Matt. 6:16-18; Is. 58:3-9; Zechariah 7:5,6
Your generation couldn’t hack a depression and a world war! So said obaachan to her daughter a couple of decades ago. Indeed obaachan was born into wealth to the extent that her house had servant’s quarters, but she was born in the middle of the Great Depression. After money became so tight that it threatened her father’s business, our WW II bombs began falling upon Tokyo. Obaachan tells of walking home from school in junior high dodging the flames of the wooden city on fire. By that time her family and entire country were so poor that only the rich could eat Japanese flag lunches: rice with a red plum in the middle. Her family could no longer afford the plum so they became malnourished to the point that her two brothers died of TB leaving her as the only child. I agree with her. I don’t think that my generation, or those younger than me, having lived our whole life with quarter pounders on demand, could hack her youth.
In our day of hi-indulgence and low-sacrifice, why fast?
First off, because God blesses the faster. Having said that, God does not bless every faster. In Jesus’ day fasting was “cool” because, unlike today, people valued godly sacrifice. So some religious leaders treated fasting as the anti-Oscar red carpet. They appeared before the crowd on market day with their hair mussed up, their clothes dirty, and their faces painted pale while probably moaning: I’m hungry, but I’m fasting for God. Thinking of the people’s rolling eyes, Jesus replies: That’s their reward.
Jesus teaches that God blesses the sacrifice of the faster who looks for a reward, not from people, but from the Almighty. But what is that reward? I find three rewards:
- Fasting is good for most people’s health, unless you’re already sick. I notice that I feel purified after fasting. Constant feasting is unhealthy. Our stomachs need a break
- Fasting is good for your self-discipline. What obaachan is saying is that since my generation and younger has rarely had to face hardship, we’re undisciplined. So we must choose to master our appetites, lest they master us. America is being mastered.
- Fasting makes you appreciate the feast. I look forward to the meal that breaks my monthly fast. It’s one of my favorite meals of the month! When’s supper?! I ask.
Secondly God blesses others through the faster. Read the prophet’s words with me… Isaiah 58:5-7… God intends the sacrifice of fasting to bless us, and others.
The hunger that we choose can remind us of the hunger that others are forced into. My hunger pangs remind me of the almost 1 billion who live on less than $1 a day. A few times in my 30-year history with fasting I was inspired to write a letter to my congress people regarding hunger issues. Currently the US has made little pro-gress on our Millennium Development Goals set in 2000. Show Congress you care.
Thirdly, God is blessed by our sacrifice of fasting. Another prophet Zechariah preaches to the exiles holding regular fasts to remember Israel…
Often we are with God like a college kid with his parents. The parent complains: He just comes home when he needs money or his laundry done! God wants to be more than a bell-hop, but a loved parent. Fasting reminds me of my hunger for God.
So this Lent the pastoral staff is asking the healthy adults among us to commit to a 24 hour fast from food, not liquids, during Lent, preferably on Good Friday. Will you become acquainted with the blessings of this sacrifice for God this Lent? Amen.