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Spiritual Spring Training - The Great Fast

This sermon/lesson is in outline form to allow the priest / presenter to offer it in an extemporaneous manner. The objective of this sermon is to have the children realize that the Great Fast not just a set of rules about food or about “giving up something for Lent,” But rather that it is about taking control of all aspects of our lives as we strive to grow closer to God and understand His will for us.

I. Does anyone like sports? Does anyone know what starts this month for baseball players?

A. Spring Training begins

  1. Players go to Florida or Arizona to get back in to shape for the baseball season
  2. Many of them, though they are athletes have put on weight and gotten out of shape

B. We in the Orthodox Church are also starting something this month

  1. Does anyone know what it is? (Great Lent)
  2. Is this like Spring Training for Christians?
  3. As Christians, how do we get out of shape? ( lax in our prayer life, church attendance, participating in the sacraments, etc ).
  4. What do we do during Great Lent to get back into shape as Christians? – focus on the fundamentals. On the first day of practice, well-known NBA coach Pat Riley would make his players tie their shoes in order to remind them of the fundamentals. We also need to go back to the fundamentals of living our faith

a. Confession

b. Church Attendance – more services in which to participate

c. Prayer

e. More frequent Communion

f. Almsgiving - explain that greater acts of charity are expected of us

g. Fasting

II. Today we're going to focus on Fasting

A. What is fasting? – Most likely the children will make a reference to “giving up some specific foods”

B. When we think of Lent, our mind goes to those foods that we are not allowed to eat.

  1. Fasting from foods is important
  2. It is important to keep the fast with our entire body .

C. Lent is a time for self-examination and self-denial – a time for taking control of our lives and our bodies.

  1. The purpose of the fast is to give us a greater awareness of our dependence on God.
  2. Fasting reminds us that there is more to life than just the physical.

III. But Great Lent is not just fasting from food.

A. We fast not only from what food goes in our mouth , but also from the words that come out of our mouth.

B. We also fast with our eyes, our ears, our hands and our feet.

  1. A time to take control of our lives – what we listen to, what we look at,
  2. A time to improve ourselves,
  3. A time to simplify our lives
  4. A time to focus on our relationship with God.
C. This is why Jesus connected fasting to prayer and helping the poor
  1. Lent is a time for greater works of charity.
  2. A time for visiting the sick and assisting to the poor
  3. It is in general a time of a more joyful relationship with those who are close to us – our family and friends.

IV. St. John Chrysostom gives us the following instruction on fasting

A. Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works.

B. If you see a poor man, take pity on him.

C. If you see a friend being honored, do not envy him.

D. Do not let only your mouth fast, but also the eye and the ear and the feet and the hands and all the members of our bodies.

E. Let the hands fast, by being free of avarice (greed).

F. Let the feet fast, by ceasing to run after sin.

G. Let the eyes fast, by disciplining them not to glare at that which is sinful.

H. Let the ear fast, by not listening to evil talk and gossip.

I. Let the mouth fast from foul words and unjust criticism.

J. For what good is it if we abstain from birds and fishes, but bite and devour our brothers ?

V. As Archbishop Demetrios has said in preparation for Great Lent, “May each of us continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of God as we reflect during this time upon His love, peace, and promise of life.”

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