Irascible. Unfathomable. Unpredictable. Maddening. Enigmatic. Endlessly Elusive.
This is our God…and Jesus is clearly in cahoots with him, her, or it. This is the God of the liturgy of the first week of Lent.
God, we plead: Make up your mind!
Wednesday we were supposed to blow the trumpets and fast publicly – and – tells us to do it in secret.
Thursday Deuteronomy told us we were supposed to choose life – and Jesus tells us to choose death – the cross.
And today the God of Isaiah tells us we’ve got this fasting thing all wrong and Jesus doesn’t give a feather or a fig for it – he’s into wedding banquets.
So – what is it, God? Are we fasting or feasting? What exactly do you want of us?
So, I do what every introductory homiletics student is warned against. “DO NOT BEGIN BY QUOTING THE DICTIONARY.” I go to the dictionary anyway. This is God’s fault, not mine. Surprise. I have walked right into the midst of a crowd of words all spelled and sounding the same, but used as varied parts of speech, each having its own singular meaning. This is a hermeneutic of homonyms!
FAST: (I read):
v.i.: to abstain from food; to eat sparingly or abstain from some foods
adj: characterized by quick motion; moving or able to move rapidly
n: the practice of or the time of fasting.
adj. firmly fixed; adhering firmly; not easily freed; firmly loyal
That’s it, of course. The word is right, but we have the wrong definition! Or the wrong part of speech! It’s not “fast” the noun that we observe – it’s not “fast” the verb that we do – It’s all in the adjective – it’s about holding fast, firmly fixed, loyal: connected.
WHAT GOD wants, what Jesus is most interested in is FASTENING: relatedness; inseparability; stuckness.
“You shall love the Lord your God….You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
So, who cares, says God, how pinched, pallid and prune-faced you get if you don’t care about the homeless and hungry, the victims of injustice, the refugees, the ones with no clothes to cover them, the ones with no voice?
And how long has it been since you called your lonely Aunt Ethel?
If your heart is not fastened on them, your heart is not fastened on me.
And besides, adds Jesus, isn’t the bridegroom with you? Are you fastened on? Have you “put me on”? Are you throwing banquets daily? Are you rehearsing the feast of the reign of God? Do you have to steal a thought from preacher Fred Craddock – an endless paschal party going on in the back of your mind?
Fast if you want. But make it a fast of connection. A Fastening – fast. Who do you fast with? Whose burdens, fears, sorrows and hungers do you share? For whom do you make this a prayer? For whom do you intercede?
Feast if you want. Easter is real, now, we haven’t erased it – even in the liturgical churches! But feasting makes no sense without connection to celebrate. A fastening – feast. So, who will be your guests? Which highways and byways will you comb? Who will you reach out to share the feast with?
Then, says God (Is. 58: 10b,11): Then light shall rise for you out of darkness…the Lord will be your guide always and will give you plenty even in the parched land…will renew your strength, and you will be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails.
Here I am…eternally, irascibly, unfathomably, maddeningly and madly…fastened: on you.