life for more rural societies.

The connection with Lent and the seasons of the year is less obvious. Often it is associated with spring cleaning, but that seems more of a middle class, urban association that I suspect developed as a later association for Lent. Wednesday evening this became the focus of our discussion. I pointed out that in Africa hunger and malnutrition is often seasonal. During the harvest season everyone is able to eat their fill and no one starves. By the time the stored supplies have dwindled it is a different matter. Sometimes the last of the stored grain is used for planting and in a very lean year even this may be used to feed the family. In 2010 925 million people in our world were still chronically hungry. (2012 World Hunger and Poverty Facts)

The season of Lent for many of us coincides with the planting season and I wonder if this seasonal hunger which would once have been experienced by a large part of the population influenced its shape. The typical fasting Lenten diet of lentils, beans and grain with little fresh produce and little meat could have come from the fact that this was often all that remained in the larder at this season.

I have tried to find information on this hypothesis but without success and would appreciate hearing from others who have considered this possibility. What I do know however that the dietary restrictions for this season became less and less rigorous as societies became more affluent and I suspect, people did not want to give up their indulgent diets. And today, if we give up anything at all it is usually something as trivial as chocolate or coffee.

Once when Tom and I were in Lebanon during Lent we had lunch with an Orthodox priest and his wife. They ate only lentils and rice but had prepared a lavish feast for us. Lent is a great time of the year to enter into the hunger of others by restricting our diets and giving what we save to those at the margins.

Each year Tom and I participate in what we call the $2 challenge, restricting our food budget to $2/person/day for a week. It isn’t easy and it often results in a rather monotonous diet, but it is a challenging and sobering way to identify with those who never have enough to put on their plates.

In my internet search for information on Lent and hunger I did come across some good resources you might want to check out:

The ELCA has a great World Hunger Lenten Series available – lots of good information and suggestions. They go for a $3/day diet – probably more doable today.

Bread for the World always produces wonderful resources that challenge us to face the issues of hunger. This year they have worked in collaboration with Women of Faith for the 1,000 Days Movement to develop a series of Lenten activities around the theme of Maternal and Child Nutrition in the 1,000 day window between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday. Check out what is be available here

Episcopal Relief and Development has chosen the alleviation of hunger for the theme of their Lenten Meditations this year too. They are available in both English and Spanish and can be downloaded for free.

Obviously this is only a small number of the many resources available during this season. If you know of others that specifically focus on issues of poverty and hunger please add them in the comments below.


Righteousness in Short Supply – by Jon Stevens

Hunger & thirst for righteousness

Hunger & thirst for righteousness

Today’s reflection in the series Easter Is Coming What Do You Hunger and Thirst For, comes from Jon Stevens proprietor of the Open Gate Farm on Camano Island
Righteousness seems in short supply these days.  You know the kind.  The kind we’re supposed to be hungering and thirsting for.  Folks seem to be getting wrapped around the axle of the end times, the tribulation, the second coming, and all those life changing activities 2000 years of Christians hoped would start tomorrow.  Our vanity allows us to think it is going to be our generation that sees the rollout of the new creation.  So forward looking have we become that we’ve lost the view of the present moment, the now, and the gift of new life it holds.  And we’ve lost our hunger to live righteously, that is, in right relationship with God.  Actually it may be we have not lost it because we have never had the true thirst and hunger for righteousness and have only been faking it.
If we live in the right relationship with God now, all that other end of the world stuff drops out because if you read the Bible carefully you may spot that salvation (which precedes righteous living) solves any fears we might have of where we’ll be when all Hell breaks loose literally.  When we’re saved, the only question remaining is will we see our friends and family after the dust clears and the new world is in place and we on it.
So it doesn’t matter if the Mayans have the right date.  It doesn’t matter if an old man sitting on a mountain called it for the end of the world.  What matters is that the fruit of our personal salvation has us hungering and thirsting for righteousness.  And we have to remember to keep the cart before the horse…first salvation, then hungering and thirsting.  If we get that wrong we’ll be thirsting for more than righteousness when the world falls apart.  And hungering for those apples hanging from the Tree of Life we saw once in a garden.

