We’re having a potluck of sorts after worship this coming Sunday. We’re celebrating our newest members as well as having an early celebration of the Reformation, the 500th anniversary of it. We’re not fasting to commemorate these events, we’re feasting. This is just another evidence in something that I have known for a while, Lutherans are bad at fasting.
This past Sunday we confessed the following about the Sacrament of the Altar:
Who receives this sacrament worthily?
Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training. But that person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” But anyone who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared, for the words “for you” require all hearts to believe.
Because we’re bad at fasting, we sort of scratch our heads when Luther says “fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training.” It’s as if he’s speaking to Roman Catholics (which he sort of is) or Pentecostals or maybe even Episcopalians, but … Lutherans? surely not Lutherans. We have no idea what a fast is, unless you’re talking about that thing that we do before the doctor’s office sends orders for a certain type of blood work.
And maybe that’s the effect of 500 years of reformed theology. Reformed theology is “re-formed” around the word of Scripture and so since the disciples don’t seem to have fasted before the Passover meal that became the Last Supper, then we don’t see why we should fast before the Lord’s Supper. Jesus didn’t say to them, “Hey, I’m going to feed you My Body and My Blood, so don’t eat anything before hand.” He just gave it to them. He even gave it to them in the context of a feast, not of a fast. (Although you may wonder about the “feast” quality of a wafer and a thimble full of Manischewitz.)
Jesus knows that it isn’t bodily training that makes you worthy to take His Body and Blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins, it’s belief training. It isn’t what you eat or what you don’t eat that prepares you for the table, it’s faith. Maybe that’s why He offers us something so audacious in this meal. He offers us His Body and His Blood. If you think about it, that’s something shocking, something that requires faith. He doesn’t say, eat some bread and some wine and it will forgive your sins. He says, take, eat, this is My Body and take, drink, this is My Blood. You have to have faith to swallow that, literally. You have to have faith to say, “This is Him, right here, in my hands.”
Which is perhaps a good reason not to fast. After all, Jesus when He was with His disciples said that His disciples didn’t fast because it was not right to fast while the Bridegroom was with them. He IS with us in the Sacrament. And being a sacramental people, maybe that’s why we’re so bad at fasting – we know that Jesus is here.