Yet even now, says the Holy One, 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, who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.
These words of the prophet Joel served as the call to worship for our Ash Wednesday Service just a few days ago. Words that call us to reflect upon the reality of who we are, the truth of who God is, and of our desperate need for relationship with God.
As the prophet writes, “return with weeping and mourning” he is calling on us to examine the reality of how in our sinful and broken state we fall far short of a Holy and perfect God and calls upon us to respond appropriately. Do you remember how you felt the time your little league team lost the big game, you did not pass your driver’s test the first time you took it, or did not get the promotion or job you were expecting? How about the time when you failed a test or did not do as well on a review as you had hoped for? I do. My spirit was damaged and I was reduced to mourning my shortcomings and failure. The prophet reminds us that as we honestly look at our sinful, fallen selves in light of a perfect and holy God we fall far short of perfection. We are dust and one day to dust we will return.
What are we to do with that reality?
“Rend your hearts” and “Return to the Lord who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.” Hope for the hopeless! Strength for the weak which leads to renewal, new life and the opportunity to experience, “Life to the Full”.
As we examine the truth of our desperate need for God it should drive us to mourn our shortcomings and then celebrate with gladness a God who welcomes us with open arms just as the Father welcomes home the Prodigal Son.
Over the next few weeks as we Journey through the Cross of Good Friday to the Empty Tomb of Easter here are some questions for you to carry to God in your times of reflection and quiet.
- Father, where are you speaking clearly and I am simply not understanding your leading, guiding and directing?
- Father, where am I missing your invitation to a deeper, more intimate relationship with you?
- Father, where do you want to surprise me with your Grace, Mercy, and Love…but I am too busy and distracted to see the blessing that is placed in front of me?