“Yet even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
and he relents over disaster. – Joel 2:12-13
As we enter the month of March, we enter a new season in the Church Year as well. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of our journey through the season of Lent. Throughout Lent, a key term enters into our liturgy and language on a frequent basis: return. Returning is really at the heart of that fancy term that the Bible and the church uses called repentance. If I’m going in the wrong direction, and my thoughts, words, or actions are turned away from God and His will, God speaks to us and says, “Return! Turn around! Come back!”
“Easier said than done,” we say to ourselves. How can we come back when we’ve caused damage to our relationships with God and others? How could we ever expect to find acceptance? Or perhaps we feel trapped and enslaved to the path upon which we’ve placed ourselves – it would be too painful to turn around.
So where do we find the strength to turn? Where do we find the freedom to repent? We find strength and freedom at the foot of the cross. At the cross, God speaks and assures us that the very real damage we have caused has been forgiven and healed. At the cross, God welcomes even the worst of sinners (which is good news for all of us!). And at the cross, we find freedom, through dying, from that which has enslaved us.
Are you caught in a pattern of selfish behavior? Has it been a while since you’ve been consistently in worship with God’s people? Take your cue from the younger son in Jesus’ parable, and come home – return! The Father is ready to welcome you.
Christ’s peace and joy,