“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to Me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing — grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord your God.
Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the portico and the altar. Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” Joel 2:12-17
“Possess your souls in tears, and stay His wrath by amending your way of life. Sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly, as blessed Joel with us charges you: gather the elders…
Come then, all of you, my brethren, let us worship and fall down, and weep before the Lord our Maker; let us appoint a public mourning, in our various ages and families, let us raise the voice of supplication…
Let this, instead of the cry which He hates, enter into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. Let us anticipate His anger by confession; let us desire to see Him appeased, after He was wroth. Who knoweth, he says, if He will turn and repent, and leave a blessing behind Him?
This I know certainly, I the sponsor of the loving-kindness of God. And when He has laid aside that which is unnatural to Him, His anger, He will betake Himself to that which is natural, His mercy. To the one He is forced by us, to the other He is inclined.
And if He is forced to strike, surely He will refrain, according to His Nature. Only let us have mercy on ourselves, and open a road for our Father’s righteous affections. Let us sow in tears, that we may reap in joy, let us show ourselves men of Nineveh, not of Sodom.
Let us amend our wickedness, lest we be consumed with it; let us listen to the preaching of Jonah, lest we be overwhelmed by fire and brimstone, and if we have departed from Sodom let us escape to the mountain, let us flee to Zoar, let us enter it as the sun rises; let us not stay in all the plain, let us not look around us, lest we be frozen into a pillar of salt, a really immortal pillar, to accuse the soul which returns to wickedness.”
Gregory of Nazianzus (329-390) in Oration 16.13-14 “On His Father’s Silence, Because of the Plague of Hail.” in Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory Nazianzen, edited by Philip Schaff (New York: Christian Literature Publishing, 1893).
Gregory is the second of the three Cappadocian Fathers. Yesterday we heard from Gregory of Nyssa. Tomorrow we will hear from Basil the Great of Caesarea.
Today’s post relates to generosity in this way. In times of crisis, God’s workers must serve as “the sponsor of the loving-kindness of God” for those they serve. We do this by leading people to pray, fast, and confess to call for the mercy of God lest our wickedness consume us.
Whom do you serve? How might this posture impact them?
This is not about manipulating God. It’s about taking a proper humble posture to “open a road for our Father’s righteous affections” toward us. Generously serve your people in this way. Do it. Who knows, God may again leave a blessing behind him?