Ash Wednesday Texts:
Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
It's interesting that the two daily texts I read (Jonah and Luke) are also very fitting texts for today. This is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent, and what better themes to talk about than repentance and piety?
As I was reading the texts, the passage from Joel seemed to strike me the most with the phrase "rend your hearts and not your clothing." Maybe it was because I heard a report on National Public Radio this morning. The story was about presidential candidates trying to woo social conservative voters and for a moment it focused on one Tammy Bennett who is the founder of Makeover Ministries which is about "inspiring women to look good from the inside out and to be supermodels for Christ. " Ms. Bennett went on to talk about one the most important issues for her which was the "sanctity of marriage," which ususally means trying to make sure that gays and lesbians don't access to civil marriage.
As I thought about that, I then went over to the Isaiah text for today which states:
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.
Isaiah and Joel wanted to give the Israelites a "come to Jesus" moment. God wasn't interested in outside repentance that was only mechanical, while the people were still treating others like crap. God wants a "total makeover" an examination our lives, a willingness to stop treating others terribly and start proclaiming justice in the land.
Ms. Bennett is good at outside piety, but she is also wanting to make sure that those of us love someone of the same sex are barred from even basic protections. The outside might look amazing, but the inside? Not so much.
As we begin Lent, all of us are called to look at our lives. How are we living? Are we giving honor by trying to live the life God calls us to live, or are we all for show? Can we, like the tax collector and the king of Nineveh to come before God and ask for mercy and repent? Will we allow God to "makeover" our lives?
You are not interested in surface repentance. You call us to change and change is hard. Lord, it is easier to live for show and to please others than to actually seek repentance and renewal. In this time of Lent, rend our hearts Lord. Let us not be satisfied with rending mere clothing. As the psalmist says, Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. Amen.