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?'"
Can you believe that Lent is almost upon us? Ash Wednesday is in two days! On Ash Wednesday, traditionally, we receive the mark of ashes in the form of a cross on our foreheads. It’s a solemn time, a reflection and a symbol of our sin, of our need for repentance, and of the promise of God’s forgiveness. At the beginning of lent we often think of aiding reflection by cutting out something that is holding us back from being the good people we know we are meant to be. In a time of letting go our response is to humbly repent and ask for God’s mercy and blessing as we seek for a new beginning.
In our scripture reading the prophet Joel calls for such a time of repentance, calling the people to outward actions that reflect the sincere attitude of their hearts. He encourages such a response by reminding them that their God is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” May such a confidence in a gracious and merciful God also mark our reflection and attitude during the coming Lenten season.
God of repentance, listen to our grievances and sins poured out to you through our tears and humble ways of asking for another chance. Listen to us with your loving disposition, and please grant us forgiveness. Amen.