Budget Crisis/ Prayer Vigil

Budget Cris // Prayer Vigil

Budget Cris // Prayer Vigil

Yesterday I was asked by Holly Hight at Bread for the World to contribute a prayer for their Budget Crisis Prayer Vigil on Twitter and Facebook.  I don’t usually like to get involved in political issues but as I thought about it this morning I realized that it was too important for me not to.  It is also too important to restrict to a single prayer and so I have decided to write several Light for the Journey prayers throughout the day as I pause in my daily work to pray for this very grim situation.

As an Australian who has only recently become an American citizen I struggle with all that is going on.  The political posturing, the seeming indifference of the impact on both the poor and the middle class amazes me.  The lack of respect towards the president and some of the racial overtones to the vitriol that is flying also appalls me.

Do they realize I wonder that this has the potential to plunge not just this country’s economy but the whole global economy into a far worse recession than the one we are just coming out of?   And I can tell you that if that happens it will not be the crazy politicians who refuse to listen to reason that will suffer.  It is the poor and the vulnerable and more and more the middle class as well.   I have already posted 2 prayers this morning and will continue to do so throughout the day.

Bread for the World will live tweet the event using the hashtag #circleofprotection: http://www.twitter.com/bread4theworld So you might like to follow along there.  Here are my 2 prayers so far (which I forgot to add the hashtag to.)  If you like you can also add prayers to this post that I will make sure are reposted on twitter.  Blessings

God in this time of budget crisis
Be with those who make decisions
Speak through those who are wise
Silence those who are foolish
Help them decide with justice in mind


God who offers abundance and plenty where we expect scarcity,
Provide for all those who are hungry and in need of food today.
God who lives amongst us, hear our prayer


Synchroblog Posts – What we have so far

Yesterday Jeff Greer wrote this very moving and thought provoking post on homelessness: Homelessness Has Changed My Life

I also thought that since we are now more than halfway through the Lenten Challenge that I would list all the posts so far in the Lenten synchroblog.

You can read the list of all those who are participating in this blog here

Kathy Escobar and her reflections on Hunger.  

Tom Grosh reflecting on Lent in general in You Have A confession to Make.  

Tim Mathis on Hungry Teens  read the entire post  

Theresa Grosh – Second Week of Lent

Aj Schwanz – Lent and Women (Multitasking as So Many Women Do So well)

Each year our good friend and alternative worship innovator Mark Pierson from New Zealand sends us a wonderful series of reflections for Lent.  You can download the entire guide here

As well as that we have another new post for the Lenten synchroblog

Steven Fouch:  One Week Into Lent

Also there are some excellent new reflections on the Anglican prayer blog: Lent and Beyond

Doug Jones: Spring Into Repentance

Maria Henderson: Lenten Journey – Broken

Julie Clawson: General Thoughts on Lent and Lent – Being Aware

JR Woodward reflecting on how brokenness can reveal itself in many forms including over activity.  Read more

Banu Moore reflecting on being broken in community and reminding us that reflecting on our sins is not meant to result in self preoccupation but rather in the desire to be changed more into the likeness of Christ.  Read more

Jeff Greer:  The Frailty of Life

Michael Winter: Fat Thursday

Michael Wallenmeyer: Lent and Hell

Aj Schwanz: Picking Up Rather than Laying Down

Joan Ball: My First Lent – Thanks to Twitter and the Monks

Here is a wonderful prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas posted by Karen B at Lent and Beyond

From Tom Grosh: Do Lenten practices or conversations regarding them give you the feeling that Big Brother is WatchingRead more

From Beth Stedman: Lent begins with Listening to where God is leading.  Read more

From Banu Moore: Akouete… Keep on Listening to Jesus.  Read more

From Aj Schwanz: Lent 2009

From Jeff Greer:Ash Wednesday Reflections. Read more

From Ecoquaker: Lent is not about chocolate.  Read more

Thomas Turner: Rethinking Lent.  Read more

Bob Fisher: Ash Wednesday tweets:  Read more

Doug Jones

Tom Grosh

Bob Fisher


Banu Moore

Tom Grosh gave us a good start with a post on The Emerging Shcolar’s blog 

There are also a couple of guest posts on my blog by Thule Kinnison – Third week of Lent  and Reflections on Ash Wednesday

You may also like to check out some of my posts on Lent

Lenten meditation video

and this very popular meditation based on a quote from Thomas Merton Finding Freedom in the Desert