Ash Wednesday’s Call to Repentance

“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 God is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.” Joel 2:13el 2:12

In my tradition we are invited on Ash Wednesday to use the period of Lent to reflect on our lives.  To observe, as the charge in our Book of  Worship states:

“A Holy Lent, by self–examination and repentance;
by prayer, fasting, and self–denial;
and by reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word.
To make a right beginning of repentance,
and as a mark of our mortal nature,
to bow before our Creator and Redeemer.”

The pandemic has raged for a year. We are tired and weary in our waiting. We are divided and in pain as a nation.  In our angst, we have turned on each other.

I wonder if instead of giving up some favorite food for Lent, our time might be better used as an inward journey of soul searching, repentance and acknowledgment of how we have contributed to the divide and brokenness around us. One that admits to ourselves, at least, that we have judged, condemned and demonized, people, solely because their political views do not agree with ours. A recognition that we have stopped listening to Jesus, and shaped our faith by our political beliefs, instead of allowing the scripture to shape us and our response to the world.

Too often, we have judged people by the color of their skin and the pronouns they use. We have vilified those who do not look or sound like us. We have paraded Jesus as our personal mascot, instead of giving him place as our Lord. We have ignored his troubling words about welcoming the stranger and caring for the least of our neighbors. We have set aside the Great Commandment, of loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbors as ourselves. We have chosen selfishness over compassion, judgement over grace. We have refused to acknowledge the worth and value of every human life.

And yet, this past year has exposed not only our selfishness, but our generosity. It has revealed not only  our arrogance, but magnanimity.

May this Lent be one of repairing  relationships. May it be a time  to build  bridges of reconciliation and understanding. May we take these weeks of Lent, to delve more deeply into the mind of Jesus as we study the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. May we take time to listen to each other, and understand the other’s pain.  May  we offer forgiveness, mercy and kindness to those we have been estranged from, even as God has offered these same gifts to us.