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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, February 22, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading | Joel 2:1–2, 12–17

Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near— a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness spread upon the mountains a great and powerful army comes; their like has never been from of old, nor will be again after them in ages to come.

Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. 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? Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her canopy. Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep. Let them say, “Spare your people, O Lord, and do not make your heritage a mockery, a byword among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” (NRSV)

In 2016, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) did something rather surprising in our society. The church offered a heartfelt apology. The Assembly repudiated a theology that did profound damage to Native American peoples and to our understanding of faithful stewardship of the earth. Called the Doctrine of Discovery, this theological viewpoint had its origins in Catholic and Protestant sanction of European colonization of the Americas. In church-related documents, it falsely claimed divine approval of the forced conversion of Native American peoples and the confiscation of their lands by Europeans. To apologize for such a history required public lament and mourning over the past and sincere contrition for its negative impact.

The prophetic words of Joel in this passage draw from that same toolkit of repentance before God for great acts of wrongdoing. Joel calls upon the people of God to repent of their wrongful actions through gestures of fasting, weeping, and mourning. These signs served both to acknowledge the pain caused as well as to possibly avert a calamitous divine judgment.

So often in our society we are encouraged to remove pain from our lives at all costs. We use balms and medicines to numb pain in our bodies. We use distractions and aversions to get our minds off of troubling situations. And while such a sabbath can be physically and spirituality useful, the acknowledgement of pain can be useful as well. Joel encourages us to not hide from our past but boldly confess the sins of the past so that genuine healing can occur and new possibilities take root. Might we follow the example of the PC(USA) and let that healing journey begin.

God of the broken-hearted, give us strength to repent of wrongdoing and redeem us as we hold fast to your promise of forgiveness. Amen.

Written by Joseph L. Morrow, Minister for Evangelism

Reflection and Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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