"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-
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... Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast!" Joel 2:1-2, 12-15a
The trumpet sounds, the people are called to respond. We are called each year, on Ash Wednesday, to respond to the call to set these 40 days apart; to make these days a tithe of our year. 40 in Biblical language means "just long enough". Our season of Lent, we pray, will be just long enough for God to do in us what God desires to do. Lent is a time for returning our hearts and our minds fully to the Lord. On Ash Wednesday, we begin by being invited to fast. FAST.... you may say, isn't that a Catholic thing? Sorry, but actually Methodists traditionally fasted both Wednesdays and Fridays especially during LENT. Catholics only fast on Fridays. Ahhh.... this is sounding hard. Fasting is not an outward show or an obligation. If it becomes that Jesus says its worthless. Rather fasting means setting time apart. Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness fasting before he began his ministry. Fasting most often means going without food. If you are physically able to fast by giving up lunch on Wednesdays I encourage you to do so. Fasting can also mean giving up other things which distract us from the Lord. Perhaps a technology fast, tv fast, facebook fast, sex fast, or gossip fast would help to eliminate the distractions in your life. Giving up food (or something else meaningful) does help to center us in a few special ways...
1. You are taking action to "decide to fast"- this means you are reminding yourself that you have the power to choose your actions.
2. You are setting time apart for a spiritual purpose. I try to begin and end my fast with a time of prayer to center myself and invite God to be present during the day.
A fast can also be enhanced by reading scripture during normal "food break" times.
3. When your stomach growls you remember that you are "flesh" and that God provides your every need.
4. When you get faint and your stomach growls louder you think of the masses who do not have the choice to go without food, and you resolve to live lighter so that you can have more to give to the poor.
5. You may experience Spiritual breakthroughs. Biblical characters often fasted when they were in need of God's action or wisdom. The fast keeps us focused on listening for God's voice.
6. At the end of your fast, you will be so happy to eat. The food taken for granted on Tuesday becomes a momentous occasion on Wednesday evening.
This Ash Wednesday we hope to see you at one of our services. The traditional service will be held at New Market UMC at 7:30pm. Brief services with ashes will be held at 1pm at Mt. Carmel. Come early to the Mt. Carmel services to get a spot in the lot!
For your prayers:
On this Holy Day pray that God will reveal to you what "fast" you can keep which will help you to grow in your relationship with God.
Invite God to reveal to you any sin which needs to be abandoned as you embark on this holy journey. Ask for God's strength to cast out this sin from your life.
Invite God's grace to convince you that all the sin of the past is forgiven so that you can embrace today as a redeemed child of God.
Pray for all those in our church family who are sick and struggling with the flu and other illness.
Pray especially for the health of those going on our mission next week that they will be healthy for work and travel.
Pray for those who are recovering from surgery, recovering from illness, and grieving loss.
Pray for the Mt. Carmel parking lot project and the workers.