Joel 2:12-18: 12
12 Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
13 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.
14 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?
15 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly;
16 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.
17 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?'"
To move toward rejoicing, we must start with the ashes. Too often we skip the discomfort that following Christ can put on our lives. We breeze by with nice phrases and platitudes that help us keep our emotions and spirits at a more surface level rather than diving deep into the depths of our pain, our lament, and our sorrows for our failures. Traditional Lenten practices of prayer and fasting and almsgiving are meant to open us up into those depths. Ultimately, yes, we turn to rejoicing, but let us take time during this season to reflect on what the Ashes look like in our regional church, our local church, our communities, our families, our own spirits. We can move towards transformation and God’s love, but only if we do so together. As Joel says, “…gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children…let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep.”
Let us begin with weeping. Let us begin with ashes. To be honest and faithful in this Lenten season, we must begin here.
Prayer: God who mourns, thank you for being with us in our fullest expressions of human emotion. We have pain, loss, sufferings, and shortcomings. You do not hide from us in these times of mourning. You come to be with us and join us. May we turn to you with our whole selves so that we may come to know you wholly as well. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Rev. Alan Dicken
Christian Church in Ohio Program Director
The full Lenten Devotional Booklet can be downloaded by clicking HERE.