Luke 4: 1-13 March 7
Prayer: Gracious God, inspire us to trust and be true followers of Jesus with our words and actions. Amen
We are on the next season of the church calendar called Lent. Christians around the world marked this journey on Ash Wednesday. Over many centuries Communities of faith have kept different traditions to mark this season. These traditions helped to deepen our faith and draw our relationships closer to God and each other.
These forty days of Lent changes the rhythm of our life and gives new meaning as we welcome the spring and Easter seasons. Whether we pause to put ashes on our forehead, washed hands or feet in community worship, read scriptures and offer prayers, Lent will find us. The whole story of being a follower of Jesus involves suffering, death and resurrection. Jesus endured human suffering and death reconciling humanity and creation to God.
The imagery of feasting in Lent seems like the opposite of fasting. However, on this faith journey Feasting means filling our life with the Word of God. God’s Word gives direction, quality of life, value or purpose for everyday living. Our choices of words should reflect compassion, love and humility before God.
I read this story written by a retired minister: “A man came to this country from Sweden to find work. But after only a few months, he became very homesick for his native land. Quietly, he saved every penny he could until he had enough for the cheapest ticket on an ocean-going ship to return to Sweden.
On the day of the sailing, the man purchased a supply of cheese and crackers to eat during the journey. He boarded the ship and found his tiny room. Each evening he would watch the elegantly dressed travelers coming and going from the great dining rooms on the ship. Then he retired to his room for cheese and crackers.
Finally, on the last night of the trip, he decided he had enough money for one splurge. He entered the dining room and enjoyed a sumptuous feast. It was possibly the best he had ever eaten. When the meal was over, he walked up to the dining room host to pay for the meal. To his surprise, the man said, "Oh, you don't owe me anything. All of the meals are included in the cost of your ticket." Strange it is when you do not know what is offered to you!
The story would be funny if it were not so sad. What a tragedy to go through life on cheese and crackers when you could be feasting at the banquet Jesus prepared for all. Jesus is the host at the banquet and it is also inclusive to all who would come to the feast.
Lent is a period of forty days before Easter, not counting Sundays, in which we prepare our spiritual lives for the sobering day of Good Friday. We remember that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and the world. Also, we prepare for Easter on which we celebrate our new birth as children of the Most High and profess God's victory over the powers of sin, death, and evil.
Fasting means denying something that either we cherish or are presently possessed by. It is that something that we idolized as a god with a small g. It is something that hinders our relationship with God and people. Instead of worship God, we worship that which we possess and idolized. The whole purpose of fasting from something is to discipline our lives in such a way that Jesus Christ can be a deeper reality in our spiritual journey.
You don't give up something which doesn't mean much to you. If you do give something up, it should create a void and something else should fill it. It is no good to give something up unless you replace it with something that gives meaning. Consider where God is trying to mold and shape you into a person of faith and love in your discipleship. We are invited to fill that emptiness with feasting on the Word of God and deepen our faith. “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth?” (Ps. 119:103)
Choose fasting about something that hinders your faith in God by feasting on God’s Word. Examples: Read the Psalms, prophets, Miracles of Jesus. Make Worship regularly to be a spiritual discipline.
Choose fasting from words that pollute by feasting on words that purify. We have the ability to bring out the best in each other with kind words, For example, use kind words for your family, friends and co-workers. Try using words of encouragement; it is truly one of the best pieces of evidence that the Holy Spirit is empowering your witness. Encouragement is like margarine on a sandwich--the more you spread it on the bread, the better the bread sticks together.
This Lenten Season, fast on the words that pollute and feast on words that purify. Consider to fast on self-concern and feast on compassion and love for others.
Our scripture today tells us that Jesus was tempted for forty days in his wilderness experience. We know that he was offered all of the bread, power and kingdoms of the world if he would only fall down and worship the evil one. The evil one used tactics such as scripture and lies to manipulate Jesus when he was most vulnerable in the wilderness. Jesus was famished-totally physically hungry and totally emptied emotionally.
But Jesus was filled with the Spirit. Jesus did not take the fast track of sin to release his human suffering. Jesus knew that his mission was to bring the grace, love and compassion of God for all people. Jesus focused on that mission rather than self-concern. And to this day God’s Word offers grace to the world because they purify rather than pollute the human spirit and soul.
The Sacrament of Holy Communion is a life-giving source of spiritual strength for faith, compassion and love. It is the real presence of Christ at our table who feeds our parched and empty soul. We long for something to renew our sense of direction and guide our steps throughout our personal and communal wilderness journey. Feasting and fasting are the deep spiritual disciplines that offer healing through God Almighty! Amen.