Reading Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

A reading for Ash Wednesday: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living God. The day of the LORD is a day of darkness and doom. He comes leading his army, which in the skipped over verses from the reading is a devouring fire that destroys everything in its path.

Here is why so many Marcionites don’t like the Old Testament. But here he is. Behold your God.

In the later verses, I love this phrase in the NRSV: Rend your hearts and not your clothing. It is such a powerful, poetic phrase reminding us that religion is not about outward show or ritual, but about the human heart. God does not lay a bunch of duties on us that we can grudgingly perform, like the chores our mother’s used to make us do around the house.

He wants our hearts.

Weep and mourn over the way we have rejected God. Gather together and offer prayers to God: Do not forget us, LORD. Do not destroy us. Do let the world point and ask, “Where is the God they said would rescue them?”

A church in my town ran a column in the religion section of the newspaper. It said it was observing Lent by going on a carbon fast. As far as I could discern, this meant it would encourage people to reduce energy use and it would have worship service with no paper bulletins or worship materials.

Somehow, against the thundering voice of the prophet, this just does not seem like a robust response to the summons to “rend your hearts.”

Last Sunday, I used the typical mainline Protestant language with people to stop some activity or forgo some luxury to make room for God during Lent. Today, that seems rather tepid in the face of Joel’s words.

Rend your hearts. These words I will carry around with me today.

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4 thoughts on “Reading Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

  1. In the words of the Puritan William Gurnall, “Our God is a killing God.” I don’t think we know Him rightly when we forget this.

    My wife and I have talked much about this, and I shared with our church last Wednesday that Lent is not a diet plan to make up for the New Year’s Resolution that flopped. Sadly, we’ve made it little more than that. Lent without Repent, I told them, is like a car without gas. It might look pretty and impressive to your family and church, but it gets you nowhere.

  2. I like the “outward sign of an inward grace” description of sacraments. Perhaps if we remember to first render our hearts then we will be moved to an outward expression of that rending that can serve as a witness in the world.

  3. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
    Psalm 51:17

    Seems to be a recurring theme . . .

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