Between the Altar and the Porch

That is what the Lord says, “turn to me now, while there is time.

Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping and mourning.

Don’t tear your clothing, tear your hearts instead.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish. But who knows? Perhaps he will give you a reprieve, sending you a blessing instead of this curse.

Perhaps you will be able to offer grain and wine to the Lord your God as before. Blow the ram’s horn in Jerusalem! Announce a time of fasting;

call the people together for a solemn meeting. Gather all the people – the elders, the children, and even the babies. Call the bridegroom from his quarters and the bride from her private room.

Let the priests, who minister in the Lord’s presence, stand and weep between the entry room to the Temple and the altar. Let them pray,

“spare your people, Lord! Don’t let your special possession become an object of mockery. Don’t let them become a joke for unbelieving foreigners who say, ‘ has the God of Israel left them?'”  – Joel 2:12-17

In Solomon’s Temple, between the altar and the porch was an open space where the High Priests would come and kneel before the Lord, to purify themselves before entering the place where God’s glory lived. In that space they would pray and they would weep, and then purified by their tears, they would enter that holiest of places, and wait for God.

The space between the altar and the porch is sacred ground where we wait, in darkness and we pray for light.

We are faced with the daily task of looking for God in our sorrows. We wait in uncertainty and we pray for meaning and purpose.

We wait for God between the altar and the porch,

Between sickness and health,

Between despair and hope,

Between darkness and light.

And in this space, in the waiting, by our prayers and through our tears we are purified as God draws us near.

A Benediction:

As you begin your Lenten journey, remember the God you wait and long for. With eyes on the hope ahead, remember the purifying grace of the present.

May your tears be always comforted, your sorrows always soothed, and may you find peace in every day encounters with God between the altar and the porch.


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