Weekly Bulletin

Reflection for Sunday June 9, 2024 Worship Sharing – Below

 —No Intercession Salad supper (cook out of town)
–Welcome Class Bible study, 7:00 PM by Zoom
–Fabulous Friends/Parsonage classes Zoom, 8:15 PM

SUNDAY June 16   
–Father’s Day Meeting for Worship-Sharing, 10:00 AM, both in person at the meetinghouse and by Zoom
–Community Food Pantry Sunday (3rd Sunday each month)
–Trustees, Missions & Social Concerns meetings postponed 
to June 23 due to Father’s Day
MONDAY June 17  
–Book Discussion Group, 7:30 PM by Zoom
CARDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT and appreciation for Carolyn Dwiggins (friend of Friends in SC), Mary Curtis (Pam Ferguson’s mother in ID), Rhonda Scofield (our Zoom pianist in KS), and several other Zoom and local Friends are on the table at the parlor entrance.  The USFW welcomes everyone to sign the cards today to let those Friends know they are in our thoughts and on our hearts this week.  Thanks!
THE WELCOME CLASS BIBLE STUDY will meet this Wednesday June 12 at 7:00 PM by Zoom to study Lesson 13 (“Contend for the Faith,” drawn from Jude 1-25) in the Illuminate quarterly.  All are welcome — request a quarterly and/or the Zoom link from the church office.
READ THROUGH THE BIBLE IN 2024:  This week’s chapters are  Ecclesiastes 1-12, Song of Songs 1-8, and I Kings 5-7.  The year’s daily reading schedule is on the parlor table.
AN OFFERING PLATE to receive contributions for Winchester Friends’ ministries is located on the table at the sanctuary parlor entrance.  Thank you for your faithful support of the Lord’s work through our church.
JUNE’s TRUSTEES and MISSIONS & SOCIAL CONCERNS committee meetings have been postponed until  Sunday June 23 to keep next Sunday free for families’ Father’s Day celebrations.
THE BOOK DISCUSSION GROUP is now reading short stories by Alice Munro for discussion on Monday evening June 17 at 7:30 PM by Zoom.  Two books of her short stories are available for loan from the church — check the southwest parlor table, or contact Pam Ferguson to locate one.
THANK YOU to Karen and Norm Peters and Kendra Holliger for their work cleaning up the Compassion Garden around the parking lot this week!  The garden is getting a fallow year this summer to renew the soil and improve weed control.
PENNIES FROM HEAVEN $10 bills are available to Friends willing to carry them until led by the Spirit to share it with someone needing a bit of help and a reminder of God’s love.  See Ron Ferguson to obtain one.
PILL BOTTLE COLLECTION:  The Missions & Social Concerns Committee is collecting plastic pill containers for Matthew 25 Ministries, an Ohio agency serving overseas medical missions.  Pick up an information/instruction sheet from the west parlor table, and place donated bottles in the collection basket.
JUNE LUNCHEON:  There will be a mostly-musical meeting for worship at Winchester Friends on June 30, followed by a church potluck dinner to celebrate Father’s Day (belatedly) and Independence Day (a few days early).  Please plan to attend!


Winchester Friends Church           765-584-8276
124 E. Washington St.      Winchester, IN  47394
                                                Reflection for Sunday June 9, 2024 Worship Sharing
GOD said to Moses: “The tenth day of the seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly, fast, and offer a gift by fire to GOD.  Don’t work on that day because it is a day of atonement to make atonement for you before your GOD…. It is a Sabbath of complete and total rest, a fast day.         Leviticus 23:26-28,32  (The Message)
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them.  If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven….  When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.          Matthew 6:1, 16-18
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.      I Corinthians 9:25
Hidden in Plain View:  Fasting
As we’ve already seen in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his listeners in Matthew 5:20 that to enter the kingdom of heaven, their righteousness must surpass that of their official religious teachers.  He said that the selfish, harmful inner motivations – not just the outward actions – of murder, adultery, broken covenants, revenge, and hatred of adversaries would have to be cleansed from their souls.  He taught them that true righteousness is only possible when outward compliance with the Law arises out of that replacement of sinful motives with inward devotion to God.  As Matthew 6 begins, Jesus then issued a general warning against the selfish pretense of performing outward acts of righteousness to be seen by other people in order to get praise for oneself.  He gave three specific examples they all had seen in the Pharisees and scribes of that quest for the acclaim of others – their prideful, public giving of alms to the poor and tithes to the temple treasury; their pompous, wordy praying in the temple and out in public; and their extra efforts to make sure people knew when they were fasting for religious reasons.
