Fasting or Feasting, It’s time for the banquet

I tasted food, for the first time in two days. I didn’t just eat it, go through the motions of chewing, eat just so that I could sustain my life. I tasted every morsel, every flavor. And I didn’t just order any old plain, whole wheat, healthy nuts and sprouts food. No. If I was doing it right, I was going to do it right. It was boundless egg and cheese and lots and lots of carbohydrates. An extra-large iced coffee with vanilla flavoring. If it was to be a celebration, I was doing it the right way.

We talk a lot about fasting, but we never talk about feeding- the physical and the spiritual. Emphasis is put on deprivation and emptiness but no so much on physical care and spiritual nourishment. I have often wondered about Jesus’ words to the pious and upright religious sect about fasting. I think about the concept of celebrating while He was still physically among them, not fasting. “There will be a time to fast,” he says in essence,” but now, now is just not the time.” And I have found that in my own walk the same is true. Yes there are times I have felt led to fast, not just from food but from many other things. But more times I have felt led to celebrate. To eat. Especially after tragedy and trials.

Food is a such a big part of the Jewish culture. Even in fasting we celebrate with feasting. Not just eating, but feasting. Food is also an integral part of sitting Shiva after death. We comfort through the joy of food, and bringing food is a sign of care. I have had some of my best and most memorable meals while sitting Shiva. The food is endless and bountiful, as is the conversation during the days after death.

And there is a time for fasting and a place for fasting, but why, why don’t we talk about feasting? Why do we not allow God to feed us like Elijah? Why does it take a tragedy or trial for us to taste food in our bodies and in our souls? Why do we not celebrate with the bridegroom? Isn’t it good to eat?

And after two days of trial and two days of a lack of any food that resembled any substance whatsoever, I in the midst of the trial decided that it was time to feast. I feasted because God was there. I feasted because it was time to celebrate God’s divine intervention even before it was fully realized or accomplished. I feasted because without saying a word, uttering a prayer or shedding a tear, God saw me . He knew what I was doing to myself. And like Elijah, He fed me. And I needed to celebrate with my King.

There are so many others who need to be fed. Sometimes in the midst of tragedy, a freshly baked pie speaks louder than any word or hug could ever accomplish. Yes we are physically feeding people, but we are doing something so much greater. We are feeding the hungry.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

The fasting verses …

At the moment the Lord and I are having an ongoing debate about fasting. I have heard others do it as a matter of course. I have never tried it myself. I think perhaps I should. I have tried “not eating” but struggle with feeling ravenous very quickly. I listen and hear Him say, “Try it”. I am never sure what “Try It” means.

And I have an underlying “But I should” – because everyone else seems to – and I hear some talk about how “amazing things” happen whilst they are fasting.  They and their Lord share something special when they are fasting.  Am I missing out … am I not hearing properly … am I good or bad … ?

Because alongside that is the spoken (and unspoken) “discipline” involved: the training to do without, the practice of saying “no” to my “needs”, the extension of my faith through hardship.

So much of the good “teaching” I have accepted as being a “good Christian” – which means not “doing it” must also mean that I am a “bad Christian”.  Doesn’t it … ?

And today – this very morning – He brought me these verses:

The “fasting verses”

“Then the Pharisees and the scribes said to Jesus, “John’s disciples, like the disciples of the Pharisees, frequently fast and pray, but your disciples eat and drink. Jesus said to them, “You cannot make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, ‘The old is good.'”” Luke 5:33-39

He took me to just one sentence.  This sentence:

“The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.”

There we are. In black and white:

“They will fast” – Jesus did leave them – He went back to Heaven – I have read about the Ascension – then they “will fast”And that means me because it says so in the bible!

This morning we talked:

GSHJ: See Paul – the Pharisees had their own “disciples” just like John.
Me: Really Lord?
GSHJ: Yep – really. Disciples are just “followers”.  Are you just a follower, Paul?
Me: I used to think so Lord.
GSHJ: Really, Paul? Even with me “indwelling” you are still “just” a follower? How so …?
Me: I USED to think so Lord.

Because I no longer think of myself as just a follower. The union He and me have is too tight. Our relationship is too close. In the same way as I am not a “follower” of my own father.  I am me … I just Am.

Just like I am not a “follower” of my wife in our marriage. We are both our own “me” – yet more than just two x “me” – more like “one” – we just Are.

Just like our own children and grandchildren are not followers – they are themselves – they just “are”.

GSHJ: So you think you are Me, do you Paul?
Me: No, Lord – I do not.
GSHJ: Then just “what are you”, Paul?
Me: Lord, I am me – that’s all I Am – I Am Me.

And we sat quietly for a while … and then He spoke:

GSHJ: Does that answer your question about fasting then?

And – oddly –  my answer is … Yes!

Because He had answered my question – without even mentioning fasting until that last question.

How did He do that … ?

“The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.”

… the bridegroom will be taken away from them …

… they will fast in those days

How long was Jesus “taken away from them”?

Not very long.  Very traumatically. Very suddenly. Very painfully – terrifyingly painfully.  But the Advocate? The Holy Spirit? The indwelling then, since and today? Is He “not here”, is He not “within”, is He is “not real” – right now this moment – and every moment?

You can try and prove that to me using every “proof verse” you can find – you can debate that all day long.  You can argue, yes and you can argue no.  My answer is very simple:

He IS here, He IS within, He IS real. I have just been talking with Him – and He with me. The bridegroom is here today, right now, as real as He ever was when He walked amongst the dusty peeps. I know – and if He isn’t real to you …

Why not?

So do I fast? Should I fast? Is it right that I fast ?  My answer is “maybe” … and “maybe not”.

Because it does not matter one jot whether I do or not … so long as I Am myself.  So long as I Am not trying to be someone else …  so long as I Am not just a “follower” in some things (and “Me” in others) …

Because when I am “just me” all the time …

Then He will show me.

(and all I have to do is to allow)