Wednesday, March 6

 Wednesday, March 6

Scripture: Matthew 6:16-18

 16 “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. 17 But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. 18 Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

Some thoughts:

     Fasting has long been a religious discipline in many faiths. In both the Jewish and Christian traditions it is often associated with repentance. But there are different kinds of fasts. We read in the Scriptures on special occasions of “fasting in sack cloth and ashes.” (David, Esther, Ninevites, Elijah, and Jonah.) Fasting was a part of the life of every major character in the Bible. The longing that comes within us because of a lack of food or water, speaks to us of our complete and utter dependence upon the Lord. The longing we have for that which is being purposefully denied easily transfers into a longing to be closer to God. Upon occasion, fasting can be a symbol of the discipline it takes to turn away from sin. As is the case with so many of the spiritual disciplines, the focus is on the condition of the heart. Have you noticed again and again how Jesus centers on the heart and shows disdain for any show of outward spirituality.

     Fasting is not magical. It earns nothing. It does not obligate God to anything. It earns no “bonus points” with God, nor is it always necessarily an isolated, solitary act. Fasting sharpens the mind and spirit and quickens spiritual perception. Sometimes there are short total fasts for a day or more and on other occasions longer fasts. There may be fasts from specific foods, or perhaps choosing to eat only one meal a day for the specific purpose of being liberated from a fleshly habit or desire. Fasting of some sort is a traditional part of Lent from the early centuries of the church.

     If this is a new area to you, it might be worth doing your own Bible study on fasting, and then perhaps doing a fast as an occasion arises. As Jesus points out, the whole purpose is to deepen one’s relationship with our heavenly Father. One’s overall physical health should definitely be taken into consideration before embarking on a fast and if necessary, check with one’s personal physician. (Sorry, this sounds like a commercial disclaimer!) From personal experience, I would highly recommend regular fasting . . . (I shouldn’t have said that, now I’ve lost my reward!)

Music: “Sicut Cervus” The Cambridge Singers 

This is a setting of Psalm 42 “As the Deer Pants” sung to a Latin text: “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after thee.” Thought you would enjoy seeing what they are singing!

Prayer: Come now, little man turn aside for a while from your daily employment, escape for a moment from the tumult of your thoughts. Put aside your weighty cares, let your burdensome distractions wait, free yourself awhile for God and rest awhile in him. Enter the inner chamber of your soul, shut out everything except God and that which can help you in seeking him, and when you have shut the door, seek him. Now, my whole heart, say to God, “I seek your face, Lord, it is your face I seek.” —Anselm 1033-1109