Easter #1: Devotion & Fasting

Easter Holy Week is one of the busiest and more significant times in the calendar for Christians. At Clayton a number of Easter related activities were planned:
– daily devotion reading for Lent / 40 days prior
– fasting during the Holy Week itself, supported by nightly prayer sessions at the church
– choir for both Good Friday & Easter Resurrection Sunday services.

This three-part series will document my personal application and involvement in these Easter activities and more.

1. Lent daily devotion readings
I have to admit throughout the entire 40-day my participation rate fluctuated and totaled maximum 50%. I did manage to “catch up” twice by reading all missed days of the previous week in one sitting.

2. Fasting
I chose to commence the week before Holy Week with w one-meal fast (dinner mainly but lunch where existing commitments clashed). The two exceptions were the Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner event where I was one of 13 table hosts as part of the organizing group Christians 20/30.

The table I hosted was at the Chinese restaurant Ants Bistro, 7 Corrs Lane in Chinatown. I enjoyed the company & networking a lot more than the food. The concept of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is that we had booked 13 different restaurants and based on individual eating & social preferences and attending church, you were allocated to a table/restaurant. Each table had up to seven individuals and a host who simply helped to facilitate conversations. Each table would have a balanced mix of guys and girls from different churches. Inspire of that, I still had one familiar face to expect. Dinner was funded by the individual $20 amount collected at time of booking/sign up, which for my group exactly matched the final bill. For our group, we agreed on applying the Chinese eating culture of sharing six dishes and each guest picked a dish to add to the main menu. I found myself using their orders as part of learning and remembering each new friend… Thus, I can easily recall over a week later that we had prawns, chicken, lamb, eggplant and scallops!

For supper the event concept was such that a common venue – Starbucks on Bourke St – was picked and all 13 groups gathered to chat and hang out. I contributed a brief atmospheric photo stream via projector and laptop with the use of Eventstagram. This was a reuse/trial of the same photo streaming technology planned for my church’s Easter Sunday service. That morning I set-up and shared the hashtag #GWCTD2014 for tagging/associating photos on Instagram. I demonstrated the real-time effect of taking a photo on my phone and seconds later having it appear on the photo stream – which piqued some interest in the concept.

The other exception to dinner fasting was the following (Saturday 12/04) evening when a family dinner gathering had been planned and scheduled for as long as two months. On both days I fasted during the day from lunch and also kept breakfast to the bare minimum.

Starting from Monday of Holy Week I increased my fast commitment to two meals a day with a limited breakfast. That Monday I also took the opportunity to visit Black Flats Coffee, on their first official day of business operation. This new business is located in the prime position of ground floor corner of the new IKON apartment block.

The time spent fasting allowed me to get more work done during the day – which wasn’t ideal, but still helped. Dinner time enabled me to spend more time with God, in prayer and worship.

3. Worship & Time with God
On Sunday 30 March, I felt drawn to the front of the chapel at the commencement of the service/worship. Ever since we moved back into the building now almost two years ago, the youth have had a presence in front of the stage, where the additional space has allowed for free movement during worship. As a member of the worship team, I have also been aware that I try to be more expressive physically when I am on stage singing. So, that Sunday it all clicked in my head and I joined the other like-minded believers at the front. I wasn’t the only one – that week we filled the front and we all worshipped God very passionately with full-on expression.

Every Sunday since that day I have continued the push to stand and be up front for worship during the service. On Palm Sunday the final message from our My Faith in My World of Work series was delivered – Creating Space. It had a very practical application, which we did as a church during the sermon. The format/structure was:
– read story on Jesus (Luke 8:40-48)
– spend 5 minutes meditating and inserting yourself into the story
– consider the 4 questions:
1) Who God is
2) People around us
3) My identity/relationship in Christ
4) Call to action

Spending the 5-min time of silence at the chapel front saw me try to insert myself as a member of the crowd. I was immediately faced with the paradox and had to deal with moving pass the whole impossibility of the situation. Thoughts I contemplated included the Peter moments where he proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah/Son of God. We had that knowledge and relationship with God from the present yet we were inserting ourselves into an event during the life of Christ Himself.

I spent most of the apportioned time overwhelmed at being in the physical presence of God. Closing my eyes I became aware of his presence – manifesting as a piercing bright light – I that crowded situation documented by Luke. I became aware that the light of the Holy Spirit dwelling within me was also present. Now on deeper reflection I am able to better understand these aspects to the encounter with God. As pointed out in cell group later in the week, the fasting would likely be helping provide clarity of these visions and encounters.

We repeated the same exercise in cell group on Wednesday 16 April. This time my focus shifted to the final of the four questions – what would you have me do? The response I sense is two-fold. The first is to pray and continue to seek God first in all that we do. The second is to be purposeful and intentional in our focus on one or two people that God would have me interact with. Family comes to mind since the family has had more opportunities to gather in recent times. The challenge given by Jesus to love the difficult to love comes to the forefront of my mind. Don’t get me wrong – I do love my family. However, that form of love has been more passive in recent years and an active effort with tangible acts of love are probably in order. As a family we have had our share of disfunction and I have been aware that our varying individual core values may be a source of disparity. However, since a few of us members have a faith in a God, His love should be enough to bridge those gaps and provide sufficiency. So, for this next season, my immediate family will become the main focus of my prayers.