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Sermon Illustrations on fasting

Background

Fasting Reveals That Which Controls Us

More than any other Discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. … We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface.  If pride controls us, it will be revealed almost immediately. … Anger, bitterness, jealousy, strife, fear—if they are within us, they will surface during fasting. …

Fasting reminds us that we are sustained “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4).  Food does not sustain us; God sustains us.

Richard J. Foster , Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, 3rd ed. (New York: HarperCollins, 1998, p55).

A Social Media Fast

So in the last three years, in order to reorient myself and head back onto the narrow way, I’ve given up social media and/or the internet for Lent. At first it’s agonizing. I’m like a caffeine or nicotine addict going through withdrawal. I get all panicky and shaky, wondering what to do with myself. My fears assail me with the tales of all the fun, banter, and insider information I am missing.

I’m nearly asphyxiated by the thought that I am left behind or uninvited, that I am an outsider looking in while others are living the good, glamorous life of connectedness. I fight the urge to check in. As Lent carries on, my urge slowly subsides. To some extent, I experience my life as it was before the internet. I read more books. I am more fully present to my family and friends. I hear God better. I am less hurried, more like God, who is never in a hurry.

In Lenten silence and solitude via social-media fasts, I discover the words of Isaiah 30:15 to be true: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, / in quietness and trust is your strength.” It is a soul-soothing time. I realize that I need to flee to this desert more frequently. Probably, weekly. My Lenten practice has become a regular spiritual discipline. It allows me to disentangle myself from the cares of the world and follow Jesus more closely. It allows me to better love others.

Marlena Graves, A Beautiful Disaster, Baker Publishing Group, 2014, p.40-41.

Stories

Fasting as a Flashpoint Issue for the Reformation

On a chilly morning in March 1522, in the city of Zurich, the printer Christoph Froschauer sat down with his workers and shared a plate of sausages, in open defiance of the Roman Catholic Church, which forbade the consumption of meat during Lent. Froschauer and his men were dragged before the civil magistrates, where he entered his official plea of not guilty on the grounds that he had a heavy load of printing jobs waiting and his men needed the extra sustenance. 

Such meals were not unheard of during Lent, and normally for a small fee one could purchase a “dispensation” on the grounds of infirmity, age, or even unusually difficult work. But the printer had never obtained his dispensation and was duly charged. 

The city rose in protest, street fighting broke out, and, on April 16, the local prelate Ulrich Zwingli preached a sermon defending the printer’s actions not on the grounds of necessity but on the basis of scriptural authority. The New Testament, Zwingli pointed out, nowhere mentions food prohibitions of any kind, all of which were merely invented haphazardly by the Church and could in no way constrain the conscience of men. 

Neither should there be specific times set aside for fasting: “as far as time is concerned, the need and use of all food are free, so that whatever food our daily necessity requires, we may use at all times and on all days . . .” Thus began the Swiss Reformation over a plate of sausages.

Ken Albala, Food and Faith in Christian Culture, edited by Ken Albala, and Trudy Eden, Columbia University Press, 2011.

Analogies

A Lutheran Stomach

Desiderius Erasmus was a Dutch humanist scholar and Catholic priest. His works were so significant he was given the nickname “Prince of the Humanists” and “the crowning glory of the Christian Humanists.” 

Erasmus lived during the rise of the Reformation in Germany, and while critical of the Catholic Church, ultimately chose to stay a part of it rather than join the growing Lutherans. His middle-road (Via Media) approach to the question of reform ultimately made him an easy target for both staunch Catholics and Lutherans. One day Erasmus was caught eating during a Lenten fast. Once confronted, Erasmus remarked with his usual quick wit: “I have a Catholic soul, but a Lutheran stomach.”

Stuart Strachan Jr.

Humor

A Lutheran Stomach

Desiderius Erasmus was a Dutch humanist scholar and Catholic priest. His works were so significant he was given the nickname “Prince of the Humanists” and “the crowning glory of the Christian Humanists.” 

Erasmus lived during the rise of the Reformation in Germany, and while critical of the Catholic Church, ultimately chose to stay a part of it rather than join the growing Lutherans. His middle-road (Via Media) approach to the question of reform ultimately made him an easy target for both staunch Catholics and Lutherans. One day Erasmus was caught eating during a Lenten fast. Once confronted, Erasmus remarked with his usual quick wit: “I have a Catholic soul, but a Lutheran stomach.”

Stuart Strachan Jr.

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Related Themes

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Dependence on God

Dying to Self

Lent

Sacrifice

Spiritual Disciplines

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