The Shepherd of Hermas: Joy

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“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. Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:16-21

“I said to him, “Lord, I do not know what these parables mean and cannot understand them, unless you explain them to me.” “I will explain everything to you,” he said, “and show you the meaning of everything I tell you. Guard what the Lord commands and you will be accept­ able to him and enrolled among those who keep his commandments. But if you do anything good beyond what God commands, you will be glori­fied even more and even more highly honored before God than you were bound to be.

If, then, you do what God com­mands and perform any of these ser­vices in addition, you will be filled with joy — if you keep them according to my commandment.” I said to him, “Lord, I will guard whatever you command me. For I know you are with me.” “I will be with you,” he said, “because you are so eager to do good; and I will be with everyone who is just as eager. This fast that consists of keeping the Lord’s commandments,” he said, “is very good. And so guard the fast. First of all, be on your guard against every evil word and desire, and cleanse your heart from all the vain affairs of this age. If you guard these things, this fast will be complete.

And act as follows: when you have completed the things that have already been written, taste nothing but bread and water on the day you fast. Then estimate the cost of the food you would have eaten on that day and give that amount to a widow or orphan or someone in need. Be humble in this way, that the one who receives something because of your humility may fill his own soul and pray to the Lord for you.

If then you complete your fast like this, as I have commanded you, your sacrifice will be acceptable before God and the fast will be recorded. The service done in this way will be good and cheer­ful and pleasing to the Lord. Thus you should keep these things, as should your children and your entire household. When you do so, you will be blessed. Everyone who hears these things and keeps them will be blessed, and they will receive whatever they ask from the Lord.”

The Shepherd of Hermas 56. 1-9, Parable V.3 (c. A.D. 70-140) as reported by Bart Ehrman in Lost Scriptures: Books That Did Not Make It Into The New Testament (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003) 273-274.

Jesus instructed us to fast in a way that people cannot tell we are fasting and to store up treasures in heaven rather than on earth.

Hermas echoes this by instructing us to guard and keep the Lord’s commands and even suggests a way to do this as a pathway to joy! It’s simply and practical. Notice he says to fast a day, and give the amount we would have spent on ourselves to others. This reflects the kind of sacrifice Jesus celebrates.

Try it. Consider making your gift to GTP. Our remaining need by 30 June 2024 is $37,096. Click here to give as you are able. And pray for our new Chinese (Haily Chow) and Spanish staff (Javier Espinosa and Lea Peguero). Trevor Lui, Paula Mendoza, and I have meetings with them for orientation and onboarding and to discern direction from the LORD together this week.

We thank God for Peter Fiorello and Black Rock Christian Camp & Retreat Center and ECFA who will host us this week.