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  • John Bryant

Mark 2:18-22: The Best Feasts Make Us Fast

Updated: Oct 27, 2020

18 Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. 21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”

I write this post the night before a feast. This night I went to Costco to buy quiche, lots of quiche and muffins. I’ve asked people I know, on the street and in the church, to meet me in the morning on a cold October day outside a church parking lot—to eat quiche, to drink coffee and see one another’s faces, and to look at art. After that, we’ll go inside, where a bunch of average sized pumpkins sitting on a giant table wait to be painted. A friend will lead us in the craft of pumpkin painting. Another friend will bring his keyboard and play jazz.

The Lord has asked for me to put tables in strange places, to create reasons to be together in the land of Sin and Death. Tables for quiche, tables for coffee and tables for pumpkins. Tables have a way of letting us know that we are more limited and human than we intended to be. Sitting at a table is a way of being limited and vulnerable--a way of being at the mercy of someone or something--without hating yourself. I don’t know what it is, but to me, Christ seems more possible at tables. You can’t sit at a table and paint a pumpkin without looking forgiven.

The pharisees told Jesus, rightly, that they were in a season of fasting. And Jesus reminds us that fasting is really about eating. Any prayer, any waiting, any fasting, any discipline, is training for a Feast. Longing isn't about longing, it's about what is longed for, waiting isn't about waiting, its about what hasn’t arrived, fasting isn't about going hungry, its about getting better food. Our spiritual disciplines train us for a Feast.

The bridegroom, Christ says, is here. But when He is gone, they (and we) will fast again.

The first appearance of Christ will create a greater fasting, a more poignant waiting, a greater longing.

People, will come tomorrow, eat some food, and see one another. They will, I hope, take joy in sitting next to someone they don’t know and wouldn’t know unless they were painting pumpkins together. My hope is people together, and eating, and seeing one another, will make and mark as incomplete, make us feel oddly like we're all supposed to see each other again, at a date and time we can't quite place but know enough to long for, like we must all meet back again soon at the great feast of Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

My this feast give us real hunger. May old wineskins burst so we can know we're made for new wine.


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