Sunday, March 05, 2017

The Fullness of Fasting

Sermon for the first Sunday in Lent

Are you enjoying Lent so far? We’re four days in and although Sunday is not counted as one of the Forty Days of Lent on the grounds that Sunday is always the Day of Resurrection, it still retains much of the Lenten character. Everything’s very austere, very solemn, very serious.

The challenge, of course, as our Lord suggests, is not to let a period of fasting, abstinence, and penitence become a time of negativity. We aren’t to deform our faces, but rather not publicise our fasting. We are still to mourn with those who mourn, and rejoice with those who rejoice. If that’s the case, and we’re not meant to show our Lenten selves, why should we fast, and be abstinent, and be penitent in the first place? What is the point of Lent?


The temptation is to see Lent as a time of negativity, a time of discomfort, a time to be in pain so that Easter becomes all the greater joy. This treats Lent like banging your head against a brick wall because it feels so nice when you stop. But that’s it – it’s the temptation that stops us from seeing the truth. If we look at all the Devil’s temptations very carefully, we can ask ourselves the question, how much better off would we be if we accepted the Devil’s temptation?

How much better would Jesus have been if he had turned the stones to bread? Well, he would have stopped being hungry for a time, but He would have become hungry again. However, He would have turned from God and ceased to trust Him. Being filled with bread would have emptied Him of His Father. Likewise, when we fill ourselves with this world, we are actually emptying ourselves of God’s presence.

How much better would Jesus have been having thrown Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple? He would have become assured of God’s providence for Him but, again, He would have separated Himself from His Father by wounding the relationship and trust that they share.

Likewise, to worship Satan, or any created being, is the ultimate rejection of a relationship with God the Father.

The more we fill ourselves with this world, the more we empty ourselves of God. That sounds a bit odd.


Except it’s not. We can empty a barrel of water by pumping air into it – that’s how a stirrup pump works. Likewise, we empty ourselves of God’s substance in us by filling ourselves with the emptiness of the world without Him. Without God, the World loses its reality. This is why human beings cannot reconcile themselves to God, they need God’s help. Likewise God couldn’t reconcile human beings to Him without human beings being involved. In Our Lord Jesus, we have God and Man inseparably mixed. That’s how we can be filled with God through Our Lord Jesus.

It makes sense, then, to empty ourselves of the tyranny of things that we have acquired over the year. In fasting, we fill ourselves with trust in God’s providence. In practising penitence, we fill ourselves with trust in God’s mercy. In casting away the false gods and idols in our lives, we fill ourselves with the worship of God. Where there is darkness there can be no light. Where there is light there can be no darkness.


This is why we should receive Lent with a sense of joy. The hardships that it brings to our normal way of living should be seen as an opportunity to grow ever more filled of God. The fuller we become, the greater our sense of joy in the world that God has created.

How full are we feeling after four day’s of emptiness? Do you want to feel even more full of God?

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