Scripture: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

We are dustIn America, we aim to be winners, to be at the top, and reach the pinnacle of success.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have this sort of drive within me.  Some days, many of us reflect on our own accomplishments and think, “I’m da bomb diggity.”

Yet, here we are on this Ash Wednesday where a wholly other message is proclaimed:

Remember we  are dust and to dust we shall return.

Talk about humbling.

The prophet Joel warns the Israelites and tells them that the land is falling under a shadow of locusts.  To many, this was seen as the hand of God and a foretelling of an eschatological event to come.

It was as if Joel was proclaiming, “Sound the alarm!  The Lord is near!  Are you ready?! Repent!”

The Lord was calling the people to return to the Covenant, “I will be your God and you will be my people.”  Yet, how many times did they reject him?  Too many.

God calls the people to repent and render their hearts before the Lord.  Repentance is a word most often misunderstood to mean some sort of  internal remorse before God.  It is as if we are saying, “Sorry, God, my bad.”  However, repentance demands the turning of will, thought, deed and heart in a new direction.  It is to remove anything that is in the way of you and God.

Remember we are dust, and to dust we shall return.

Today is a day of repentance, a time to render our hearts before the Lord. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus demands the follower to deny themselves and take up their cross.  The only way to find yourself, he said, is to lose yourself (A strikingly different agenda to today’s rise – to – the – top – and – be – as – successful – as – you – possibly – can).   

Today is not a denial of our humanness, but it is a reaffirmation.  It’s a reaffirmation that God is God and we are not.

And we wait, only in a way that propels us to live in the new creation of Christ – as a transformed people.  We wait in anticipation in a world that is longing and groaning for that final redemption and new creation.

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