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?'”
Imagine that you are standing in the middle of an unpaved road. Behind you is home, whatever that means to you. Home, where you feel safe, loved and understood. In that home is the person or the people who love you the best in all the world. They are beckoning you to turn, to turn around and go to them. They are calling you home.
Now, imagine that you have been on this road for a long time and the journey has been hard. You are dirty and tired, worn out because you have been pushing down the road, trying to get somewhere. You want to go home, to find rest, safety, love. But in order to do so, you have to put down some of the baggage you are carrying. This baggage weighs you down, holds you back. “Let it go,” the voices call from behind you, “Let it go, put it down, come home.”
Life is the long, hard road, full of struggle, difficulty and challenge. Home is the grace, peace, and love of our God found in Jesus Christ. Lent is the process of letting go of the baggage that we carry, the sins and the pains that weigh us down and keep us from Christ.
“Return to me with all your heart,” says the Lord in our lesson from Joel. Our God desires nothing more than to give us the home we crave, the love we need, the purpose we desire. This Ash Wednesday, when you fall on your knees and receive the cross of ash on your forehead, ask God to take away your burdens, your sins, your struggles. Ask God to forgive you for all that you have done and left undone. Turn your heart to God and begin your journey home.
Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.
“A guest,” I answer’d, “worthy to be here”;
Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”
“Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.
George Herbert (1593-1633)
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