Tag Archives: fasting

If you are God’s child…—Lent 1, 17 February 2013 (Year C)

Readings
Deuteronomy 26.1–11
Luke 4.1–13

 

Today, we heard the story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness, but—what happened just before that?

Jesus was baptised, that’s what. This is how Luke tells that story (3.21–22):

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

In the Gospel stories, “a voice from heaven” is the Voice of God. God says to Jesus, “You are my Son…”

And just over the page, the Devil says to Jesus in the wilderness:

If you are God’s Son…

“If” is a big word. The seeds of doubt are trying to be sown. But Jesus responds with words of Scripture. He says,

It is written…

One does not live by bread alone.

Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.

Do not put the Lord your God to the test.

Jesus counters temptation with Scripture in the wilderness. He is God’s Son, and he comes through unscathed.

Today, we baptised E and E, and in doing that we declared that they are united with Jesus Christ and therefore daughters of God. And we can say the same of every baptised person here today.

But sooner or later, everyone who has been baptised finds themselves in the wilderness. Am I really a daughter of God? Could I be part of God’s family? Surely I’ve done wrong things, I’ve doubted too much, I’m not good enough. Soon it becomes It’s a load of hooey, I don’t believe all that kind of thing any more.

When Jesus was baptised, God declared him to be God’s Son. And we have authority given by God to declare E and E to be adopted daughters of God.

We’re declaring this right at the beginning of Lent. Lent is the forty-day period that we set aside for self-examination. Why is Lent forty days long? Because Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days.

So in this time of self-examination the question is not, Are E and E really children of God? but How are God’s children meant to live? How are we going to teach E and E?

In Christian Tradition, there are three ways we mark the time of Lent: prayer, fasting, and giving to those in need (or almsgiving).

In more contemporary language, these things are all about reassessing our priorities. How do we reassess our priorities in Lent?

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Spiritual Practices 3.1—fasting

Last Friday, after two days of meeting with the Working Group on Worship, I still hadn’t written my sermon. (I like to have it down on Thursday.) I went to Samarco, the coffee shop next to the church, and had some of their excellent coffee while I wrote on my Mac. (Yes, there’s at least a trace of hypocrisy there, if not more…writing about fasting while in a cafe sipping coffee…)

I was halfway through my coffee when the man at the table next to me asked if I minded him interrupting me. He’d noticed what I was writing about; he told me he was a Muslim (a convert, the son of an Anglican priest). He told me that Islam has a practice of fasting two days a week, on Tuesday and Thursdays as well as at Ramadan. This weekly practice is in decline; apparently, it began when people couldn’t afford to feed a family seven days a week, so it gave them a communally sanctioned way to eat five days a week. These days of course, most people in Australia can eat every day.

He was saddened by this decline in the practice of fasting in his faith. I saw him today (same cafe, new cup of coffee) and he said he’d spoken to the imam (or whoever preaches) at the mosque at Darra. He had to explain what Lent was to the preacher; the result is, that this Friday, the topic of preaching at the mosque will be fasting!! Maybe I should go…

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Spiritual Practices 3—fasting

When you fast…

Readings
Acts 13.1-3
Matthew 6.16-18

We’ve been talking about spiritual practices for a couple of weeks, and we’ll continue through Lent. What is a spiritual practice? It’s something like prayer, seeking God’s will, fasting, and worship. It’s something we do intentionally to give us space to keep company with Jesus and learn to know him better. If that sounds too spiritual for you, or too religious, think of the spiritual practices this way: they are ways of helping us to be human. And if that’s too airy-fairy for you, let’s put it this way: spiritual practices help us to get to age 70 or 50 or 30 without succumbing to crippling cynicism or to terminal grumpiness.

Today, we’re talking about fasting.

I can still hear my mother’s voice in my boyhood’s ear: ‘Finish what’s on your plate. There’s children starving in Africa.’

I used to wonder what did finishing my food have to do with children in Africa? I was meant to be grateful that I had food to eat, rather than taking it for granted. But the main thing it’s given me is something else: a compulsion that I still have to eat everything that’s put before me.

Jesus said, ‘Whenever you fast…’ I’m not so good at fasting. We live in a strange time; a time with plenty of food, in which young women—and increasingly, young men—are in danger of succumbing to anorexia. A time when the most readily recognised sign in the world is not the Christian cross but MacDonald’s arches. A time in which food is dumped in order to keep prices high. A time that knows all about dieting, but nothing about fasting.

Fasting: let’s be clear. Biblical fasting is about seeking God’s will in a particular situation, or seeking a sense of God’s grace and peace. Continue reading

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