Weekly Devotional

Breaking the Law

Reflection by Liz Garrigan Byerly

At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.


Every Lent, I have some form of fast. I find that yearly fast to be one my most powerful spiritual practices. Last year I gave up all sugar. It was a challenge for someone with a sweet tooth like mine, but I was faithful to that practice until one night in March.

A 45-year-old member of my congregation, father of two and prominent leader in the town, had been murdered while on vacation. That night, the church hosted a reception that went on for five hours while people poured into the church to share their sorrow and grief and be together. The cookies and sweet breads poured in too; people wanted to do something and baking was something.

About two hours into the reception, I gave in and ate a cookie, then another, and another (and some zucchini bread too).  I had forgotten to pack a dinner and needed some sustenance for the evening ahead. But more than that, I needed to break bread with people. I needed to join them in their lament and be with them in their ponderings—“How could this happen? What do I tell my children? I’ve never thought about my own mortality before and now I am scared.” We needed to gather together like the disciples did on that last night and eat together.

Sometimes what is most faithful is to “break the law.” There are many reasons to fast in Lent—to practice the discipline required for the life of faith; to embody a spiritual longing for God; to heighten the contrast with the feast of Easter. Breaking sweet bread with other mourners fulfilled each of those reasons better than sticking to my Lenten fast. And more importantly, it gave us all a chance to taste the sweetness of God’s promises together, something we all desperately needed.

Prayer: O God, may we never be so set in our spiritual disciplines that we miss the gift of your grace. Amen.

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