Text: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21; Joel 2:12-19; 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Listen to the sermon here.
For where your treasure is,
there your heart will be also.
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“When you fast,” Jesus says. He's making an assumption, here. And, He's giving Himself as an example. Jesus did fast. For forty days and forty nights, out in the wilderness/desert; but that's the Gospel reading for Sunday, so I won't speak much about it now, just enough to point out to you that when Jesus assumes anything about His followers, first the disciples, then also we who are Baptized into His name, when He makes an assumption about us, He fulfills it all first. So Jesus fasted. And He assumes that His followers will do the same.
“When you fast,” Jesus says. But this really is nothing new. Jesus, the Son of God, spoke these Words back in OT times as well, through the prophet Joel, the second chapter. “Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”
Jesus speaks about what He knows. He does not call us to fast and then leave us there. There is a point, there is a greater good that comes from fasting. Allow me to put into perspective, specifically in the perspective of our Church Year and what the Church is doing with this season called Lent.
Lent is a penitential season (just like Advent); a time for self-reflection and repentance. Lent is a preparation; it prepares us for the main event in the Church Year: / Easter. In fact, the whole Year is centered around the Resurrection of Our Savior, because in that Resurrection event, we are assured of our salvation and what's more we see what we will look like in our resurrection on that Last Great Day. This is the message of Easter; a grand and glorious occasion; mysteries beyond our comprehension are made known to us again, and then again and again throughout the Easter Season as we continue to greet one another, “Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!” More than any other time, Easter is the most anticipated season of the Church. And we do so anticipate it. But how do we anticipate it? How do you anticipate Easter? Have you ever really considered this before? Is there actually a proper way to prepare for the Resurrection of our Lord? Well, what does our Lord say? “Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”
Return: that is what repentance is, a turning away from sin, toward our Lord. And it is only to Him that we are to return; and when we do return, we are to be empty. Nothing else can be in our way, nothing else is to fill our thoughts or hearts or minds, we are to weep over ourselves and all our achievements and success. We are to mourn our unworthiness. But that's not all, for our Lord also invites us to return to Him “with fasting”. We prepare ourselves for the Feast of Easter, with the fasting of Lent.
We discipline our physical bodies during Lent to reflect our spiritual reality, that we are whole and forgiven and pure in Christ, and likewise in Him, we treasure nothing but Him. We decrease our bodies intake of physical, earthly food, while at the same time increasing our body and soul's intake of the spiritual, heavenly food. Our fasting gives way to our Feasting.
This is the proper preparation for Easter, for the favorable time, for the day of our salvation. In a very real sense, Easter is tonight, Easter is every time our Lord's Body and Blood appear on our Altar; glorified for our glorification, abundant for our satisfaction.
For the LORD God is jealous for his people, He is jealous for you. Our Lord wants to satisfy you and provide for all that you need to support this body and life, as well as the Life to come; and only He can do it. So, your God says to you, “Behold, I am sending you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied.” You will be satisfied because He sees you and He knows what your need is; so He takes that grain and wine and makes them His Body and Blood to meet that need, to forgive you.
“Behold, [do you now see, that] now is the favorable time. Behold, now is the day of salvation.” Come, let us begin our Lenten preparation with the main thing, the Feast.
In +Jesus' name. Amen.
[Artwork by Ed Riojas]