What is one thing that you couldn’t give up, you can’t live without, that if someone asked you to fast from it you’d say “no way jose!”??
*What grabbed your attention in this reading?
*What questions did it bring up for you?
*How does the Scripture connect with your highs and lows of this week (what is God saying to you, in your daily life, through the Gospel)?
*Have you been trying out the fasting practice this week–abstaining from text messaging and video games? (or some other fasting practice?) How is it going? What is easy and hard about it? Has it helped you nurture your relationship with God or with others? How?
Imagine (or get out!) three candles in a row, all lit. Over one of them, place an upside-down flower pot that has a hole in the bottom (where water would drain). What happens to the light? Over the second candle, place an upside-down votive holder–clear, but with no holes in it. What happens to the light? Let the third shine just as it is. What happens to that light?
Which candle are you? How can you fill your lamp/candle so you can keep shining indefinitely? Are you covering your light so it can’t be seen, or so it goes out?
How might this be related to how we pray for our enemies?
Spend some time praying for your opponents/enemies…see what happens to your light.
It’s Lent, a time of examination and preparation. One way the church has historically observed Lent is with the practice of Fasting…why? How? What? When? Where?
‘And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Jesus seemed to take for granted that people would fast. Notice that he did not say “if” you fast, but “whenever” – as if fasting was something a person who followed Jesus would do regularly. Still, we don’t hear a lot about fasting in our culture – that may be because fasting is a practice that reminds us that we are not ultimately in control of everything. We have become a people very proud of our self-sufficiency and independence; but fasting helps us keep our balance in life. Jesus knew that we needed to live in the balance of life focused on God, and it’s easy to let our focus slip to things we think we need (letting our bodies control us).
What do you think about this passage? What do you hear when you hear Jesus say “and whenever you fast…”? What do you think of when you hear the word “fasting”?
Fasting helps us see ourselves as we really are – when we remove something from our life, we quickly see how much we depend on it – how much it controls us. It can help us see that we have come to depend too much on one thing – and just as God promises, our lives become imbalanced when we become too dependent on something and we lose our focus on God. Deciding to go without, food, or television, or our cell phone, or ipod or video games we learn how much our peace depends upon the pleasures we get as a result of these things – and how powerful & clever the body or mind are at getting its own way against our strong resolves.
Have you ever tried to go without something–fasting from TV, or food, or something else? How did that go? What did you learn during that time?
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.” ‘
Jesus went without food or the company of others for forty days to be strengthened by God – to be sure his focus was on God and not on himself or his desires. Tempted and tested over and over again, Jesus became fully aware of the weaknesses of a human body, mind, and spirit by enduring a much longer fast than most of us could imagine. He fasted before he began his ministry and was convinced he knew what was possible for us in a life with God here on Earth. In human form he learned first hand about the strength provided when we trust and focus on God. Jesus taught us by doing what we can do – from what is possible not by what is impossible. Jesus added spiritual practices to his life and taught us from what he knew would help us live as we were created to live. He expected us to fast so that we might also become confident in our knowledge of God and ourselves.
Fasting among the Jews and then among Christians began as a spiritual practice of going without food and sometimes drink for a certain amount of time. It was intended to be a time of re-centering themselves toward God – to allow the physical hunger to remind them that they were not created to be self-sufficient or live independent of God.
Spiritual practices exist to help us grow in our faith, our hope, our love, our gratitude – they are not a way to win the approval of others or of God. When we fast from something we desire, it helps us become more open to the acceptance of God’s will for us and helps us to see our lives through our faith in God.
Lauren Winner learned practiced fasting as part of her Jewish faith and then came to add the practice to her life as a Christian. She said, “Fasting is not merely a long, torturous means to a far-away end; a fast is not to be understood as a miserable experience that will sanctify you. Nor is a fast like a back-room deal at the courthouse, the lawyer for the penitent trading three weeks of food in exchange for divine mercy.
…the fast accomplishes a repositioning. When I am sated, it is easy to feel independent. When I am hungry, it is possible to remember where my dependence lies.” (Mudhouse Sabbath p. 91)
What do you think? How can you let something go and learn to be more dependent on God, from whom all blessings flow? What would it mean to fast from something this week or this season, and how might it change your perspective on where God is and what God is doing?
In the Family Devotional Booklet for Lent there is a fasting practice recommended. Last week we fasted from snacking between meals. Did you try that? How did it go? This week we are fasting from text messaging and video games. How is that going? What’s easy, what’s hard, and what is helping you to see God and life differently?
Do you need a family devotional booklet for Lent, with daily scripture readings and reflection questions? Contact Teri in the church office.
In worship this morning John reminded us that we have entered the season of Lent, and told us there are family devotional booklets available for us to use each night to help us focus on seeking God this season. If you didn’t get a booklet, please let us know and we’ll get one to you!
Part of the booklet includes an optional Fasting practice (if you choose not to do it, there’s also a daily question we invite you to answer with your family).
Keep reading, because fasting is not necessarily what you think! We won’t be going days without food or giving up meat. We’ll fast from something different each week. Fasting is a practice that goes all the way back before Jesus—it was a practice that helped people draw closer to God in the Old Testament, Jesus fasted, and Jesus said things like “when you fast,” which suggest that he expected his followers to do it too. Fasting is the root of the common Lent practice of “giving something up”—but instead of simply giving up m-n-ms or “giving up” something we don’t do anyway (yes, we’ve done that!), we’ll be exploring the practice of fasting from a variety of things. Each Sunday in this booklet there’s a new thing that’s common in many of our lives. During the week from Monday-Sunday, we hope you’ll try, as a family, to fast from that thing. This is a way to re-orient ourselves, to remind ourselves that often we are so full there’s no room for God’s new thing, and to try a different way of living even if it’s just for a short period. There’s also a separate sheet about the practice of Fasting so you can learn more about it and how you might try it.
This week’s fasting practice is:
We are going to try giving up snacks—we’ll only eat at mealtimes, not in between. When you are hungry between meals, let that hunger be a reminder to look to God, who gives us the bread of life. Let that hunger be a reminder that your body does not control you—you can let your spirit take the lead instead. Let the hunger be a reminder that there are millions of people in the world who do not have enough to eat, and take that moment to pray for them.
Yes, we know that girl scout cookies just came in. They’ll still be there waiting for you on Sunday or Monday. 🙂