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.
The poetry of the prophet Joel is beautiful, “return to me with all your heart.” This Lenten call to repentance practically sings off the page. Its melodies beckon us back, back to God, back from the death of sin into the life of grace. Its harmonies resonate with the ages, from millennia ago to today, ringing out for God’s children to return.
The return is no easy journey. It requires all of our hearts. It requires the discipline of fasting which is at its essence the denial of the self and selfish desires in order to focus more sharply on our true need, our relationship with God. Such denial of self for God is the foundation of the long tradition of giving up something for Lent.
The return is also a journey of weeping, mourning and hearts rendered to God. This is about sincere remorse on our part, realizing that sin is not merely a notion mentioned in church, but it is actually people hurting in the real world. Beyond the conceptual, repentance is existential, feeling the suffering of others, the suffering God shares with us.
The return is a journey of hope. All of its difficulties and struggles pale in comparison to the promise founded in the ancient belief of God and the heart of God’s character. God is our Lord. God is gracious. God is merciful. God is slow to anger. God is abounding in steadfast love. God relents from punishing. It is this God who calls us back to be with him this Ash Wednesday and through all of Lent.
The return is a journey of discipleship in which we engage in the disciplines of Lent together. This year we study the book “What Is the Bible?” by Rob Bell. We have four different study times and you are welcome to any and all of them! We will gather on Wednesday evenings for soup suppers and worship including a Children’s Chapel throughout the season. Our theme this year for our mid-week services will be “I Love to Tell the Story” taken from the old hymn which calls us to share our faith. Each Wednesday we will have a different faith story from one of our leaders here at ELC: Vicar Maddie Tallman, Hunter Jones, Dave Tyson, Nancy Durso, Deacon Dave Larrabee, and Janet Celly. We also look forward to special music for the mid-week services by Tom Rosen, the First Time Trio, Terry Olenchuk, Jimmy Morehead, Kieren Morehead, and Robert Morehead. Each service will include Holy Communion as well.
Let’s take this journey together this year through the holy season of Lent in worship on Sundays and Wednesdays at Emmanuel Lutheran Church. Let’s make that trip as a united faith community, followers of Jesus Christ gathered and sent by the Holy Spirit, repenting and graced by God’s Word and the body and blood of our Savior. Together we return to God with all our hearts.
Grace and Peace, Pastor Tony Prinsen