PRACTICING YOUR PIETY
with Rev. Rachel
1 PRACTICING YOUR PIETY Matt 6
The non-negotiables cartwheeled off the page this Wednesday: Almsgiving, praying, fasting. I preached a one-sentence sermon. I know. You are sorry you missed it. Can I do that again? “It is not a matter of if you give alms, pray, and fast; it is when...”
Any one of us can tune in to this wisdom anytime, provided access to Matthew’s gospel. Christians have traditionally spent quality time with these spiritual disciplines at the start of Lent.
I have not yet heard it all. But I have heard quite a bit. I cannot fast because of my health. I am a giving person so does it really matter how intentional I am about what I give to whom? I pray for people. How I do it and how often is my business.
My go-to way of excusing myself from life lived in increasing obedience to these commands—I could call them “requests” but I can’t seem to find much evidence that God sees almsgiving, praying, and fasting as extra-curricular activity—is to tell myself that I am doing all of that more than most people. How lame is that? Very.
A small victory in the realm of fasting keeps me from wallowing in lameness. Let me tell you about it and then I will try to shed some light on why I am telling you.
This reverend would rather die than go without breakfast. Translation: I have an idolatrous love for foods associated with the morning hours. Somewhere along the way I realized that I needed to acknowledge that maybe I do live on bread alone (Deut. 8:3; Matt 4:4) and so for five years running, Thursday means no breakfast.
Once a week, I am in touch with the fact that I am not nearly as good at resisting the urge to secure my own comfort and ease, as I may like to think. This funny thing I do helps me to keep it real about my own hang-ups. It helps me to see what I think God sees, which is how much of my being is tied up in stuff that fails to propel me in the way of doing no harm, doing good, and staying in love with God (Rueben Job).
Am I supposed to make a big ta-do about it (v.1)? No. Am I to commend spiritual disciplines? Yes. I was brought to the possibility of fasting only by way of another who described their experience and then said something that sounded an awful lot like Jesus: “Try it. See for yourself.” Indeed. You can’t always see it before you try it. So it is with the three pillars of Lent.