Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Lenten Fast, Week Two

So, how's it going? For all who decided to observe the church season of Lent this year with a fast of some sort, here is the question: How are you doing with it?

If you chose to fast from something that had made its way deep into your soul and daily habits, you should be encountering some significant trouble with it by now. The first few days tend to be fairly easy--a determination to honor the vow made before God will carry for a time of near euphoria. Victory is easy; resistance to temptation a piece of cake.

But the second week of the fast generally rolls out differently. It becomes tedious, challenging. Life pressures hit and with them the temptation to give in, to use whatever you are fasting from to shield you from pain, or offer a comfort of some sort. Here's where the revelation of our own souls begins to take place in earnest.

If you hang in, and continue in the faithful fast, you will discover more about your capabilities. If you give in, and indulge, you will also discover more about your capabilities. If you've given in, do not despair. Instead, remember that God's mercies are always new, and you can indeed "re-up" into the fast. If you've hung in, your next temptation may very well be pride in your accomplishment and this will tell you even more about yourself. In both cases, our tendency is to think we can earn God's pleasure by our obedience or have unearned it by our disobedience. The sin is the same: we've put ourselves up as God, because we've decided we can dictate to God just how God will respond to us. As I told my congregation last week, "Get over yourselves." God loves because God is love--not because you are particularly loveable, or particularly unlovable. You don't earn God's pleasure with a fast. Instead, you discover God's pleasure. Two very different things.

Remember: the goal of the Lenten fast is to aide you in taking a fearless and searching inventory of your soul. To see what is best discarded, to discern what needs to be aired out and put to good use, to polish what has become tarnished, to suffer in order to pray for others who are suffering far worse than you are, and to accompany Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem so that you may discover the real joy of Easter after the time of darkness known as Good Friday. It is a time to explore your salvation, and to correct the path where necessary.

In our church community, many of us have sought to be held accountable by others for the duration of the time of fasting. In this way, we encourage each other, spur one another on to greater glory, and participate in the process of discovery that leads to greater healing and wholeness, words that help describe our salvation. It is not too late to join in this communal observance--God hears our pleas and honors our wishes to receive the good gifts offered to us.

Always remember, Sundays are feast days. Sunday--the day we acknowledge the resurrection. Sunday--the day we set aside to rest and worship and be refreshed in soul, spirit and body. Sunday--on this day we look forward to Easter, to the glory of the risen Christ, coming from darkness and death to life and light. Sunday--the day to feast and laugh again, even in the midst of the solemn fast. Catch the rhythm, cleanse your heart, free your soul.

1 comment:

Angie Hammond said...

OK it wasn't something that I gave up for Lent, it just happened to me during Lent. I didn't want to do it but it did make me think about the suffering our Lord endured and the temptations he went up against as well.

You see, I contracted some sort of respiratory aliment and it settled in my bronchial tubes and lungs. For a solid week I've run a fever and coughed till I thought I was going to cough my entire insides out of me. To top all of that off, I couldn't breathe at all or so I'd tell you. Luckily no pneumonia which was a fear. But during all of this, all I wanted was to be able to breathe and not cough. At one point I would have been very tempted to do anything just to be able to breathe. Not exactly the temptation of Christ, but I couldn't do anything to make my condition better.
And it seemed even the doctors couldn't help that much earlier in the week. Only time was going to help me and rest and nothing I did was going to change it or how long it took. I did spend some money and time with doctors, meds and chest xrays and much bed rest.

So how does this relate to Lent. Well for me it reminded me of just what Jesus did for us. He suffered much on his way to the cross. Here's the difference. He knew that he could do anything that he wanted to do to change it, but he didn't change his path. He took it on the cross willingly and then he gave his life for me so that I don't have to die to sin. He loves me that much!

I couldn't breathe, so I did everything in my power to find a way to breathe. In the process, I learned that Jesus was there before me and lived. So tonight as I'm finally able to breathe after yet another visit to the doctor and more meds. I will rejoice in knowing that my Savior lives and breathes. Something I no longer take for granted!

I plan to try and go to worship on Sunday to say thanks and to enjoy the feast day as you put it.