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Tidings From Bethlehem March 2023

“He fasted forty days and forty nights,

and afterward he was famished…”

-Matthew 4:2

It started off innocently enough. It was just a little after eight in the evening, and I was feeling a skosh peckish. I went to the cupboard and pulled out the new bag of peanut butter filled pretzels. I opened that bag and drew from it just a few of the delicious nuggets. Those disappeared quickly so I had a few more. I decided I had better pace myself, so I put the clip on the bag and put them back in the cupboard.

But those first few only generated the desire for more. There was no stopping now. Less than five minutes had passed before I had, “just a few more.” But alas, I felt like Saint Paul, as I went back the third time, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want…” -Romans 7:15

It didn’t take long before that whole bag of peanut butter filled pretzels had been consumed. Have you ever found yourself in that kind of situation? It makes “fasting” seem almost impossible, and yet, there it is, one of the foundational disciplines of the Lenten season.

The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness. It certainly seemed to be a collaborative effort. Our Lord clearly believed that season in the wilderness would make a difference. Christ fasted fully realizing that the discipline would deepen his commitment to the work that was ahead, cross and resurrection. If such a spiritual journey was beneficial for Jesus, we could benefit from a fast as well.

If you have “given something up” for Lent, God bless you, I hope that faithful endeavor is drawing you closer to Christ. Fasting takes different forms these days, but the results can be the same. And what are the results? Well at a very elementary level the result of fasting is hunger. The Gospel narrative substantiates this, “He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished…” The definition of famished: “extremely hungry.”

Our fasting won’t be nearly as intense as Jesus’ fasting, but by the time Easter rolls around… if you have given up sweets, you might be “famished” for that first piece of chocolate. And yes, that kind of hunger might very well remind us of our need for Christ, and the fulfillment we find in and with Jesus.

But I am hoping that these forty days might draw us into an even deeper kind of hunger. As we consider our own limitations and our growing edges throughout this sacred season… as we think through the brokenness of this world and the needs that swirl around us… I pray we end up absolutely famished for peace, for justice, for stability and security in our communities. Thanks be to God, in our celebration of Easter, when we break the Lenten fast, we trust that hunger will be tended to as we work alongside the resurrected Christ for the sake of our community. Pass the peanut butter filled pretzels, I’m going to need my strength!

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Dan

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