March 29th 2020
On February 26th, Vice President Mike Pence accepted his appointment to lead the government's coronavirus response task force. That was the day the coronavirus went from a growing news story to the dominant news story.
The press mocked Pence for it. They dug up a story from 2015, when Pence prayed against the spread of HIV while governor of Indiana. According to some, his humble prayers mean that he is not fit to lead during a crisis. By their analysis, prayer is something to scorn, not celebrate.
February 26th was not an arbitrary day. It was Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent on the Christian liturgical calendar. It is fitting that Vice President Pence is well known as a man of prayer. At the core, it demonstrates a choice we all need to make.
Will we be people who pray, or not?
We may not have planned to give up toilet paper, restaurants, and shopping for Lent, but here we are. If people will not choose to humble themselves before God, then he will do it for them. The knees will bend, whether voluntarily or involuntarily.
[Ron: I disagree. God doesn't humble us, we humble ourselves through our egocentricities, false judgments and inappropriate thoughts and actions.].
Are we a country that repents, humbles ourselves under God, and prays, or are we a country of entitlement, greed, and selfishness?
Historically, Lent is a time for repentance. Repentance is a change in direction. It does not merely mean feeling remorse and regret. It means feeling those things and taking corrective action in a new direction. It is a U-turn, not simple regret along the way.
When you change your direction, you change your destination.
We are a nation that needs to decide its direction.
In our church we spent January and February focused on our direction. We centered on the Biblical principle of consecration. Consecration is Lent. It is giving up everything for a period of time and dedicating it to God. Anything that gets in the way needs to be purged. Any direction that leads to the wrong destination needs to be changed.
[Ron: Seeking to follow the message of Christ Jesus 'to love neighbour AS self FOR the love of God' is a full time commitment, not something you do for "Lent".].
Biblically speaking, consecration is always followed by powerful acts of God. In the book of Exodus, God's people consecrate themselves and a few days later they meet God at Mt. Sinai. In the book of Joshua they consecrate themselves before crossing the Jordan River into the land of Israel.
[Ron: The Old Testament is NOT the teachings of Jesus and the valid parts of the Torah were essentially plagiarised from older spiritual beliefs by Levites who concocted the Troah as a political ideology to control and ecploit primitive tribal people in Judea. The Old teastament should not have been included in the Bible. It was included by Pharisees who influenced Roman emperors to establish the Christian religion in an effort to eradicate Jesus' divine teachings. See eg: Judaism and Christianity - Two Thousand Years of Lies - 60 Years of State Terrorism - http://abundanthope.net/pages/Political_Information_43/Judaism-and-Christianity---Two-Thousand-Years-of-Lies---60-Years-of-State-Terrorism.shtml].
Lent is another word for the same idea. Historically, Lent has always been a 40-day period that precedes Holy Week and Resurrection Sunday. It is a time that is designated for fasting and repenting of sin. Right now everyone in the USA has been forced into some form of fasting.
But are we repentant of sin, [Ron: ie our moral errors] or are we just sitting on edge?
Lent is followed by resurrection, but rebellion is followed by judgement. We have a choice to make. Lent will be over soon.
On one side is humility. This side is characterized by fear of God and prayer. President Trump declared a National Day of Prayer on Sunday March 15. Vice President Pence is known for his faith as well, and his appointment on Ash Wednesday was symbolic, though probably unintentional.
The other side is secular. On this side there is no lasting repentance under God. This is the side that fears things of this world more than its creator. It is the side that excuses sin, mocks those who pray, and trusts in experts and governments to fix problems that experts and governments created.
After repentance there is resurrection. But after rebellion there is judgement.
Was the National Day of Prayer on March 15 real? Did people pray the next day, and the day after? Lent is a 40-day process. Repentance is a changed life, not a brief pause.
We need to be a people defined by daily prayer, not a day of prayer.
We need to humble ourselves before God and repent. We are a nation that consumes pornography voraciously, that wastes money selfishly, that kills babies proudly, that divorces constantly, that celebrates sin, mocks righteousness, and demands handouts without work. We are a nation that has not even met our neighbors, that spreads slander and gossip all day long, that prefers to trust in so-called "experts" more than God, and fears and worries about everything under the sun except the one who created the Sun with a word and holds it in his hand.
These things are called rebellion. After rebellion comes judgement.
We need to repent. After repentance comes resurrection.
Everything in which Americans place their trust vanished in the past month. Every American privilege that we held as an entitlement is gone, and given up for Lent. We are the most powerful nation in the history of the [Ron: known] world, and now we see how fragile we are. We boast of our economy, and it fell through the floor. We boast of our hospitals, and now fear a plague. We boast of our freedom, and we are locked in our homes. We boast of our military, and it cannot stop a microscopic organism. We boast of our athletes, and their tournaments have been cancelled. We boast of our education, and our schools are closed. We boast of our prosperity, and the grocery stores are empty and we cry for more.
We have a choice. Will we humble ourselves before God, or will we grasp and fight to get back our entitlements that were never real in the first place?
When others are selfish, we need to be sharing. When others are looking after themselves, we need to be checking with our neighbors. When sports are cancelled, we need our churches to stream online. When schools are closed, we need parents to take responsibility for the next generation. When the economy fails, we need to lift each other up and stop praying to the government for handouts. When businesses close, we need to start our own. When a crisis hits, we need to pray instead of worshipping experts. When someone sneezes, we need to offer a tissue instead of running away. We need to fear God and fear nothing else.
These are things we need to be doing anyway, whether there is a crisis or not.
If we are repentant we will remain so when the crisis ends, and this nation will be a powerful, resurrected force of righteousness such as the world has never seen.
There is still time to repent. If the faithful ones persevere and build their trust in God, we will see a greater resurrection this year than anything in living memory. As suddenly as this crisis appeared it will disappear, and the world will know that there is a God who hears the prayers of the humble.
I believe the starting point of this resurrection will occur on the weekend of Good Friday through Resurrection Sunday, and churches that open will be full. The humility, prayers, and practices we learn in the meantime will carry us to a greater future.
But if we remain on a course of rebellion we will face a judgement far worse than what we have ever seen so far.
We have a choice to make.
[Colour fonts, bolding and comments in squate brackets added,].
T.S. Weidler is a pastor in central Pennsylvania.