Fair play, as they say in Pontypridd, the talk at church today was far better than last week. I still found the backdrop disturbing, and I guess I knew what was coming as far as the order of service was concerned.
Gluttony was the subject. It was still an "advice" sermon, but there was far more Scripture, and even a note of forgiveness. (If I am being picky, there was a stress on confession coming before forgiveness which is an interesting debate but not for now.)
What was excellent about the talk was the line that fasting was the antidote to gluttony. We should recognise the fault within ourselves and then be pro-active in not only seeking forgiveness but in acting to change things. Fasting was seen not as a negative abstention-for-abstention's-sake action, but as a spiritual activity, a taking on prayer and drawing closer to God instead of doing something else. So you can fast from anything that regularly takes to much time or forms too great a part of your life. Chocolate. Coffee. The internet. TV. Solid food (for a day - it's possible). Sports on TV. Video games. Magazines. Shopping. Make your own list.
But not just in a "I guess I should do these less" way - in a "I will give this up for a day in order to use the time I would normally give to coffee/shopping/the internet to praying for something specific". How about a fasting challenge for St Catherine's? We need all these grants for the work on the hall and for extra salaries: how about we all take on a fasting challenge and pray for them as we do so?
Remembering of course Matthew 6. Verse 16 reminds us: When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. So we don't go around telling everyone what we are doing and why. We don't make a fuss of it and show off our great spirituality. It is something we take on, and do seriously, but keep between ourselves and God.
But we also remember verses 17-18: But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. He rewards those who earnestly and honestly seek him. It's a promise we would do well to lean on and trust.