ash wednesday

1

February 13, 2013 by jmw

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Blow the trumpet in Zion;
sound the alarm on my holy hill.

Let all who live in the land tremble,
for the day of the Lord is coming.
It is close at hand—
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and blackness.
Like dawn spreading across the mountains
a large and mighty army comes,
such as never was in ancient times
nor ever will be in ages to come.

“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.
 Who knows? He may turn and relent
and leave behind a blessing—
grain offerings and drink offerings
for the Lord your God.

 Blow the trumpet in Zion,
declare a holy fast,
call a sacred assembly.
 Gather the people,
consecrate the assembly;
bring together the elders,
gather the children,
those nursing at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room
and the bride her chamber.
 Let the priests, who minister before the Lord,
weep between the portico and the altar.
Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord.
Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn,
a byword among the nations.
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’”

In most Hollywood movies we see the event of returning to loved ones as a joyous occasion filled with smiles and warm embraces (which it certainly can/should be). And yet in this passage there is a strange description of returning to God with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Usually such melancholia is the sign of separation and exile, the sign of not returning; but here it actually marks the re-uniting of the people with God. This peculiarity really moves me to ponder how it is that genuine weeping and mourning are actually a movement of my spirit in the act of returning to God. Or, perhaps it is not so much a movement on my part, but a posture that allows God to move toward and return to me?

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One thought on “ash wednesday

  1. Djbrash says:

    You have truly left me pondering with you here, Josh. The question my thoughts have led to is, What kind of tears, and what must provoke them, for me to be empty enough, and of what, to receive God’s approach? I am thinking of Paul’s “[there is no more law, and no condemnation… ]” We all have occasion to lament, and that for many reasons, but does the lamentation of guilt really open us to God’s approach? “Rend your hearts and not your garments.” I hear: “here is who I really am (we really are); my (our) hope is in you!”

    You really are on to something deep, Josh: Our posture and God’s approach (the relationship between repentance and the Gospel?) Such an apt thought for the beginning of Lent. Thank you for offering it.

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