Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near— a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness spread upon the mountains a great and powerful army comes; their like has never been from of old, nor will be again after them in ages to come. Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord, your God? Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her canopy. Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep. Let them say, “Spare your people, O Lord, and do not make your heritage a mockery, a byword among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”
Food for Thought:
Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lenten season. According to the Gospel accounts, Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the desert. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of this 40-day period of prayer, fasting, and abstinence. Sundays are not included in the count so the period lasts six weeks. Ash Wednesday gets its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of worshippers as a reminder of human mortality. As the pastor puts the sign of the cross on one’s forehead with ashes, we say, “From dust you have come and to dust you shall return.” After the Protestant Reformation, many Protestants abandoned the observation of Ash Wednesday but in recent decades, this tradition has been recovered by many Protestant denominations. I didn’t grow up observing Ash Wednesday in my small Methodist church in Tulsa. It was an unfamiliar practice for me until I went to seminary. But there is something sacred when we are marked with the sign of the cross and reminded that we are to enter this period of abstaining from things. I don’t know about you, but I always need a reminder to slow down, to pay attention, to abstain from excess.
Righteous God, in humility and repentance we bring our failures in caring, helping, and loving;
we bring the pain we have caused others; we bring the injustice in society of which we are a part to the transforming power of your grace. Grant us the courage to accept the healing you offer and to turn again toward the sunrise of your reign that we may walk with you in the promise of peace you have willed for all the children of the earth, and have made known to us in Christ Jesus. Amen.