Sunday, April 26, 2009

Fair Play

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.


Anonymous said...

Having just returned to Ponty from a little roadtrip to Brecon, I feel I might abstain from ice-cream untill my next visit.

Does that count as a fast?

Marcus G said...

No! Not unless you would eat ice-cream regularly & instead are praying - AND aren't telling us about it.

But thanks for giving us a smile & a great opportunity to explain it some more & a reminder of one of the best things in a Welsh summer!

Anonymous said...

I would endorse a fast and would love to combine it with a day of praise and prayer. ......joyce

Anonymous said...

I've only fasted a few times, in fact I'm not particularily good at it. But it is an experience that really sharpens your spritual senses, and makes prayer the to be the forefront of your thoughts.

Perhaps fasting too much led to your choice of Anlglican theologians?

Marcus G said...

Yeah, I don't think I am meaning a general fast where we would all do the same thing on the same day. Wouldn't we all know about it then? I mean - something where I am encouraging people generally to do this, but to do it seriously & privately without telling everyone, and perhaps regularly, if they feel seriously about the prayer burden they take on in place of coffee/chocolate/TV/internet etc, whatever they give up for that day or period. I'll try & explain it better when I get home.

lancashire lass said...

sounds a bit like lent?....when you say when I get home are you getting home sick for Ponty? {its coldish and wettish.ha} joyce

Anonymous said...

So, are you saying that a community fast isn't a proper fast, because it wouldn't be a secret to others in the community? What about if the community members were discreet about it when among those outside the community?

Anonymous said...

I'm with Camillofan. I think fasting as a small group might be one of the best ways to do it.

Say for example: a group of 3 or 4 fasting together every friday, sharing answered prayers as well as their burdens. Helping each other over come temptations etc.

I suppose there is a fine-line between what I'm thinking, and having a little clique of friends looking for attention.

Marcus G said...

A good question. In context, I wonder if Matthew 6 addresses this; given that the community of faith = pretty much everyone (and he's not drawing a Jew/Gentile divide here), I think that Jesus is talking about matters of personal observance in this passage.

Now, that the Bible allows for (calls for, even) corporate fasting, is obvious. But I wonder if we can draw on the Matthew 6 principal and apply it: so, corporately, we all agree that something is so important we will fast. But during a period, say a month, some will fast a whole month, others only for a week, or on weekdays or on Tuesdays or whatever. The fasting would have to be genuine: I can't give up speedboat racing. But I could give up chocolate. And in those times when normally I would eat chocolate (or use the internet, or watch Sky Sports, or, if I was the type, sit with a phone glued to my ear, or text or whatever) instead as I feel "that urge" I will remember & pray for the Lord to bless us & open the storehouses of heaven, and grant us all the finance we need for our home missions projects - salaries for the children's worker & the new senior worker post, and funds for the renovations of our hall to be a mission building in the community especially amongst the young & the elderly.

What I choose to do as my fast is known to me & to God. Though I hope all of us in the community are taking part in it, and there will be regular encouragement for all during the period of the fast. But there is no outward sign. (Except the rejoicing at the end, and the answered prayer.) It is corporate - we all join in. It is private - the shape of my participation is known to me & God alone. The period of the fast is known. The timing of my fast is hidden, even within the community of the faithful.

Is this getting clearer?

And I'm NOT saying this is how it should always be. I am saying this is how we will do it. This is what I picked up this weekend, & I liked what I heard. My heart was moved by it, powerfully. It seemed right. There are times when that happens & I feel we have to act. The 24 Hour times of worship we held came from such experiences. Let us do this and see how the Lord will bless.

Anonymous said...

I am really for a group fast and feel the praise and prayer day could be special,we dont need a group of musicians or planned in as a service, but from the heart in a spontaneous way. worth a thought.. joyce.

lancashirelass said...

I endorse everything you say and will certainly be fasting alone for our needs,..I have had the privelage of a fast with a group,who shared earnestly the same visions and needs for a church. It was a very moving experience,we ended with a spontaneous praise {no organised musicians in this case} straight from the heart. It was powerful,God honoured our requests,There stands a church on what was waste land. Treasured memories indeed.... joyce