We all have probably had those days when we awaken feeling unwell or we haven’t slept well, and when we meet people while in that shape, they say (or at least think), “Are you OK?  You look terrible.”  Our face may be unwashed, our hair askew, our eyes puffy or droopy, our expression downcast.  They are visible signs that something isn’t quite right.  As his third example of “righteousness” performed to gain people’s praise, Jesus cited the religious teachers who went out of their way on fasting days to make themselves look like that.  They needed everyone to know they were feeling hunger’s discomfort by following the Law and the rabbis’ teachings.  It had little to do with devotion and obedience to God, but everything to do with selfish pride and reputation.
Does Fasting Really Matter?     People often ask why fasting was one of those three examples Jesus gave.  Unlike giving and praying, it’s not usually something to be done at church.  Most of the time, we feast, not fast.  Bible scholars point out that the only fast actually mandated in the Old Testament Law is the one which is part of the Hebrews’ annual Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27) as an expression of sorrow for sins.  By the time of Jesus 1400 years later, various rabbis and teachers had added other required fasting days to their definition of righteousness.  In Jesus’ parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14), the proud Pharisee checked all three boxes.  He was at the temple praying, and he bragged to God about tithing ten percent of his income and fasting two days each week.  In contrast, John the Baptist’s followers came to Jesus (Matthew 9:14ff) specifically to ask why he and his disciples didn’t regularly fast.  Jesus answered with the illustration of new wine and wineskins to teach that his disciples would indeed practice fasting in their spiritual lives, but at the prompting of the living Holy Spirit, not as a rigid legal ritual.  
             Jesus is his own best example of what he meant.  After his baptism by John in the Jordan River, Jesus was “led by the Spirit into the desert” to be tested and trained for the ministry he came to earth to fulfill (Matthew 4:1-11).  The experience began with a 40-day fast (close to the human survival limit in sub-optimal conditions).  The very first temptation Satan then threw at him was to satisfy his physical hunger by using power over the Creation to turn stones into bread.  After that came temptations to use spiritual power to force God to save him, then to accept socio-political power in exchange for his soul.  To each offer, Jesus answered with eternal Truth which negated Satan’s attack and caused him to depart.  His fasting and prayer in the wilderness equipped Jesus to confront the most powerful basic temptations humans ever face, and to emerge victoriously enabled to announce and reveal the Kingdom of God.
Why Don’t Christians Fast?      When our Friend Richard Foster was doing research for his 1978 devotional classic Celebration of Discipline, he wrote that he could not find even one book published between 1861 and 1954 about fasting.  He cited two likely reasons for that gap.  First, emphasis on inner spiritual life waned among Christians during those years, and strict outward legalism took its place.  People reacted strongly against excessive fasting and other harsh treatment of the body, and fasting was largely abandoned.  Second, Foster pointed to “the landscape dotted with shrines to Golden Arches and an assortment of Pizza Temples,” and to the deluge of food advertising, as reasons people think fasting is “out of step with the times.”  Twenty years ago, our Meeting sponsored the “Fast Once A Month” project among area Friends to encourage prayer and fasting for the end of war and hunger.  At that time, people with chronic blood sugar problems let us know it was probably unwise and could be harmful to them to fast — and that is certainly a legitimate reason to abstain.   In more recent years, there has been a bit of renewed interest in fasting, but its motives tend to be more medical and social than spiritual.  It remains little wonder that our culture encourages the belief that indulging every human appetite is a positive virtue, and fasting is its opposite.
Why Would Christians Fast?      There are many reasons for us to practice this discipline.  As with giving and prayer, Jesus said in Matthew 6 “when you fast,” not “if you fast.”  He expected his disciples would do so after he returned to the Father (Matt. 9:16,17).  By his example, he taught them that voluntary sacrifice and voluntary suffering were part of God’s agape, the love they were to have for him, for one another, and for their neighbors.
             Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in Cost of Discipleship that Christians need to learn spiritual fasting because self-control and self-discipline are such important parts of true discipleship, and without them it is difficult to train to serve Christ well.  Sinclair Ferguson concurs, writing that Jesus assumed his disciples would show an increasing mastery of their own desires, and that requires intentional effort.  Ferguson stressed that such discipline is not legalistic compliance, but rather eternal freedom from bondage to fleeting worldly pleasure.  In Celebration, Foster made a similar statement that part of the value of fasting is its ability to reveal the things that control us.  
