“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” Joel 2:12-13
In an attempt to get people to focus on the serious and eternal aspects of the Christian life, Lent was seen by many as a time of self-denial, no frivolity and dietary restrictions. While these self-disciplines are not without merit, they can end up being a piety that people hope will bring God’s favor. We know, of course, that God’s favor is the result of God’s grace in Jesus Christ!
Joel reminds us that the Lord invites our return to Him with “all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” In medieval times, the custom was for penitents to come to the church on Ash Wednesday dressed in sackcloth, with naked feet and throwing ashes over their heads when they finished their prayers. We still use the ashes from last year’s Palm Sunday to mark our foreheads as repentant and forgiven sinners in Christ Jesus.
With Joel we see that God is “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” It is His grace that sustains us and His Holy Word that forms us and defines the sanctified life! It is His compassion that has redeemed us!
May your Lenten journey be a time of true “Heart Rending” for you, your family and your congregation!
In Christ, Daniel