Matthew 6:16-21 (ESV)
"And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. 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 others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
When you fast…
Lent, Ash Wednesday, a season of perverse joy, masochistic merriment, yes there is a joy in fasting, a peace in prayer, that is foreign to this world. A peace and joy that marks this season for many as a time for the breaks, a time for restraint, a time for contemplation. Perhaps it is a time to go up to the house of mourning for that is where the wise live. (Ecclesiastes 7) It is there that we see the end of all mankind and the living take it to heart! The end of all mankind.
Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust. Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return! Take it to heart and live.
We, if you are like me, spend a lot of time thinking about the morrow without thinking about tomorrow at all. We plan, we scheme, we worry, and let anxiety tear us up inside. We lay aside for retirement. We think about what needs to be done at work, and worry about our children. Maybe we are so grandiose as to think about a legacy, and what our grandchildren will think of us. But we rarely think about the tomorrow that comes to us all, the grave, the judgment, the end. Go to the house of mourning, this is the end my friend, the end of all mankind. Dust you are, and to dust you shall return. Mortal and made of dust, dust and ashes.
Mortal and dust, but eternity is in our souls. We long for it. We crave it, we thirst for it, we hunger for eternal life. We would steal for it, and kill for it. But the question is, are we willing to die for it? in the end, are we willing to give up this life for it, the life of flesh, the life we live in this world with all that we so love?
And why should we not die for it? Mortal as we are? Do we really think we can save this life? Are we so foolish as to think we can get out alive? Can our money buy eternal life? Can the food we eat sustain us forever? We know it cannot. This life, this life we so crave to keep, finally it is this life we lose. The one that we sustain on bread alone, the one we try to preserve with political action, the one which we rob, steal and cheat to keep alive, this life we lose. Yes the one in which we put nearly every material blessing we have before God, whom we show with our greed, lust, quick tempers, anxiety and impatience that he is one we do not fear love and trust in above all things. Yes, daily we show that we would rather be fat, dumb and happy on our own than have anything to do with God. Wisdom we eschew, the house of mourning we avoid, our own mortality we would rather forget.
That is until we finally realize that these things will not, cannot sustain us, and that we can be sustained without them. A trip to the house of mourning, ashes to ashes and dust to dust, for dust you are and to dust you shall return.
Yes, when you fast…
Yes, then you realize that it is not by bread alone that man lives, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Fasting, Jesus assumed his disciples would. In Acts the disciples do so as a matter of fact, these same disciples who did not fast when the Bridegroom was with them. They fasted, because Jesus told them it was worthwhile, for some demons can only be thrown out with much prayer and fasting.
Prayer and fasting, they go hand in hand, which is why Jesus talks about fasting here, in conjunction with the Lord’s prayer, when his disciples ask him how shall they pray. Fasting is a part of prayer, goes along with it. It incorporates you corpus into your prayer life, body and soul working together, cooperating as one. Because you are, yes from dust you are, and apart from it you are not. You are, body and soul, spirit enfleshed, we are not souls alone. But our bodies are part and parcel of who we are. Man and woman created from dust, body and soul, and so we worship in body and soul, with what we eat, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and what we don’t eat, food sacrificed to idols. Body and soul, so we are redeemed by water poured, forgiven with crucified flesh eaten, blood shed and drunk. So we pray with flesh subdued, flesh that knows from dust you are, and to dust you will return. That the new life in us may know, that though we die, we will never die. Because in baptism we have been buried into his death, in Christ's death, our flesh made to nothing, that just as he rose from the dead by the glory of the Father we too might walk in the newness of life. Yes, we do even now to the glory of the Father, our lives lost, that they would be saved.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.