Jeff’s letter – February

2012 – Fast or Feast

A man walks into a bar, orders three pints of beer and sits in a corner of the room, taking a sip out of each glass in turn. When all three pints are empty, he returns to the bar and orders three more. The bartender advises him: “You know, a pint goes flat after it’s drawn. It would taste better if you bought one at a time.”  “Well, you see”, the man replies, “I have two brothers – one in America, the other in Australia and I’m here in England. When we all left home, we promised to always drink this way to remember the days when we drank together”. The bartender admits that this is a touching custom and leaves it at that.

Over the next few weeks the man becomes a regular at the bar, always drinking the same way: ordering three pints of beer at a time and drinking them in turn.

One day, he comes in and orders only two pints. The other regulars notice and fall silent. When he returns to the bar for the second round, the bartender says: “I don’t want to intrude on your grief, but I wanted to offer my condolences and those of our regulars on your sad loss.” The man looks confused for a moment and then realises. “Oh, no,” he says, laughing, “everyone’s fine it’s just that I’ve stopped drinking for Lent.”

It seems a little strange to be thinking of Lent in the middle of January as I sit to write this letter especially when the Christmas and the New Year’s celebration still linger in the background. But Lent is just around the corner but maybe it’s not such a bad idea to consider the season of fasting especially for those who want to shed some of the lingering excesses of Christmas.

In the Christian Church, Lent is traditionally the season of reflection before the great celebration of Christ’s resurrection. It is often the time of fasting before the great feast, allowing the Christian to focus on what is truly important in life; our relationship with God. So that we can realise, just as Jesus did, that it’s when we rely on God that we find true peace regardless of the circumstance we face, not a superficial peace but a deep, deep peace which takes account of anguish and pain and uncertainty, whether individually or collectively. Symbolically, Lent takes the Christian into the 40 days of wilderness experienced by Jesus prior to the start of his ministry and, like Him, it would be good for us too to reflect on our prayer life, repentance, sacrificial giving and self-denial at the start of our ministry together in 2012.

Lent is a time when we ‘give things up’, usually unhealthy things, and close to the beginning of this New Year and in preparation for our journey together, instead of chocolate and alcohol (I realise of course that no one from my church would ever touch a drop), I offer these alternatives for your consideration.

Fast from judging others;
Feast on Christ dwelling in them.

Fast from emphasis on differences;
Feast on the unity of all life.

Fast from apparent darkness;
Feast on the reality of all light.

Fast from thoughts of illness;
Feast on the healing power of God.

Fast from words that pollute;
Feast on phrases that purify.

Fast from discontent;
Feast on gratitude.

Fast from anger;
Feast on patience.

Fast from pessimism;
Feast on optimism.

Fast from worry;
Feast on God’s providence.

Fast from complaining;
Feast on appreciation.

Fast from negatives;
Feast on affirmatives.

Fast from unrelenting pressures;
Feast on unceasing prayer.

Fast from hostility;
Feast on non-resistance.

Fast from bitterness;
Feast on forgiveness.

Fast from self-concern;
Feast on compassion for others.

Fast from personal anxiety;
Feast on eternal truth.

Fast from discouragement;
Feast on hope.

Fast from facts that depress;
Feast on verities that uplift.

Fast from lethargy;
Feast on enthusiasm.

Fast from suspicion;
Feast on truth.

Fast from thoughts that weaken;
Feast on promises that inspire.

Fast from shadows of sorrow;
Feast on the sunlight of serenity.

Fast from idle gossip;
Feast on purposeful silence.

Fast from problems that overwhelm;
Feast on prayer that sustains.

God bless.


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