February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday

 

Text: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

 

 

          The prophet Joel was active during the time of a terrible locust plague in the land of Judah that was destroying crops and causing a serious food shortage. Joel describes the land, the people, the plant life, the livestock, and even the wild animals as being in terrible distress. This plague was understood to be a judgment from the Lord, for Joel, speaking on God’s behalf, calls on the people to return to God with all their hearts, with fasting, weeping, and sorrow, because the Lord is merciful, compassionate, patient, forgiving, and full of faithful love.

          Now we don’t generally deal with locust plagues. Further, most of us don’t usually look upon disasters, whether natural or human-caused, as signs of divine judgment. But there are things that plague our world. Our world is plagued with violence, hatred, incivility, greed, injustice, and many other evils. Many times we are actually part of these plagues, either through active participation or quiet acquiescence. These plagues have the tendency to draw us away from God.

          So, as we enter into Lent, hear again God’s invitation:

“Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your hearts, with fasting, with weeping, and with sorrow; tear your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, very patient, full of faithful love, and ready to forgive.” Or as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians, “Since we work together with him, we are also begging you not to receive the grace of God in vain. He says, ‘I listened to you at the right time, and I helped you on the day of salvation.’ Look, now is the right time! Look, now is the day of salvation!”

          Now. Not later. Now. After all, tomorrow is not guaranteed to us. God invites us now to turn away from the evils that plague our lives and the world, to turn away from our active and/or passive participation in them, and to turn to him for forgiveness and reconciliation. We turn to him that we may be like him in our living—that we may be merciful, compassionate, patient, faithful, loving, and forgiving in our dealings with all others.

          God has issued the invitation, and requests an RSVP. Let us respond with grateful hearts and return to him wholeheartedly.

                                                                   Amen.

 

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