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The Forgotten Virtue

Lent is quickly approaching. The Gospel appointed for Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, is taken from Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. It reads, “And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (St. Matthew 6:16-18)

Fasting was the third of three virtues Christ discussed in the middle of His sermon. The first was alms giving or charity (St. Mt. 6:1-4). The second was prayer (St. Mt. 6:5-15). Of the three fasting is the most neglected in the Church today. We give money to worthy causes and we pray. But how often do we fast? Fasting is the forgotten virtue in Christianity.

That was not the case in the past. There are many references to fasting in the Bible and throughout church history. Now Jesus did not command us to fast, nor did the apostles. However, the practice was expected. Jesus said, “when you fast” not “if you fast.” Christ and the apostles also taught believers to fast by setting an example themselves.

Motivation is everything when it comes to fasting. Going without food has no merit or value in itself. Fasting must have a spiritual dimension or it becomes meaningless. Fasting is almost always combined with prayer. It is an exercise designed to draw us into a closer union with God.

In the practice of the Pharisees, whom Jesus called hypocrites, we may readily see wrong motivations for fasting. They fasted to be seen by men. Their goal was self-glorification, to be known as holy men. They also mistakenly thought that they were earning merits with God by their self denial. Christ’s comment was, “they have received their reward.”

As we study the various references to fasting in the Bible we find that there are four sound reasons for the fast. First, fasting is connected with repentance and confession of sin. All Israel fasted on the Day of Atonement as a sign that they were repentant before God. This was the only required fast in the Old Testament.

Consecration is a second reason for fasting. Immediately before the commencement of His public ministry, Jesus fasted for forty days in the wilderness. The forty days of Lent commemorate that event. Consecration is a giving of oneself more fully to God and His purposes for us. Lent is an appropriate time for us to make such a commitment following the example of our Lord.

Intercession is an excellent motivation for fasting. Intercession is very intense prayer for a
specific person or situation. David tells us that he interceded with fasting for the physical healing of certain people (Ps. 35:13,14). Perhaps we do not see the miraculous healings and outstanding conversions which were once more common in the Church because we have so few people who are willing to interceded and fast for those in need.

The fourth reason for fasting as seen in the Bible is in connection with decision making. On their first missionary tour the apostles, Paul and Barnabas, prayed and fasted before appointing elders to lead the new congregations they had founded. When we are facing major decisions in life we need and should seek divine guidance. Prayer coupled with fasting is what is needed at those times.

Fasting seems to be the forgotten virtue in the Church today. Let us recapture this neglected power during Lent this year. If we fast with the right motivation it will add depth and seriousness to our spiritual lives. And that is something we all need.
by Rev. F. M. Levi

Parish News
The annual Christmas Eve Candlelight Communion Service was well attended this year. In fact the attendance was better than we have had the last few years. This is in spite of having a record snow fall in December. We also want to thank those who brought refreshments for the reception.

95th Synod
The 95th Synod of the Diocese of Mid-America will be held on February 15 & 16, 2001 at Providence Church, Corpus Christi, Texas. Do be in prayer for this important meeting and for those who will be traveling to it.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, Feb, 28, 2001. We will come together on the Wednesday nights in Lent for a pot-luck dinner at 6:30 p.m. followed by a service in the chapel at 7:30 p.m. Do plan to attend as many Wednesday nights as possible.

Missionary Of the Month

Domestic Missions
Keep in your prayers the work of the Board of National Church Extension (B.N.C.E.), the Rt. Rev. Royal Grote, President; Mrs. Joan Workowski, Treasurer.

Happy Birthday!
Feb. 1 - Anna Zaleski
Feb. 3 - Adele O’Brien
Feb. 9 - Mike Acke, Sr.
Feb.14 - Edwina Greco
Feb.23 - Lorie Conn Stultz

1. Re-discover a Personal God ... Have you ever felt
religion and the Church have failed to satisfy you?
You may be right! Churches fail but God does not fail.
Come and seek Him personally. In quietness look
behind the forms and symbols to the living God.

2. Discover yourself ... set apart this brief amount
of time each week to consider what you are really
like, what your real needs are, your wants and fears.
Here is a chance to escape stress and strain and
meditate upon the serious aspects of your life.

3. To gain Self Mastery ... In studying the Master of
life we see afresh the secret of abundant living.
Reality if filled with hardship, disappointment, sorrow,
defeat as well as Joy, Happiness and Peace. A
Christian is not exempt from these realities. However
our own Lord Jesus Christ lived, met and overcame all
these. We hold our Lenten meetings to learn of Him
these lessons of life.

4. Finally we meet as a testimony to the community
to say that this is a Church of men and women who
believe and remember, and are proclaiming the “good news”
of Christ, a lighted, active church is a fine testimony.

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