Pastoral Relief and Retreat

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Wethersfield, CT, United States
I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.

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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Give, Pray, Fast

“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.
            “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
(Matthew 6:16-23 ESV)

 Jesus’ phrases on fasting, prayer, and alms giving in Matthew 6 are identical in structure:

Thus, when you give to the needy,
[Thus] when you pray
[Thus] when you fast

sound no trumpet before you,
[blank]
do not look gloomy

as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets,
you must not be like the hypocrites.
like the hypocrites

[giving alms] that they may be praised by others.
[praying] that they may be seen by others.
[fasting] that they may be seen by others.

Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

But when you give to the needy,
But when you pray
But when you fast

do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
go into your room and shut the door
anoint your head and wash your face

so that your giving may be in secret.
and pray to your Father who is in secret.
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.
And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

This pattern is only interrupted by The Lord’s Prayer and the brief commentary on the Prayer.  One might even go so far as to suggest that what we know as the most often-repeated prayer in Christian worship is itself nothing more than commentary on one of Jesus’ main points in his Sermon. 

I am not trying here to reduce the value of The Lord’s Prayer, but rather to bring to the front what turns out to be a very important pattern of behavior for believers:

A.     Give, Pray, Fast (negative example)
1.     Physical display plus…
2.     Spiritual display plus…
3.     Impure motive yields…
4.     Temporal Reward
B.     Give, Pray, Fast (positive example)
1.     Physical secrecy plus…
2.     Spiritual secrecy yields…
3.     Eternal Reward

So the principal thoughout the chapter is this:

You cannot seek Earthly Rewards and get Heavenly Rewards
You cannot seek Earthly Kingdoms and get a Heavenly Kingdom
You cannot seek Earthly Glory and get Heavenly Glory

More and more I see that The Way of Christ stands in complete opposition to the ways of the World.  I cannot have one and get the other as well.  And there is no distinction to be made between what is done in the body and what is done with the spirit.   “Attending to earthly business” cannot be separated from attending to heavenly business, no matter what the arena.

Jon  

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