Friday, February 27th

“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”  Matthew 6:16-18

 

One last time this week we listen to Jesus warning us against the hypocrisy of the “public piety practitioners.”  This time he addresses the spiritual discipline of fasting – going without food and/or drink, or giving up some other beloved practice, as a means of lifting our consciousness toward God.  And once again, the question is, “What are you trying to accomplish?”

 

I’m writing from Houston, Texas, #6 on Men’s Health’s list of America’s fattest cities.  I also write knowing that I have stepped up to the plate (pun intended) to do my part toward that lofty designation.  We know fast food but not much about fasting.

 

Our problem isn’t too much public spirituality, but too much private idolatry.  Insatiable chasing after the gods who are not gods, filling ourselves up with too much that not only doesn’t satisfy but actually harms, our sin is gluttony rather than merely hypocrisy.

 

I’m not a big faster.  I don’t eat anything on Sunday mornings except Holy Communion but I don’t make a big deal out of it.  I hardly think it worth any spiritual points given that eating is the last thing on my mind with all that goes into a pastor’s Sunday morning.  I dread those quarterly blood tests for cholesterol when I can’t get a morning appointment – the caffeine headache, oy veh!

 

The truth is, fasting is a good thing.  There are very good reasons for fasting just as there are very good reasons for prayer, for worship, for reading, for all that we do to be more mindful, more conscious, of God’s presence in our lives.  Not to score brownie points with the Almighty or to wow our friends at church.  But simply to center down a bit, be less scattered, be more connected.

 

For most of my ministry I have encouraged people to add things to their lives for Lent rather than giving something up – more intentional prayer, serving others in new ways, attending worship, trying on a new discipline.  My assumption in that is that we might benefit more from that than from giving up Diet Coke or chocolate or watching American Idol.  But more and more I realize that, whatever we do or don’t do, the question remains, “What are we trying to accomplish?”

 

If the goal is to be more mindful of God’s presence, to drink more deeply from the well of living water, to be more fit to be useful in the Kingdom, then the reward is in the doing.

 

Let us pray:  Dear Lord, guide us through this Lenten season, drawing all our hearts to Thee.  Make us ever fit to serve those whom you loved on Calvary.  We are wasteful of your bounty, gifts of life and gifts of love.  Center now our hearts upon thee, while you lead us from above.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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One Response to “Friday, February 27th”

  1. Mike Says:

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