Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 (NRSV)
Chapter 2Blow 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- Verse 2a 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.
Verse 12Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; Verse 13rend 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. Verse 14Who 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? Verse 15Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; Verse 16gather 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. Verse 17Between 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?'"
The mountain imagery continues, but we don’t find words of joyful light in this text from Joel. Rather, we have transitioned into a call for lamentations. We mourn that our hearts hold desires which separate us from our patient, forbearing God. We have arrived at our Lenten journey’s entrance.
It’s fitting that this scripture includes words which we repeat verbatim in our Lenten contemplative worship liturgy. We sing the words from verse 13 during the gospel acclamation in some communion settings and in the “Service of the Word.” These words call us to lament and return to a right relationship with our God. This verse reassures us God is gracious and merciful. It reminds us God is patient and overflowing with never-ending love. Indeed, we aren’t lost to sin! Our laments aren’t dead ends. They are life-giving restorative paths that return us into reconciled, joyful relationships with our loving God.
Lord, God, we are grateful for your patience with us. Please grant us your mercy and grace through your abundant love. Amen.