Of all the commercials during this year’s Super Bowl, Toyota’s “One Team” commercial was my favorite. It features four religious leaders leaving their places of worship to arrive at a football game together.
When the rabbi, priest, imam, and Buddhist monk walk into the game together just after it started, two nuns who had arrived on time criticize them for being late. The next scene shows all six cheering together for they are all on one team!
That this particular Super Bowl ad was my favorite will not come as a surprise to people who know me. Through years of participating in interfaith dialogue, I have found that people of different faiths are on “one team” and have grown to love my interfaith friends as I learn about their faith practices.
Of the various ways that help draw people closer to God, the disciplines of prayer, fasting and giving money to the poor, are some of the most central practices. For followers of Jesus these disciplines are emphasized during the forty days of Lent that begin next week with Ash Wednesday. Some Christians will choose to “give up” something during Lent as one way of fasting. This can be denying oneself food or drink for one meal, or a period of days (3-40). Fasting may also be in the form of giving up lifestyle habits or activities that may interfere with the ultimate goal of fasting, which is a closer walk with God.
When it comes to fasting during Lent, I have learned a lot from observing my Muslim friends who take fasting seriously during the thirty days of Ramadan. During Ramadan, Muslims give up all food and water from sunrise to sunset each day. When Ramadan is celebrated during winter months, fasting is easier because the days are not so long. Conversely, fasting is most challenging during the month of June. Thus the community Eid celebration (feast at the end of Ramadan) last June in Copeland Park, was especially joy-filled!
If you are hungry for spiritual renewal, this may be a good time to discover the benefit that comes through fasting, namely: taking our attention away from ourselves and focusing on the divine. In doing so, take time to notice the things that steal time away from your relationship with God. Equally important, be sure to notice the life giving blessing of interfaith neighbors, for in many ways we really are all, one team!