Preaching in Lent (I)
This morning I shall be starting a series preaching through Lent. Doing this within a church tradition which pays less attention to the church calendar than others is an interesting exercise, not least for the preacher! Today we shall be looking at fasting, and especially the view of it expressed in Isaiah 58. In those words we see a man for whom encountering God has been a cataclysmic experience railing against those whose heart is not in it.
I’ve never been very good at fasting. My few forays into it have often resulted in frustration with myself. This is no reason not to preach on it, surely? If I were only to preach on those areas in which I felt strong and victorious, the church would have a lot of sermon-less Sundays. Jeremiah was melancholic, Isaiah was afraid and Ezekiel was broken – but God still made use of them. Their task was to point people (including themselves) in the direction of God’s greater truth.
Of course Christians are by no means the only ones for whom fasting is important. Consider the two images below. On the left is Bobby Sands – a former IRA prisoner for whom fasting was a weapon against those who had imprisoned him. On the right is a statue of Bhudda, who spent part of his quest for enlightenment learning to live on just one grain of rice each day. Many Muslims will be fasting during daylight hours whilst the Olympics are on this year, with Ramadan running from late July until mid-August.
Earlier this week J John posted an article on the reasons for Lent, which repays careful reading. For him the spiritual disciplines, including fasting, are all about spiritual focus. How about you?