Dear Church Family,
I want to share a portion of scripture with you;
Yet even now," declares the Lord, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13 and rend your hearts and not your garments." Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. 14 Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God? 15 Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; 16 gather the people. Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber. 17 Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep and say, "Spare your people, O Lord, and make not your heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?'" -ESV
Considering the spiritual and cultural crossroads that we find ourselves at as a nation, state, and community, we feel the urging of God’s Spirit to call for a time of consecration and prayer.
Traditionally, the Catholic Church and some Protestant Denominations take the 46 days (40, not including Sundays) prior to Easter as a time of self-denial, moderation, reflection, and prayer. The beginning of the time called “Lent” is known as “Ash Wednesday.” During Ash Wednesday services worshippers would have ashes applied to their foreheads in the shape of a cross. The ashes were from the burning of the Palm Fronds that were used in the previous year’s Palm Sunday services in celebration of Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The ashes were an outward sign of one’s observance of Lent.
Ironically, just prior to Lent, there developed a season of celebration and merriment culminating in “Mardi Gras,” which is French for “Fat Tuesday.” This became a time of excess, feasting, and partying prior to a time of moderation and consecration. Sadly, the celebrations often devolved into debauchery, gluttony, and bingeing in sin prior to a time of turning to God. Doesn’t that sound odd? I struggle to believe God would advise me to cast off self-control to overindulge in gluttony and drunkenness in order to enter a period of consecration.
Nowhere in scripture are these practices instituted for the church, although times of prayer and consecration are certainly to be a central part of the church.
I say this to encourage us all in our preparation for our announced time of prayer and consecration. We are not taking this time as a religious ceremonial practice. This should not be approached as a “time out” from our normal life, to seek God and then to go back to how we were, but rather an intentional time of humility, repentance, and prayer to usher in change, healing, growth, and a better, new normal.
We need God. Our Nation needs God. Our families need God. Our culture needs God. He is our hope. With this in mind, let us consider how we should fervently seek Him.
Loving you all,