Shrove Tuesday: Rhythm of Fasting and Feasting
As a church, we are getting ready to enter into a season of fasting. March 4 is Shrove Tuesday.
Many Christians engage in this celebration just before the beginning of Lent, a period where the Church engages in fasting and spiritual discipline as preparation for Easter. We’ll be getting together with the members of our church, pigging out on pancakes, and having one last feast before the fast begins.
This day is a really great reminder of the balance Christians are to maintain between fasting and feasting.
Check out something Jesus said while he was on earth:
14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast (Matthew 9.14-15).
So Jesus says that his followers will fast. While Jesus was with them on earth, they were not going to fast. There was a time coming, however, where God’s people would fast.
Jesus followers are people of fasting. They are also people of feasting. Throughout church history, the church has come together for feasts. Some of the best times of fellowship come over great meals. Meals bond us. Meals unite us. The central act of Christian worship is a meal with Jesus as the host. We are a feasting people.
We feast because we are saved. We fast because we aren’t.
What? What do I mean we aren’t saved? I got saved 22 years ago when I prayed the sinner’s prayer with my mom on my bed, didn’t I? Yes. I sure did. And that is why we feast. We feast because God has saved us. We feast because he pulled us out of darkness into light. We feast because of the resurrection. We feast because we have been united with Christ.
But we fast, because we aren’t saved yet. We have not experienced the fullness of our salvation. We are sinful. We are tired. We are mortal. We are a dying people. We are living in a world that is fallen. We are battling the powers of darkness.
One day, these things won’t be. One day, we won’t fast. We will only feast. God will make all things new.
Until then, we live in a tension. We feast because we are saved. We fast because we are waiting to be saved. And while we fast, we purge ourselves of the things that link us with the old man. We repent of the works of the flesh. We pledge to walk in the Spirit.
Many of us have failed to find the rhythm of fasting and feasting that is supposed to be part of the Christian life. When is the last time many of us have fasted from food? There have been times in my Christian life where I have gone years without fasting.
I can’t help but think this is because of our misunderstanding of salvation. We live in this crazy arrogance, where we believed that “getting saved” is something past tense. Getting saved is past tense, but it also present and future tense. You are not who you should be. There are remnants of the old man in you. Although your true identity is saintliness and holiness, there are times when works of the flesh reign in your mortal bodies. Until all that is gone, and mortality is swallowed in immortality, you are not fully saved. You have not experienced the fullness of salvation. We fast because the bridegroom isn’t with us. We fast because we are still a waiting people.
Members of Christ’s Church, please consider recovering the ancient Christian rhythm of fasting and feasting through this Lent season. We feast because God has saved us. We fast because we are waiting for God to save us.James