So, today, I worked on the Joel 2:12-18 reading for Ash Wednesday.
As always, it's useful to spend time with the scripture; repetition brings familiarity and insight. Going over and over the passage, I realized I didn't understand it at all before. I reached a deeper level of understanding. Scripture is so deep. I just keep going deeper and deeper into it. It's amazing.
So, today in the gym, I realized a person's natural hesitation in response to the very first line: "Even now, says the Lord, return to me." I read the entire (short) book of Joel in order to put the reading in its context. The people have messed up. There's a plague of locusts. But, even now, even despite that, God asks us back: "Return to me." How do I respond? Tentatively. Who? Me? You really mean it? Yes, God says, but you need to grovel. Give me everything. "your whole heart. Fast. Weep. Mourn. Tear your heart, not just your clothes." Nothing half-hearted. half baked. I require complete surrender. I want everything. Your whole being. Because why? Because I am gracious and loving. I love you. I forgive you. I will provide for you. So, how does a person respond? Sound the trumpet. Call an assembly. Gather everyone together and ask God's forgiveness today. Have the priests plead for the people. And, God hears, responds, takes us back.
That's a good start for Lent.