             When Pam and I taught a relationship class to sixth graders many years ago, we always told the kids that scientists say our strongest biological drive is for survival, meaning air to breathe, water to drink, and food to eat.  The second strongest drive is for procreation.  It stands to reason that learning to discipline the strongest drive should help us control that second-strongest one and others too.  That strikes me as a message our culture really needs to hear.
             In Sermon on the Mount, Clarence Jordan pointed out that the original motive for fasting on the Day of Atonement was the people’s deep sorrow upon realizing their own sinfulness, its effect on their relationship with Yahweh, and sin’s impact on everything and everyone around them.  It has been my personal experience that such sorrow robs me of my appetite for a time, and fasting occurs then as a natural result.  Jordan also wrote that he thinks the word “fast” came to be used as it is because God saw all the worldly distractions and impediments that slowed down people’s access to the good things he had prepared for them.  He wanted them to remove and withdraw from those worldly influences so they could “faster” receive his blessing, gifts, and instruction.
             Richard Foster lists a number of incidents in scripture in which God’s people fasted when faced with a crisis they didn’t know how to deal with (Joel 2:15, Jehoshaphat in II Chron. 20:1-4, Ezra 8:21-23).  Before risking her life to ask her king to stop the planned genocide of the Hebrews in Susa, Queen Esther asked Mordecai to have the people fast for three days and nights in supplication to God for her success – and the Israelites were saved. 
             In our Fast Once A Month project, participants are asked to skip a meal, offer its cost to a hunger relief agency, advocate for compassionate public policy, and to pray for the hungry.  Fasting from that meal helps the participant to show solidarity and compassion – to “feel with” – people who are hungry. 
             When his disciples were unable to exorcise a particularly aggressive evil spirit from a young boy (Mark 9:17ff), Jesus cast it out of the boy and restored his health.  The disciples asked Jesus why they had not been able to accomplish the healing, and some early biblical translations report that Jesus replied, “this kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.”  More modern translations omit “and fasting.”  Whether or not Jesus included fasting in that statement, he knew from experience that combining the two spiritual disciplines was exceptionally powerful in confronting the forces of evil. 
It Doesn’t Have to be Food      I have thought a lot over the years about the people whose health prevents them from spiritual fasting, wondering what alternatives we could suggest.  The more I think about it, the more I see that we all should consider fasting from a lot of benign or even good things which can so easily limit or crowd out devoted discipleship from our lives.  We all would probably benefit spiritually and in daily practical ways if we fasted regularly from some entertainments, from social media, fossil fuel use, consumption of things we want but honestly don’t need, and the “noise” of modern life.  How might your spiritual life improve if you fasted from the need for the approval of others?  How might our souls benefit if we fasted from our need to get our own way?  All of those things can be obstacles which block the Spirit’s access to our hearts, minds, and souls.  They should not control our friendship with the Lord.  We should control them.
Only For the Right Reason      It is important in closing to say again that Jesus’ main purpose for addressing giving, prayer, and fasting as a “package” in the Sermon was to contrast the religious teachers’ flamboyant, attention-seeking practices with the humble hiddenness God desired.  As stressed in previous devotionals, unless we are hermits, we often will be seen or heard giving, praying, and fasting, and it can be a beautiful prophetic witness of Christ’s life in us.  The caution of Jesus in Matthew 6:1 is about our motive – we must never do those things for the purpose of being seen by people.  If we do, their fleeting acknowledgment or praise is the only reward we’ll ever receive.  In contrast, giving, praying, and fasting for the Lord, and only for him, carries blessings and rewards that are both immediate and eternal.  In grateful love for his salvation and his acceptance of us as his children, let’s learn to live every moment for Christ, and only for him.
–Ron Ferguson, 9 June 2024
Queries for Worship-Sharing and Reflection
1)  Why do you think spiritual fasting is now considered “out of step with the times” by so many people, even Christians?
2)  Why is disciplined fasting a good preparation and training for a life of daily ministry for us, as it was for Jesus?
3)  What other things, besides those listed in the next to last paragraph, might be wise to fast from for our spiritual health?
4)  Why is it essential that spiritual fasting be grounded in, and give expression to, God’s sacrificial agape love?