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Archive for February 11th, 2013

From the website of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS)

Read a few reflections on Lent and fasting from the Rev. William Weedon, LCMS Director of Worship: Fastenzeit kommt!

We call it Lent in English. Good to remember, though, what it is called in our old service books (and still in the service books of Germany today): Fastenzeit, that is, fasting time.

And fasting is not first and foremost about avoiding mechanically a certain kind of food while stuffing yourself with other tasty treats. Recall the words of Martin Chemnitz about such fasting:

“A well-filled or richly treated belly, whether it is done with fish or vegetables, certainly is not fasting” (Examen IV:275).

He reminds us that fasting can be like this:

“When we do not abstain altogether from lunch or from dinner, but remove something when we lunch or dine, either in the quantity or the quality of the food, or do not take as much or also as rich as could be done even while maintaining temperance” (IV:259).

There is also, of course, abstaining totally from lunch or dinner:

“It is that that is most properly called fasting” (IV:260).

Anyway you slice it, real fast simply involves hunger. It involves not stuffing one’s self and so letting the hunger of the body discipline us. For we are sad creatures who are used to filling our bellies with the first grumble. Or even worse, I think of mother’s motto (truly the very opposite of fasting!): “You don’t eat because you’re hungry; you eat to keep from getting hungry!” She meant it humorously (I think!), but of course that’s the pathway to gluttony and indulgence. Rather, the fast, the hunger, helps us train the body and keep it under subjection. For there is a hunger greater than the hunger of the body, and that is the thirst and hunger of the soul for God. And while food and drink can mask that inner hunger and help you to ignore it, there is nothing like the fast itself, going hungry, to unmask the inner hunger and remind us that in the end there is nothing that satisfies the ache of the human being, but God alone. “One thing have I desire of the Lord, and that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple” (Psalm 27).

One way that the Church has guided her children in fasting is to suggest that the days of Lent, during Fastenzeit, food be significantly pared down. Nothing for breakfast, a regular but plain meal for lunch, and a very light meal at supper. Sometimes during Lent people make the shocking discovery of how little it takes to keep the body going, how it is possible by God’s grace to go hungry and NOT obey the stomach’s dictates and orders, and how freeing it is to have more time for prayer and Scripture and acts of love. This is possible when food is intentionally and joyfully set “on the back burner” of one’s life. One discovers that Deuteronomy is right: Man doesn’t live by bread alone! Man lives from every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

Fastenzeit kommt! Now is the time to begin planning on how you will observe it yourself and to discuss the implications of observing it for your home life.

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But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3: 13, NIV)

    

The New Testament reading in the Daily Lectionary for today  is St. John 4: 1-26,

“…but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

But if we do want to boast, then let us boast that we receive from the fullness of Christ, that we are enlightened by Him, attain forgiveness of sin, and become children of God through Him. For this is the sum and substance of it all: Whoever wishes to be safe-guarded from the devil’s might and to escape sin and death must draw from this well, Christ; from Him flows all salvation and eternal bliss. This fountain is inexhaustible; it is full of grace and truth before God; it never fails no matter how much we draw from it. Even if we all dip from it without stopping, it cannot be emptied, but it remains a perennial fount of all grace and truth, an unfathomable well, an eternal fountain. The more we draw from it, the more it gives. Such water, as St. John remarks later, wells up to eternal life (John 4:14).

The sun is not dimmed and darkened by shining on so many people or by providing the entire world with its light and bright splendor. It retains its light intact. It loses nothing; it is immeasurable, perhaps able to illumine ten more worlds. I suppose that a hundred thousand candles can be ignited from one light, and still this light will not lose any of its brilliance. Likewise, a learned man can educate a thousand scholars without forfeiting any of his own learning. The more he shares with others, the more he has himself. Thus Christ, our Lord, to whom we must flee and of whom we must ask all, is an interminable well, the chief source of all grace, truth, righteousness, wisdom, and life, without limit, measure, or end. Even if the whole world were to draw from this fountain enough grace and truth to transform all people into angels, still it would not lose as much as a drop. This fountain constantly overflows with sheer grace. Whoever wishes to enjoy Christ’s grace—and no one is excluded—let him come and receive it from Him. You will never drain this fountain of living water; it will never run dry. You will all draw from it much more than enough, and yet it will remain a perennial well.

—Martin Luther

Hymnody:

Come, Thou Fount of ev’ry blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy grace; Streams of mercy, never ceasing,

Call for songs of loudest praise.

While the hope of endless glory

Fills my heart with joy and love,

Teach me ever to adore Thee;

May I still Thy goodness prove.

—Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing (LSB 686:1)

Prayer of the Day

Lord God, heavenly Father, You have called Your Church to worship Your Son in Spirit and truth. Through the Spirit of Jesus, keep us faithful to the one who is the way, the truth, and the life, so that we may be partakers of His divine life and inherit the kingdom promised for those who drink from the water of life; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. 

Suggested Reading from the Book of Concord

Smalcald Articles III 1111-9

(From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

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