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12:05 p.m. – Healing Eucharist, Rite II (In-person only)

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A Message from Duncan- March 04, 2024

A Message from Duncan- March 04, 2024

Fasting: It’s not a Piece of Cake.  Obviously.

 

“It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it.”  At least, that is what the great Ella Fitzgerald sang, and who am I to disagree?  She’s onto something.  Doing good is great (obviously), but how you go about doing it is crucial.  Don’t cut corners, play by the rules, do it all with grace.  Lovely.  Christian ethics 101.  (By the way, I know that this is not the meaning of the song, but I have preacher’s license to quote anything out of context if it will help my case!)

It’s unlikely that Jesus and Paul were jazz singers, although the Bible is silent on this issue.  But if they had been I think they’d have added to Ella’s song with one of their own.  “It ain’t what you do, it’s WHY you do it.”  Because motives are EVERYTHING, aren’t they?  The most worthy and noble act can be totally undermined by the wrong motive.  Giving money to a hospital to fund a new cancer center, for example, is an unspeakably wonderful thing to do, but if the donor’s only motive is to get their name on the wall of the building, then the generosity of the act loses some of its gleam.

And so, here’s the third of my articles on the Christian practice of Fasting.  It’s not what you do, it’s WHY you do it.

Face it, there are tons of bad reasons for fasting.  Like these:

  • Pharisaism

This is the fancy name we give to ‘practicing your piety so that others can see you’.  Jesus warns against it strongly in Matthew 6, a scripture we read every Ash Wednesday.  If you are only doing it to get the admiration of other people, then don’t bother.  It won’t do any good.  In the words of Jesus, such folk ‘have received their reward already’.

  • Legalism

This is different from Pharisaism, and is slightly better!  Here, the faster practices her discipline in secret, without trying to draw attention to herself.  However, she falls down in mistaking the character of God.  God, for her, is a Lawgiver and Judge and ONLY a Lawgiver and Judge.  She performs her piety out of a sense of obligation or even guilt.  The best motive, of course, is love – for God and for other people.

 

  • Thinking it will twist God’s arm

Of all the useless motives for doing the right thing, trying to impress God is probably the most absurd.  Don’t forget the Good News – God has already been impressed with Jesus.  He doesn’t need you to add to it.  Further, a faster may think that he will persuade God to answer his prayers if they are offered during a time of fasting.  No.  God graciously invites us to be involved in answering prayer.  He doesn’t wait to be persuaded by us.  “No, sorry, I’m not going to bless you because you haven’t prayed enough” is a phrase God has never uttered.

 

  • Doing it to lose weight

Ouch.  Did you see that one coming?  Shedding a few grams may be a pleasant by-product  of your fast, but it should be a coincidental benefit, and not the whole point.

So, those are the less-than-worthy motives for your Lenten practices.  What are the best?  Well, Jesus was clear: “love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

When we fast God does things.  Good things.  Things that grow his kingdom of peace, healing, and reconciliation.  When new fast we are joining with God as he renews the face of the earth.  May that be our motive.  Happy fasting!

Duncan