came back here until five years later. Not a single person set foot on this very property until Ash Wednesday 2022. When you do come back, what would your church look like after five years of no upkeep?
This gives you some idea of the state of the Temple in Jerusalem when the prophet Joel was a young man. (Joel 2: 12-18) Many years of misuse and disuse had caused Solomon’s once magnificent structure to look more like a building in the slums rather than in the upscale section of Jerusalem. Then, there was a turnaround. At some point, this dilapidated building was cleaned up and refurbished. Remodeling was done, all the debris was cleared away, offerings and sacrifices were restored and temple life returned to normal. Well, it returned almost to normal!
been much change in the people on the inside. Joel prophesies: “Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God.”
What the Israelites needed to know then—and what we need to know now—is that the Lord wasn’t looking for an outer change as much as He was looking for an inner one. This is why our Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday every year. God is calling us to come back with a total commitment to living life with Him. He is not talking about part time encounters. He’s not talking about occasional drop-ins. He’s not talking about using Him only as a crisis hotline. He is asking for our
total commitment to Him—because He has never stopped giving His total commitment to us!
If God had not given us all that we needed, we would not know how to turn away from God. But because He has done so much for us; because He has provided for us, even when we didn’t ask for it; because He has blessed us, even when we didn’t bother to say “Thank ya,” we have every reason to get back to God! This is what repentance is all about. It’s turning ourselves around and getting back to God for all that God does right!
We will do some fasting from certain foods during Lent. Let us also consider the fact that it is as important to control what comes out of our mouths as it is to control what goes into our mouths. Consider this! Let us start fasting from foul language. The air around us in full of it — and it’s not just on the Jerry Springer talk shows. We can get it in movies, in rap songs, in novels, in magazine articles and in some everyday conversations. We can even hear of children speaking it imitating our adults.
Consider this! Let us keep judgments of others from spilling out of our mouths. Imagine what a challenge it may be for some to commit to a full day of not passing judgment of anyone else they might meet or hear about. Let us make no judgments about other people: about their motives, their goodness and badness, their social standing, their defects, their clothes, their color, their jobs, their mistakes or just because! Let us commit to seeing everyone as God’s children— the ones Jesus Christ died for—fellow pilgrims on the same journey with us.
Consider this! Let us fast from verbal negatives that slip so easily out of our mouths. Let us start a fast—not just from the hate language but also from the put-downs, the jabs that hurt, the insults, the criticism, the condemnations, the sarcasm, the harmful gossip and the vicious rumors. Sounds like a tall order?
Thus says the Lord: “Return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and
mourning; rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God.”