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Near the Cross: Prayer and Service

Each week Pastor Sarah blogs on the Scripture for Sunday's upcoming sermon. Use this entry as a way to prepare your heart and mind for worship. See you Sunday!

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Philippians 2:1-11.

Spiritual Discipline ~ Fasting

Discipline Scripture ~ Mt 6:16-18.

During the Season of Lent, Christians through the ages ‘try on’ different spiritual disciplines as a way to lean into their life of faith in a new, deeper, or fresh way. Each week during Lent, I will offer a reflection – including thoughts by the renowned Richard Foster – on a different spiritual discipline as modeled for us by Jesus.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus provides clear instruction as to how we are to give alms, pray, and fast. Concerning fasting, we are not to look dismal or disfigure our faces. Changing clothes or wearing ashes were common signs of mourning and repentance. To separate those acts from fasting, Jesus directs us to wash our faces.

When we fast, we are not to attract attention because fasting is for spiritual purposes, not attention. Fasting is a between the individual and God.

Jesus does not command us to fast; rather it is a discipline that we can use as an offering to God. Remember, Jesus says “whenever you fast” not “you should fast.” Jesus upheld this discipline and anticipated his followers would as well.

Foster writes, “ Fasting reminds us that we are sustained by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Mt 4:4). Food does not sustain us. God sustains us…We are told not to act miserable when fasting because, in point of fact, we are not miserable. We are feeding on God and, just like the Israelites who were sustained in the wilderness by the miraculous manna from heaven, so we are sustained by the word of God…”*

If you choose to try on fasting, progression should be observed. Be sure to check in with your primary care physician before starting a fasting routine. Begin with a partial fast one day a week, staying hydrated with fresh fruit juice and water. Try this for a few weeks and then you can either extend the hours you fast and/or increase the number of days you fast. Remember, “fasting can bring breakthroughs in the spiritual realm that will never happen any other way. It is a means of God’s grace and blessing that should not be neglected any longer.”**

For further reading, see Celebration of Discipline pages 47-61.

Prayer: “Lord, who throughout these forty days for us didst fast and pray, teach us with thee to mourn our sins and close by thee to stay.”*** Amen.

*Celebration of Discipline 55-56.

**Celebration of Discipline 60.

***“Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days,” The United Methodist Hymnal 269.

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